Monday, 27 February 2012

"Make Sure She Cries!"

I clearly remember the day that I was leaving to talk to a family who had lost their father and husband to a terrifyingly fast form of Motor Neurone Disease. She was trying to raise money for the charity 'Winstons Wish' who had helped her and her children through the most awful time that a family can imagine.

I picked up my recording device, put my branded "I'm official" jacket on and was about to walk out of the news room when I heard my co-producer shout "Make sure she cries!".

Harsh, but fair.

Emotion sells, emotion fixes memory, emotion keeps you listening in the car with your shopping in the boot and the ice cream melting.

Emotion makes a human connection.

You need to ask yourself 5 questions to get the emotion into your press engagement.

1) What is the story?
Repeat it to yourself as you peel back the layers from your press release. What is the story? What is the story? The story is never what you first think it is because we are always asked to deal with the functional not the emotional.

2) Why should I care?
Not why should you... put yourself into the position of your audience and ask yourself "Why should I care?" "because" isn't an answer. This isn't a question of functionality this is a question of an emotional response. "Care" is not the same as "interested".

3) Where are the people?
It's not about things it's about people. You need to find the people. Are they the consumers, the producers the stake holders? What has their input been, how do they feel about it?

4) Should I tell the story?
Why are you writing about this? You may have never been involved or even care about what you're trying to get out there; so get the people that DO care to write it. Interview them, get their words, not a corporate quote but their story behind the story that you're pitching. If you're a charity or not for profit, get the case study out. The power of the normal person who has been affected (good or bad) telling their story in their own words should not be underestimated. It takes away the filter of PR and gets the audience closer to the action.

5) Should I make them cry?
Don't try. The journalists and the audience will see through you if you try, but if that is your genuine response then it will without a crude manipulation.

For more on "Journalist Whispering" Join the seminar.

£55 per person including VAT (£44 excluding)
09.30 - 12.30, Thursday the 15th of March.
Gloucestershire Enterprise Training Centre, Twigworth Court Business Centre, Twigworth. GL2 9PG

Email for more detail via

Monday, 13 February 2012

The Perfect Press Release

The perfect press release does not exist. No, literally, it's a press release that doesn't exist.

Coming up on the 15th of March I'm holding a seminar to look at the ways that small business and sole traders can take advantage of the media in the same ways that the well-connected big businesses can and my starting point is the press release.

I hate press releases.

During the time that I was a professional broadcaster, producer and journalist I can't remember a time when I covered a story from an unsolicited press release, from an unknown contact.

It never happened.

So why didn't they work? In an average day I would get at least 200 emails, two thirds of which were press releases; of those press releases three quarters would be from people that I'd dealt with before, and of those the majority would be from media companies whose job it was to place interviews for their clients. So I had to make a decision between trusted sources and unknown quantities... I'd go for the trusted sources.

You have to put this into the context of how a radio newsroom works and the sort of staffing involved. I presented for a station that had 100,000 listeners. I presented and produced the programme with the second highest figures but the longest hours of the station. I was the most important voice on the station after 9. So how many people were working on this behemoth? Yes, that's right, there were 2 of us and as much help as we could buy in...

2 of us to producing and presenting 15 hours of live radio a week. Both working 8 hour days. 3 of those hours were on air 1 hour would be preparing before the show and 1 hour was eating lunch. That gives you a grand total of 3 hours production time a day to find around 35 stories to broadcast each week.

I don't want to give the impression that I didn't love the job, it was great, it's just that the perception of what presenters producers and journalists have to do is very different from the outside. I used to meet people who would assume that I worked 3 hours a day and had everything done for me by a team of minions. Not in the provinces.

So back to the press release issue. If I only had 3 hours to deal with things the fastest way would be to go to the sources that I knew would deliver value and, the chances are, I wouldn't even read past the headline of the unsolicited press release from someone new.

I have to say that this revelation of modus operandi is no shock to anyone who's worked in any news room outside the nationals or network. You have to do what gets the job done.

So where does that leave you as a small business or a sole trader with a wonderful story? It leaves you with one option that a lot of the big boys forget, it leaves you with an option that so few people attempt because it fills them with fear. It may be that you are able to pin competitors to the floor in business but as soon as you step outside the comfort zone it all changes.

What do you do??

You make a phone call....

Scary eh?

For more on "Journalist Whispering" Join the seminar.

£55 per person including VAT (£44 excluding)
09.30 - 12.30, Thursday the 15th of March.
Gloucestershire Enterprise Training Centre, Twigworth Court Business Centre, Twigworth. GL2 9PG

Email for more detail via

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Football, the national game.

I need to make sure that you understand I don't hate football. Football (if you want to play it) is a healthy sport that builds muscle and apparently builds character.

Nothing against football. I was a handy goal keeper in my school days (to about the age of 10); so what happened at the age of 10 to lead me to write this angry blog.

At the age of 10 I realised that what I thought was just a jolly game was far more than that to the other boys. It seemed important to them, and when I said that it was just a game they got cross with me. It was like I'd said to the Pope 'It's just a lot of singing and mumbling this Christianity stuff isn't it.'

From that day I lost all interest.

So why am I so angry?

There are many reasons, today it is Fabio Capello and the arrogance of those that like football.

It was announced that Fabio Capello had resigned as the England manager; not as many people seem to think the manager of the country of England, but the manager of the England Association Football Team. At a time of international uncertainty and near civil war in Syria that may destabilise the increasingly fragile relationship between the UN Russia and the rest of the world, the news that a man had resigned from managing a sports team was the lead item in all of the bulletins and all of the rolling news coverage.

I can forgive rolling news, they have so little to report most of the time that snow sends them into paroxysms of delight; so the resignation of a sports team manager made them reach a shuddering sporty climax.

But the rest of you journalists. Shame on you.

Did you know, and this fact comes under the official secrets act in this country, that lots and lots of people don't like football; and some others don't care either way. Did you know that? I know amazing, and your heard it here first.

The Today Programme on BBC Radio 4 took a measured view. They know their audience. The England Team news was in the sports news, the 3rd item in the headlines and the discussion at 08.55 when most of their listeners have got into their office and turned the radio off.

However, there was the terrifying assertion from one of their guests that 55 Million people in the country have a view on who should take over the job as 'England Manager'. 55 Million. This is the out of date but often taught number of people that live in the UK. The assertion is that everybody likes foot ball.

This is why I'm pink with anger.

This is what I hate about football.

I hate the rock solid arrogance of the people who like football. Please understand, just because you like it doesn't mean everyone else does. Out of that quoted 55 Million 29 Million are Female (adjusting for the lack of old men) and even if some of those females like football many of the rest are under 5 and some JUST DON'T CARE ABOUT THE ****ING FOOTBALL!!!!

Ehem, sorry about that. There is never any other view put forward to balance the idea that people like football. The figures speak for themselves. More people watch soap operas in a week than watch football. Why isn't the latest plot twist from 'Coronation Street' on the news?

For many years news rooms around the country were run and staffed by men. There is a feeling that having testicles makes you like football. Sports news became news because the people who liked it were in charge. The big football clubs then gave some splendid treatment to those broadcasting it so the journalists started to get used to it, and since then no one has ever questioned its value. (apart from me)

Here's the stupid thing. The broadcasters PAY the CLUBS to broadcast games. They PAY a massive entertainment industry that charges £40 a ticket to ADVERTISE their company. THEY PAY THEM. So, let's get this straight. If I asked a national broadcaster to feature my business all afternoon and then to pay me for the privilege what reaction would I get?

In short (yes I know it's too late for that) Football is an entertainment industry supported by the men who set up the papers and the radio stations. It's as relevant as reporting on what Justin Bieber is going to wear on his next tour; and when you go into Manchester on a Saturday afternoon and the 2 big teams Manchester United and Manchester City are both playing games at home... have you noticed how the shops are empty?

Yeh, right.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

How to take advantage of the Phone-In

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that Phone in programmes are for the insane.

Broadcasters know it, producers know it, and the listening public suspect it; because only extreme views are shared. It's like getting into a taxi and expecting a level headed discourse on the banking crisis that accepts it's partially our fault due to our acceptance of an extreme consumer society and our inability to differentiate between 'want' and 'need'.

The problem starts when a lazy producer thinks 'what's everybody talking about?' and comes up with the easy hit of 'Do you think [insert obvious shouty subject here] or [insert opposing view here] I'd love to hear what you think.'

They don't want to hear what you think, they really don't.

What they want is entertaining radio filled with opinions that get people cross and make them call some more. The full switch-board on a phone in isn't because they have asked an interesting question it's because they've asked an easy question.

So where do you come in?

Where does your business fit in with this vast swathe of lunacy?

Well, here's the thing, after a few weeks producing a phone in programme you yearn for a normal caller; a caller who doesn't have flecks of foam at the corner of their mouth. So when you receive a call from a business person who is measured and intelligent, who can use the right "journalist whispering" language, the heart beat quickens and you really want them to go on air and explain it for all the crazies out there.

The great thing for the business is that you get more exposure, you get the name out to a possible audience of hundreds of thousands and you are remembered by the producer... then the next time they need a business person who can talk fluently they know who to call.

For more on "Journalist Whispering" Join the seminar.

£55 per person including VAT (£44 excluding)
09.30 - 12.30, Thursday the 15th of March.
Gloucestershire Enterprise Training Centre, Twigworth Court Business Centre, Twigworth. GL2 9PG

Email for more detail via

Friday, 3 February 2012

Expert Help for Small Business

There are some things that small businesses need to do... and they do them, and there are some things that small businesses need to do but they don't. Often it's because they fall outside the field of experience, some times it's just the feeling that, well, it's all a bit difficult and scary.

PR is one of these things. There are hundreds of businesses that are watching competitors grow because they have been in the paper, they were on the radio or there was that bit about [insert business your type here] and they interviewed [insert name of your competitor here] on the 6 o'clock news. How did they get there?

There are ways that any business, big or small can get into the conventional media.

1) Know how journalists think.
Journalism is a miss-understood profession. The things that drive journalists are far simpler than the search for exclusives and exposes.

2) Know how Journalists work.
Disappointingly they don't all rush into news rooms with their trilby's on their heads shouting 'Hold the front page'.

3) Know how to take advantage of Journalists.
No, not like that...

4) Know where the sweet spot is.
This is something that I've realised over my 16 years of being in news rooms. There is a sweet spot for journalists and it all revolves around the idea of Effort going into a story, the Quality of the final story and the overall Feedback once that story has been published. Journalists may say that they are in it to tell the truth, but one of thier drivers is the praise that they get... like anyone else really.

So the best story for everyone is the one that takes all their effort becomes a great quality story that gets lots of praise; that is DIFFICULT, so let's put that to one side.

For the Journalist the PERFECT story is one that is great quality that gets praise and awards but takes little or no effort. I've witnessed a few of those in my time and it's brilliant for an organisation to achieve that. It is, however almost impossible to engineer that without the journalist pulling the plug with a sense of 'too good to be true... so it isn't'.

The everyday REALITY of journalistic life is that you really make an effort on a story, that turns out not to be as good as you thought, but you put it out anyway and no one really cares. Most of the TV, Radio, and News Paper content is stuff that was really good in the news meeting and then it became average when it came to publishing/broadcasting.

The sweet spot for most businesses sits at the end of this chart. It's the story that is HOPED FOR. It's the story that takes just enough effort for the journalist to feel happy that they have done a days work, it's good enough to be above average so the effort feels even better and it receives more positive feed back than expected (from audience, management & peers). It's a story that every business, with a little preparation can produce.

5) Get your timing right.
If what you want to say is said when they don't want to listen what's the point?

6) It's the way you tell 'em.
Frank Carson was right...

To help with all of this I'm holding a 3 hour seminar on the 15th of March at The Gloucestershire Enterprise Training Centre in Twigworth. There are a limited number of places available and we'll go through how you get great PR without writing a single press release. To book a place click here and email me, John Rockley. I'll send you more information and a booking form.

Take Advantage Of The Media (or PR without Press Releases for Small Business.)

Thursday 15th of March 2012. 9.30 to 12.30

£55 per person including VAT

Gloucestershire Enterprise Training Centre
Twigworth Court Business Centre,
Tewkesbury Road,

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