Never underestimate the effectiveness of strong and effective PR
Andy Janes from Muntons PLC guest blogs about what PR means to him and the role it plays in their award-winning malt business, www.muntons.com.
It’s funny how a term can become either misunderstood or misused, even something as simple as the two-letter acronym ‘PR’. I found myself talking to a business colleague about some of the work I undertake and within the conversation ‘PR’ was mentioned. “Yes, press releases are a good way of telling the world what we are doing.” He said. I had to explain that press releases were not what the letters PR stood for. Of course, I did this in a very tactful way, without making them seem like an idiot because that is one of the skills of someone who undertakes PR; Public Relations that is.
Another skill is to recognise your limitations, which is why we employ the services of a professional PR agency rather than try to undertake everything ourselves. I say ‘we’ although of course I mean ‘I,’ as the PR team where I work is one of those rare things: A team which does have an ‘I’ in it. As the only member of the team I undertake all of the necessary corporate PR work. I also look after corporate image, manage the canteen, chair the Works council, take responsibility for CSR activities and prepare the annual review – amongst other things. It is a truism that the longer you work somewhere the broader and more useless information you know. I have been here 38 years and seem to know very little about a lot of things. So, what can a real PR agency bring that a long serving creative individual cannot? For a start, they have resources at their disposal, people who have the time and skills to undertake effective PR strategies. More importantly, they have contacts. As the old saying goes it’s not what you know it’s who you know. As a busy fellow, I do not have the time to build and maintain relationships with the media in general. OK, I know the local newspaper group pretty well and they tend to support local business with press coverage but who do I know in the water treatment media? Contacts here would have been useful when we were trying to tell the world about our new anaerobic digester plant.
We invented a new product, ‘Maltichoc’ it was brilliant. Our New Product Development team had a brainwave and noticed that the price of Cocoa had just shot up three-fold its usual price. They developed a malt based product which could be used to replace a good chunk of cocoa in recipes such as chocolate muffins, brownies and cookies. Being malt based, its cost was linked to the price of cereals not cocoa and would save the manufacturer loads of money. As an aside it also improved the keeping quality and mouthfeel of the end-product, making them seem richer. Taste tests had proved that Joe Public could not tell the difference in appearance and general taste. This was a good story, as not only would this save the manufacturer money, it would also significantly reduce food miles as UK manufacturers would be using a UK made product rather than just importing cocoa from Africa. Now we must tell the world, so bring in the experts….
I picked up the phone to Suzanne Howe, she has a good team and understands the needs of business and offered her the challenge. A PR programme was pieced together and a product launch was arranged in a carefully selected top London restaurant, one chosen to attract the interests of the press. Press releases were pre-prepared, product tastings organised and our exciting new product Maltichoc was successfully launched. The cost was very reasonable, particularly when measured against the amount of press coverage achieved: Had we advertised, we would have had to spend well over ten times the PR cost and I would question whether advertising would have achieved the same level of buzz – is an advert as believable as someone writing a piece in a magazine having personally tasted the effects of this brilliant new product? Never underestimate the effectiveness of strong and effective PR.
Andy Janes | Muntons