PR Misconceptions

It’s unsurprising that, having been heavily involved in the PR ‘game’ for more than a decade, I’ve come across my fair share of misconceptions about PR.  On occasion some take me a little by surprise, others make me despair!

First-things-first, let’s iron-out and reiterate why PR is by far one of the most effective weapons your business can deploy to generate awareness and ‘buzz’ about your brand/product, especially if budgets are limited!

1) PR can prove to be an economical way to reach a mass audience, stimulating awareness of - and demand for - your brand/products/services.

2) PR can aid the development of a stronger and more controlled image; since PR usually involves the media outlet covering a story, these ‘stories’ can long outlive the immediate impact of advertising for example.

3) PR can help create the perception that a company is active and on the move.

4) PR, or more specifically editorial coverage of your PR message, has up to 7x the credibility of advertising; editorial is conveyed and controlled by a third-party, in contrast to advertising - which is paid for and controlled by the company it’s for - and is therefore considered more ‘truthful’.

5) It provides an advantage over competitors who do not use PR effectively.

6) PR can increase search-engine visibility and organic results.

Now, let’s tackle some of the misconceptions…

PR is not something that can be measured and translated into direct sales, nor should any one particular media be discounted purely on the basis it hasn’t generated a direct result (such as a sale or enquiry).  PR is a long-term commitment and its primary purpose is to maintain image and generate awareness. 

When you receive a piece of editorial about your brand/product, it generates a level of credibility with the reader.  The higher they rate the media, the higher the perceived credibility of the brand/product.  For example, if you read about a ‘flying pig’ in a copy of the free local newspaper, you’d probably be far more cynical about the story than if you’d read it in, say, The Times national newspaper.   

Studies have proven that it will take a person on average, three times to see/hear a repetitive message before their conscious psyche recognises it and they subsequently begin to act on that message – again, this will also depend upon their own perception of the credibility of the media.

PR is an investment that takes time.  A media release doesn't generally get published the day after it's written.  Lots of time is spent writing material, developing media lists, and selling-in, prior to a 'story' hitting the headlines.

PR is not based on 'luck'! Chance favours the prepared mind, and timing can be controlled In public relations, marketing, promotion, and sales, timing is key: You succeed largely because you reach your media contact, target market, or prospect at just the right time, with the right story.

Facebook Timeline…

Love it or hate it, as of 30 March ’12, all Facebook Pages will automatically take-on the new Timeline format.   There’s two ways to approach it: live with it or, live without!  For many businesses, Facebook has become an important marketing resource so, living without simply isn’t an option.  

I decided to adopt the Facebook Timeline, and get to grips with its workings, to see how it can be of benefit to businesses.  At first, I was a little hesitant but I’m not one to be beaten by a challenge!  Whilst familiarising yourself with the new layout can, at times, prove a little frustrating, I do believe that this new format has a lot to offer businesses.  For example: you’re provided with a free, visually impactful banner to display across the top of your page, you can alter your App images to provide a more cohesive design to your page, visitors will be more compelled to engage and interact as their friends’ activity is now featured at the top, you can "tell a story" about your business utilising the milestones feature, and you can ensure the important status updates remain in a consistent top spot.   

In my own humble opinion, the interface is far more user-friendly, and best of all, you don’t need to be a computer whizz to create a page that looks professional.

I will walk through, step-by-step, how to prepare your page for the new changes, and how to ensure your business benefits.

Cover Photo: 

The new Timeline displays a cover photo (or banner) across the top of the page.  Cover photos are relatively easy to create (depending on your design skills).  They remain static and provide a strong focal point for your business fan page.
  • A cover photo should measure 851 x 315 pixels.  Facebook automatically crops anything that is larger, and you are provided with the option of repositioning images as required.
  • Ensure that you use a high-quality image, to avoid a pixelated appearance.
  • Be creative and experiment! Use imagery that represents your page; your company logo, products or, an image that tells a story.
  • Facebook has included strict guidelines upon how businesses may use the new cover photo: a) No calls-to-action or arrows directing users to take an action i.e. "Get it now", "Tell your friends", etc, b) No contact information, such as URLs, phone numbers and addresses, c) No price or purchase information i.e. 40% off,  d) No reference to user interface elements i.e. "Like" or "Share"
  • If you’d like to add context to your cover photo without violating the guidelines, use the caption to add calls-to-action and relevant link to whatever is in the picture.  For example, if your cover photo is of your products, add a link to your website in the caption, urging users to visit the link to find out more. You may also want to consider a Quick Response (QR) code for other relevant info.  Strictly speaking, this doesn’t currently infringe Facebook guidelines on the use of the cover photo.   

For my personal page, I experimented to create an individual cover photo

Profile Picture: 

Unlike the original layout, where you could adopt an elongated profile picture, new profile pictures will only display as a square. 
  • Profile images are 180 x 180 pixels
  • Your full profile image will also act as your page’s avatar and show up next to your updates in the news feed and when people run random searches for your page.  Unlike current page designs, this will not be a cropped section of the profile picture.  For these reasons, it's worth considering your company logo as your permanent profile pic.
  • To alter your profile picture, hover over the image and "Edit Profile Picture" will appear


This will pull from the current information in your page’s info tab. You can still place a web link here.  Be sure to alter this if it’s out dated!


You can display four items in the section below your cover photo, but your photos will always appear first.  You may choose an additional three Apps to appear here.  You can include upto 12 apps in total on your page, which are accessible using the drop-down menu arrow to the far right of the screen. Clicking on these thumbnails will take users to the corresponding app, so make sure these are the things you want to drive your page’s visitors to.  Unlike the previous format, it is easy to alter the image that displays for your App.  To alter the appearance of your Apps, hover over the applicable App until the little pencil mark displays, from here you can alter the positioning, you can remove it from your ‘favourites' and, by going to "Edit Settings", you can rename it and alter the image.  For App images, ensure they are no more than 74 x 74 pixels.

For Lil' Spin's page, I was able to manipulate the App images to help create a cohesive design
Friend Activity: 

People will see any interaction their friends have had with a page (even if they haven’t ‘Liked’ the page themselves).  

Managing Your New Page /

In addition to the front-end changes, the new format includes a whole host of management features, some of which you will already be familiar with.

Admin Panel:  

This dashboard allows you to quickly navigate and view your page’s "Insights", respond to messages and view notifications about pages likes and activity on your page.  Included within the admin dashboard, are drop-down menus to the top right where you can: 

a) Manage – this option allows you to edit the page and view the activity log (month-by-month).
b) Edit – as with the former layout, the edit feature is one with which you are no doubt already familiar, however it provides you with the option to "unpublish" your page whilst testing out the Timeline.
c) Activity Log – Filter through the type of activity you view i.e. Info Updates, Photos, Video, Comments, etc.  The simplified menu makes it a lot easier to go back and find older posts, rather than scrolling endlessly through your entire Timeline.
d) Build Audience – As with the older version, you can invite your contacts and friends to "Like" your page, share or create ad’s. 
e) Messages – You now have the option to allow your page’s community to directly message the page admins.  You will be able to access and answer these messages from the admin dashboard.  To activate fan messages, go to "Manage Permissions" and select "Show Message Button".  People can send messages to your page by clicking on the messages button between your cover photo and apps.


Add significant dates/events using your status menu.  Select a year, event, story, photos & videos. Use of the Milestones facility might include: 

  • The year the company was founded
  • New office premises
  • New team member
  • Product releases
  • Awards
  • Partnerships


This is a great new feature, as it will ensure that important updates never risk going unseen.  You can choose one story a week to "pin" to the top of your page and these will remin in-situ for seven days.  Pinned stories are distinguished by a small orange flag which appears in the top right corner of your "pinned" story. Pinning stories is very simple; click on the pencil icon next to the status update.  From there, select "Pin to Top" (you can also reverse the process and "unpin" if you decide you no longer wish to feature it. Uses of the "Pinning" feature might include:
  • Time-sensitive discounts & promotions
  • Recent blog post
  • New product images
  • Videos
  • Article or current event that’s relevant to your industry
  • New awards


Clicking the star symbol on a status update will display the post in a wide format, across the entire Timeline.  It’s a great way to ensure that photos take centre-stage in your Timeline.  Unclicking the star will reverse the process.

Change Date:

This new feature enables you to alter the date an album was created so that they better reflect your company’s history

Reposition Photo: 

A handy feature with the Timeline is the ability to reposition photos simply by dragging them to show a better section of the image.  With this new feature, you can revisit and ‘fix’ any older photos that may have been cropped badly before switching to Timeline.

Should you require advice or assistance with setting-up your new Timeline layout, do get in touch.  Until 30 March '12, Lil' Spin is offering a design service to create a cohesive, visually impactful page for your company, for just £100+VAT (includes: cover image, profile picture and apps).  Email: for details.

Everyone’s talking about 'Pinterest'…

Move over Facebook, Twitter, Google+, et al, another social media is stepping into the game, and providing a valuable marketing tool to businesses.

So what is Pinterest? 
Pinterest is essentially a virtual pin-board where you can collect and share images.  It first launched in 2010 and has experienced rapid growth in more recent months.  In contrast to its social media counterparts such as, YouTube, Google+ and Linkedin, Pinterest is also proving a valuable aid in drawing traffic to external websites and blogs. 

How can it benefit your business? 

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, where you attract followers, the Pinterest platform is completely visual and focuses on collective interests i.e. Architecture, Cars, DIY, Film, Gardening, Beauty, Outdoors, etc.  Users are eager to find and share amongst the entire population, rather than purely between friends.  It’s a place to make discoveries which can then be organised onto boards.  For example, on a personal page, you may choose to categorise your finds and ‘repin’ them onto boards which you have named: "For my daughter", "For my wife", "Things I Like", and so on.  A pin is an image you have chosen to share, paired with a short caption, which can all then be linked back to the original source, such as your website or blog in order to drive traffic; great for Search Engine Optimisation. It’s a relatively simple but very effective concept to follow.  In a similar way that a comment or link may go viral on the more established social networks, so too can Pinterest pins, and it’s a perfect forum to study trends amongst the population.

Like any form of social media, it’s a two-way conversation, all about building connections and forging stronger bonds with your audience.

For businesses with products targeting the family market, the advantages are obvious: create a board linked to the appropriate category i.e. Kids, pin photos of your products, include a brief description and price (if desired), ensure that there’s a link where users can follow it to your website and/or blog and let the Pinterest population do the rest; view, like, share, comment and re-pin!

Here are some top tips on using Pinterest:

  • First, get invited by a friend, or simply request an invite online
  • If you choose to operate a purely business associated page, it may be wise to link it with your business Twitter account, as Facebook tends to link it to your personal account.
  • Invest in good quality photographs and images (lifestyle images can be more effective than basic product images).
  • Back-link each pin to your source website.  People will click once on the picture to see the full pin, and can click a second time to be directed outside of Pinterest to your website.
  • Include a price in the description to automatically add an overlaying banner on the picture featuring the price.
  • Pin alternate uses for your product.  For example, if you make children’s clothing, pin images onto a board that form a "From start to finish" guide, for one or more of your best-selling products.
  • Add the “Pin It” social media button to your website to allow for and encourage pinning
  • Connect your physical and online presence.  Try running a promotion that drives customers to your Pinterest board
  • Try to avoid being too self-promotional. It’s easy to spot a self-serving board and it’s also an official Pin Etiquette rule.  Be relevant to your target market and post other content they would find interesting to keep people coming back for more.  Pin your own products, Show uses for your products, as well as inspiration for the lifestyle they advocate.
  • Follow big names – this is proven on Twitter. If they follow you back, this boosts your own visibility to others.
  • Tag your pin using key phrases that define the brand and inspire, since Pinterest is all about inspiration.  Get in the mind of your ideal consumer and think about what search terms they’d use.
  • Use other social media platforms (that have the advantage of a more established user base) to direct people towards Pinterest.  A status update like this one will inform your customers you’re active on Pinterest: “Follow our pins for new products and great ideas!"

If you feel swamped by social media and don't know which way to turn, or simply need to off-load your social media effort, please get in touch with us... we're on hand to assist!

It’s all in the 'sell-in'…

Contrary to common belief, generating media coverage isn’t always as simple as compiling a list of journalists and then contacting each of them about something you consider to be newsworthy.  The key to generating coverage relies entirely on your sell-in; your approach to a ‘story’ that makes it appealing to your target media.

Having been on the receiving end of the PR effort,  I fully appreciate just how many media releases are likely to end up ‘binned’ on account of their: unsuitability, poor structure, weak content, confusing jargon or, poor timing.  In fact, research suggests that up to 92% of media releases that are sent to journalists are ‘binned’.

If you have ever lived the life of a journalist, you will understand that time is of the essence, timing is key and a good story is fundamental!

As an Editor, on average, I would receive as many as 80 releases in one day and countless calls from PR’s.  I would become most frustrated by those who hadn’t taken the time to consider the publication to which they directed their material.  I was equally frustrated by those who considered fluffy adjectives suitable for their release; appearing as advertorial (paid editorial), rather than newsworthy editorial.

It was perhaps the telephone calls that surprised me most of all.  Rather than strong pitches, the patter I’d hear repeatedly, would typically consist of: "I sent you a release (yesterday, last week, etc)… will you be including it in your next issue?"  This type of call would infuriate me and was completely detrimental to their cause… serving no purpose other than to waste time!

The art of crafting a good media release and/or conducting a productive pitch relies on the ability to ‘sell-in’ a well thought-out story.  To do this several key pointers must be considered:

  • Understand who’s who
  • Tailor your media sell-in: Consider the timing and topicality. Identify the human interest and the ‘news’ value that underpins the story.  Define the What, Who, Why, When, Where and How of your story
  • Do not be too creative, or too clever
  • Give facts, not flowery adjectives
  • Avoid jargon and confusing acronyms
  • Confine opinions to quotes from relevant individuals linked to your story
  • Keep it short and sweet
  • Avoid attachments on emails (unless asked)
  • Send your media release to named individuals
  • Make yourself accessible
  • Check deadlines to avoid contacting at a bad time
  • Devise a script for when you telephone a journalist and like your media release, be concise

If you require assistance refining your sell-in, do get in touch, I’d be happy to help!

Social Media: The Ultimate Communication Tool

It has been widely reported that 2012 is the year of the multimedia social network; a year which will see competition grow amongst the market leaders and one in which businesses begin to fully embrace and understand how to effectively integrate social media into the Marketing Mix. 

Where once, advertising was dominant, communication has taken the lead; as the realms of the communication mix open, with a multitude of new platforms to initiate and host conversation that directly engages the consumer.  Establishing the Publicist as the 21st century's answer to the Advertising Executives of the 20th century.

With the masses tuning-out to those top-down messages (as I highlighted in my earlier article about Mummy Blogs) and digital technology becoming a fundamental aspect of daily life, the focus on social media has never been more important to the success of a company/brand.  There is no doubt that social media offers a wonderment of opportunity to almost every sector of business. There does, however, remain a pervasive sense of confusion among businesses of how to get social media working for (not against) them.

The Social Media Landscape
As this diagram demonstrates, the social media landscape isn’t strictly limited to the social networks alone.  Social networks are however, fundamental when compiling any Social Media Marketing (SMM) strategy.  Social Networks have been growing steadily since the Millennium and have rapidly taken hold in terms of popularity. Amongst the social network platforms, MySpace, Facebook, Bebo and LinkedIn still hold top spots.  The latest serious contender to rival these is Google+ which officially launched to the public community in 2011 with brand pages being added in recent months.  Many companies have already adopted the platform, with both large and small businesses demonstrating its potential to reach customers.  Latest reports from ComScore saw Google+ attract 67m visitors worldwide in November last year of which 2.7m were from the UK.  Unlike Facebook & Twitter which have a broadcast heavy format, Google+ activity is generated by quality, not quantity.

Other social media that should be considered in an SMM strategy include publishing platforms such as Blogger and Wordpress, RSS feeds, micro-blogging platforms such as Twitter, live-casts (audio and voice), and the video and photo sharing platforms such as Skype, Messenger, YouTube, Flickr and Instagram.

So what do social media have to offer and why are they so important? 

As a species, we are social by nature and thrive upon connection with others, with access to the internet at home, at work and on-the-move, people can choose to interact and unite when it wouldn’t otherwise be possible to meet, in a safe environment, providing as much or as little or connection as the user desires.

Gone are the days of the four P’s approach to marketing (Product, Price, Place, Promotion), the conversation for businesses is no longer one-way making the original broadcast approach to promotion less effective and thus dawning a new era of interaction. Social media marks an evolution to the standard four P’s approach to marketing to incorporate a fifth key facet… Participation!

In simple terms social media offers a real-time approach to promoting a message, providing businesses with an option to initiate and host conversation.  Taking six-months to develop and launch a campaign are now a thing of the past as social media enables a more agile approach to marketing.

The fundamental assets of social media can be broken down into four categories… something I like to refer to as the four R’s:  Recognition – build awareness of your business/brand; Relationships – engage with your customers/fans; Resource – create an information exchange; Referrals – drive traffic and build customer/fan-base.

Social media can benefit a business/brand by:

  • facilitating how they engage with customers/fans,
  • enabling open, fluid interactivity,
  • delivering a sincere approach to promoting a message,
  • helping generate traffic,
  • nurturing consumer confidence
  • providing an instantly accessible avenue for marketing promotions and harvesting free, quick and accurate feedback.

If you need assistance mastering your social media from your social platforms or simply want someone to help build and manage your social media campaign and develop creative content, why not get in touch?