How can you stitch together your PR story, and who is the best person to spin the yarns in public?

By Jim James,

Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast

An important lession everyone could learn is of passion and its significance in public relations. An example of this is Mr. Pickles, the owner of a store in Bath that sells sewing machines and related products. Luckily for him, he is one of those people whose business has actually gone from good to better during COVID. He says you can’t buy sewing machines now for love nor money, because the shipping has all been curtailed coming from Asia, as they come from Japan, China, and South Korea. Displaying passion and mastery of his craft that would be obvious even to a child, he can clearly articulate any product and its uses. The nonverbal communication that’s involved in public relations and in sales are pretty similar in a way, asking the question, then, what can be done in and around the business to both customers them feel welcome, that their feelings, values, and needs are legitimate, and also that customers would be buying into the genuine passion and knowledge that the spokesperson has. 

Finding the right spokesperson for the business

In a Cision survey about reputation and spokespeople, the most trusted spokespeople of companies are the product experts and the technical people. The MD or the CEO are the usual spokespeople for the media, office openings, or product launches. But ironically enough, the CEOs and sales directors are the least trusted when it comes to getting the public relations message out there. That’s because those people are going to be trying to sell  something, whereas a technical expert or product expert is going to be representing the truth in an unvarnished way about that product, and this is really what Mr. Pickles was doing. It was his own business, his passion ,and his product knowledge that made him a salesman. Analysing your own opportunities for PR, it’s worth thinking about whether you’re going to put ourselves forward or whether you can put forward other people with training, supervision, and some guidance to articulate the company message.

In terms of engaging content, if much of it is print or static text, consider video, since video now is both so easy to create and to distribute that it’s really no excuse not to be putting some video somewhere in your marketing materials. At the same time, if you have products or services and you also have knowledgeable people in the organisation whom you don’t necessarily consider as the spokesperson, is there some way to deploy them? Is there some way to have user-generated content where it’s not the CEO and the salesperson and the MD giving the company line, that instead, it’s the product manager or technical officer who then comes centerstage? Because the person delivering the service or developing the product is often the most credible and certainly the most knowledgeable about what it is. The CEO, the MD, or the sales director may be able to articulate the company’s role in delivering that product or service, but that may not be the same, and there may not be the same passion and insight as the person actually involved in the making of it. 

What a sewing and crafts store, an animal store, and a conservation charity have in common

The Bath Cats and Dogs Home is a business that live streams their kittens that are up for adoption, because they understand that people may not visit them in person, but they don’t want to lose the attention and the passion of their customers. In the same way that the Woodlands Trust is using a webcam in the Scottish Highlands to film in the Valkyries a pair of kestrels that have just given birth, this animal store is also using live video as a way to capture and engage people. What Mr. Pickles, the pet store, and Woodland Trust are showing is mastery of their topic by having obvious domain expertise. They’re genuine in terms of the passion they’re displaying with the products. 

Loyalty starts young, and it starts with passion. So, as you build your public relations, how can you demonstrate passion in store, in factory, in restaurant, or whatever facility you’ve got? Sometimes, it’s all about showing people what you do out front, and sometimes, it’s about sharing it in a way where people don’t have to be physically present to be a part of something, like in live streaming. Passion and domain expertise are often held by the person doing the job, not necessarily by the person who runs the company. Hopefully, this quilt of thoughts has been stitched together in a way that Mr. Pickles might have been proud of, and this was done without the aid of a sewing machine, just technology.


This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast SPEAK|pr, you can listen here.

Cover Photo by J Williams on Unsplash

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