By Jim James, Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur.
He also wrote a new book with his good friend, Dr. Randy Olson, called “The Narrative Gym for Business,” which will take you on a deep dive into how to craft compelling and-but-therefore (ABT) statements to hook your audience from the very start.
In his podcast’s latest episode, he asked his audience if they’re one of those who have been burning the midnight oil to build their business. Or if they’ve been producing tons of fabulous content to capture their ideal customers’ attention, but they feel like they’re going unnoticed.
I was recently featured on his show wherein I discussed my SPEAK|PR methodology, a five-stage process that helps entrepreneurs get noticed. This article tackles the first part of what Park and I talked about.
A Brief Background
I run EASTWEST Public Relations. But how did I go into the public relations (PR) world?
I’m originally British but I’ve lived overseas — in America and Africa — throughout my childhood. One of the things that I needed to do when I was 18 was to raise money to go on an expedition to Australia.
I jumped out of an aeroplane in order to do that.
I realised, during the afternoon of jumping out of an aeroplane, that I could make more money by getting sponsored and turning up to speak for these people who are willing to watch a young guy jump out of an aeroplane in return for money. It’s about building a brand and publicity. And that was my first taste of doing something for money that paid off. I was able to go to Australia on an expedition.
Fast forward, I went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to study for my undergraduate degree. After I graduated, I went to Asia to start EASTWEST PR back in 1995.
Back in the mid-90s, Asia was — and it still is — full of opportunities. It was the time when people began digitalising the music and television industries, where I was working. Back then, there was no one in Asia doing public relations in the music and broadcast industry.
I would go out as a marketing manager representing a hardware company and meet the media. There were no PR people in the region because it was too niche. I was 27 then, with no wife and children, and so I thought of doing that and having an entrepreneurial journey.
I started there and in 2004, I went to China to study Mandarin. In 2006, I founded my EASTWEST PR in China. In 2010, we opened in India.
I moved back to the UK in 2019 after 25 years in Asia. I ran a number of different companies but as far as the PR firm is concerned, it’s still operating and serving business-to-business (B2B) clients.
Launching ‘The UnNoticed Entrepreneur’ BookMy debut book is called “The UnNoticed Entrepreneur.” The reason is that I wanted to help all those business owners and entrepreneurs who can get noticed with a little bit of help but can’t afford or don’t need an agency like mine to do so. This is something that I’m sure Park and his podcast’s listeners are familiar with.
Agencies tend to serve larger companies. But most businesses in the $2 to $3-million mark are the ones that actually need the most help getting across the chasm, getting their brand big enough so that they can get their business beyond the social network of the founder.
What I also really wanted to do was to help those people who have been suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic. I decided to start a podcast called “The UnNoticed Show,” which Park has been previously on. A year later, I’ve got 340+ episodes of the show and I’ve interviewed some 80 entrepreneurs, experts, and technologists like him. I thought of making that into an accessible format. Hence, the “UnNoticed Entrepreneur” book was born.
The book is a curation. So rather than claiming credit for it, what I’ve done is to curate the thoughts of 50 people and put them within the framework that I developed called SPEAK|PR. I’ve built that over the 25 years of serving more than 600 companies across the world and it’s really an approach to public relations. As I know that it works, I thought of structuring the book and all the articles within that framework.
The book came out in September on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, featuring Park and 49 others such as John Lee Dumas. John kindly came to my show because he launched his book “The Common Path to Uncommon Success” and he talked about the need to identify your avatar and focus.
Storify and Personalise
The SPEAK|PR process has five stages. “Storify,” which is the first step, is about identifying to your clients, staff, and partners what journey they’re going to be embarking on with you. And I think Park is one of the great proponents of “The story is not about me, the founder.”
There’s a big movement out there wherein you sort of talk about yourself, the founder. But the whole point of “storify” is that your role as a business owner is not to be the story — it’s to facilitate the journey of the people that work with you.
Still, you have to tell your founder or origin story. You have to talk about yourself and your company. But, a mistake is made when people get to such navel-gazing that it’s all about them; they’re not actually thinking about how their story is landing with their customers.
When I’m telling the story of EASTWEST PR, I think about the audience. I’m going to tell it a bit differently depending on who the audience is. I’m also going to tell my story from their perspective.
A big part of the SPEAK|PR program is the storification stage and the second stage, which is “personalise.”
“Personalise” is about being clear about who you want to be working with and who you’re facilitating. You have absolutely had to do the founder story because it sets the context and it allows people to identify whether you’re the right person or company to work with. If you don’t express anything about yourself and your story, then there will be no point of reference whether you’re the right mentor for them or not.
Under personalisation, you have to identify your avatar and its journey. It’s not only talking about where they are at their business, but also about where they are during the day or in their career. This is important because the next part of the process is “engage,” which is around having engaging content.
What is an Avatar
Avatar refers to the personality of the person that you’re serving. One of the things that I like to point out is that your audience is not just your customer. There are actually three audiences that you need to serve. I call them the internal, the external, and the partners.
The first one refers to the people that you pay to help make things happen. And those have an avatar or a profile. When you’re doing recruitment, that avatar is the key to understanding what kind of personality you are looking for.
The second category is what most people think about: the customers. Most will sort of drive straight and talk about this audience.
The third category includes all those organisations that facilitate your business to work. One of the sources of revenue for me as a PR business is other agencies. So I need to have a communication piece or dialogue around what I can do for my partner agencies. For example, when I was importing cars in China, one of the key audiences that I had to share information with were the regulators and the government.
When it comes to avatars, it’s really important not to get fixated on just the customers. Because you need other people to help deliver your services to those customers. You have to bring them together to make sort of a social group of people where they all fit in. You need to make sure that your internal audience, for instance, has the right chemistry with your customers.
As soon as you can talk about your customer and the people who help you make your business grow, your company will actually start to grow of its own volition.
Engage and Amplify
In the SPEAK|PR methodology, you have to start with storification because you really need to understand your story and your brand and where it’s going. It needs to be told from your audience’s perspective so that they can kind of live vicariously through you.
Essentially, it’s a connection story. If your customer gets to like you, he or she will think that you can handle their business and that you understand where they’re coming from. This will then get you to personalisation, the next stage, which is really about understanding the customer persona, the colleague persona, and all these avatars.
Then, engagement, which is around creating compelling content.
A big part of what I talk about in the SPEAK|PR program is how your content needs to be two things in order to stick and to be shared: It needs to be simple for people to understand and it needs to be new enough for them to be interested in it.
What’s happening is that a lot of people are creating content. But it’s content about them and it’s often a rehash. Then, they’d wonder why they don’t get likes or shares.
Furthermore, if you look at content, you also have to note that it’s about quality and context. You have the creative element — Is it answering the questions in the mind of your avatars?. And you have the other, which is about how you’re delivering it — In what context are you placing that information?
Today, obviously, everyone’s paradigm has changed with COVID. You can’t talk about anything without some kind of COVID relationship. For instance, a new car in China has air purification and they’re promoting it more than everything else because of the pandemic.
Engaging content isn’t just about doing nice things with infographics. It’s about making content that’s simple, new, and context-sensitive.
The fourth step is “amplify.” Under amplification, I talk about the cascade theory and about the impact of content. Many clients, especially the older ones, are still stuck in what is called the one-format content type. Many people are still doing text because it’s easy. What others love to do now is to get people to use video. And the amplification part talks about the impact of technology.
If “engage” is about creating content for your avatar — understanding what they want to hear and when and where do they need it (e.g. on a mobile phone, desktop, signage, badge) and making it context-relevant — then the “amplify” part is about how there’s no point in saying something really smart if no one knows about it.
This article is based on a transcript from my podcast The UnNoticed Entrepreneur, you can listen here.