SHC Life

Meet the team: 5 questions for Suzanne Howe

SHC Life

Meet the team: 5 questions for Suzanne Howe

Over the next few months, we’re going to meet the whole team at Suzanne Howe Communications, asking each of them just five questions. Here, Bill Bruce talks to Suzanne Howe to learn more about SHC, the person behind it, and the future of business to business public relations.

SHC was established in 1996. How has B2B PR changed since then?

The basics of running an effective B2B PR business haven’t really changed, as they still rely on close communication with both our clients and the media. However, one of the biggest changes has been in the media, as it has evolved from being print-based to delivering content digitally.
I clearly remember the days of sending faxes, and putting press releases and photographic prints into envelopes to mail to the media, and now almost everything is email-based.
Moving to the online delivery of news and opinion has accelerated the pace of B2B communications and changed the way decision makers consume news and essential information.
We have always had a saying here at SHC: ‘we treat clients and the media in the same way’. Neither one is more important than the other, and they are equally as important to us.
While I said that everything is now email-based, the telephone remains important and we talk to the media regularly. While content is transmitted via email, we personalise the relationship, often pre-advising that a story is imminent and always following up with a call to see if there are any questions.
I’m proud of SHC’s agility, as we have steadily and successfully adapted to this shift from print to online, and our clients now benefit from increased reach and improved measurement.
The pandemic had one particular positive impact on how we operate, as we began to ‘meet’ our clients more often via Teams, which led to improved communication alongside improved time management and reduced carbon footprint. We have continued with regular client meetings, which now frequently unlock new PR opportunities, as we become more involved in the natural flow of the businesses we support. Of course, face to face networking remains important and alongside the important trade shows and events we always visit, I am just back from a ‘Northern tour’, which involved a series of meetings with clients, potential clients, industry friends and the media across the week. It was a great success and something we will do again.
Measurement and reporting has changed hugely, and all to the benefit of our clients and their understanding of their return on investment. We used to measure the physical size of each printed article and multiply the proportion of the advertising page rate times three to calculate the ROI. I remember when coverage reporting involved literally cutting clients’ news stories out of the pages of magazines, preparing a ‘scrap book’ of cuttings, popping them in an envelope and heading off to the nearest postbox! Now we use software to track and measure both quality and quantity of our reach. We currently use a company called ACE Media, which accurately measures the media’s domain authority, circulation, visitor numbers and links.

Do any particular clients, projects or achievements stand out?

My proudest achievement is running the business for 28 years, alongside my pride in the team, many of whom have been with me for a long time. This has delivered stability as well as steadily improved our expertise and deep industry knowledge. SHC has a consistently high level of client retention, as we clearly have a good reputation in our chosen sectors, and on more than one occasion I have been referred to as being ‘famous’! It’s a small world, so I am proud of that, and of the fact that clients want to build on a long-term relationship.
One major achievement which really stands out is the Kimberly-Clark Professional™ Golden Service Awards (GSA) which has gone from strength to strength since we began our partnership in 2009. While many dozens of businesses have directly benefitted from winning awards, the GSA has also helped to dramatically increase both KCP and  SHC’s visibility in the cleaning and FM sector.
Another thing that stands out for me is our expertise in the foodservice packaging sector, and some of this goes back to our work with Tri-Star Packaging over more than a decade. We still have clients today who ask us to make them ‘the next Kevin Curran’ – through our consistent success in presenting him as a packaging sector thought leader.
One of the things I believe I’ve been really good at, is finding the right people to work in this business and finding experts in their field, so we never go down the road of generalisation. It would be easy for a PR company, to take on board clients across all sectors and just work as a generalist. But I have always felt that I personally have to have some knowledge of each sector, supported by our expert team – and that has really worked in our favour. So, when we are talking to new businesses, or new potential clients, we can absolutely talk with authority.

What makes SHC special?

SHC features a team of highly-skilled and experienced PR specialists and copywriters, who create content which brings companies, brands and products to life. We ensure that our client’s messages are delivered to the right audience, at the right time, and always in the most impactful way.

As PR professionals, we are in an inter-dependent and circular relationship with the media and the companies we represent. Our clients need to share their news to raise their profile, reinforce their reputation, or increase sales, while the media needs stories, opinion, and information to feed its focused readers.

I’ve always run SHC in a particular way, and the business model has always ensured we only use experienced self-employed consultants who are experts, with deep sector knowledge. This creates flexibility and means that clients can benefit from dealing directly with experienced people. There are no inexperienced people at SHC!

SHC differentiates itself by offering both PR and marketing consultancy services with a focus on delivering excellent content and advice for clients, and our business model enables SHC to be agile and adaptable.

As we head towards SHC’s 30th anniversary in just two years, what are your hopes for the future?

You’re talking to me on a day when we have six potential new clients to consider, while obviously continuing to deliver great, measurable results for our established customers, so I see a bright and exciting future, filled with unexpected change and tons of opportunity.
We will continue to add to our client list while steadily improving our already excellent sector knowledge, so my enthusiasm for the business and the sectors we service remains undiminished.
While targeted B2B PR and creating excellent content that people want to read remains at the heart of the business, our experience has moved us more towards the consultancy space where we can offer strategic advice, and this is a trend which will develop.

That’s enough about SHC… what about you?

When I’m not wearing my SHC hat, I’m a proud mother of three amazing young adults. I like to cook, socialise, go camping and travelling – which now includes Japan, as my youngest daughter lives there!

But that also takes me to thinking about what else SHC stands for and continues to achieve. One good example is our ongoing support for the charity Mid Kent Mind, where each year we walk to raise funds. Just as our clients are spread across the country, so is the SHC team, so instead of meeting to walk and unnecessarily raising our carbon footprint, we now each walk locally. Mind is grateful for the money we have raised, and the coverage we have created, so we will continue to support this worthy cause.