By Jim James, Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur.
I recently joined Dr Steve Day in his podcast, Systemise your Success, to talk about the SPEAK|PR methodology and how you can unlock the value in your business through effective communication. I also discussed how to storify, personalise, engage, amplify, and know your audience in order to deliver higher levels of value and make your company a bigger success as a result.
Helping Entrepreneurs Get Noticed
I’ve been an entrepreneur for 30 years now. I’ve built eight businesses on three continents and I consider myself the champion of the unnoticed. What I love to do is to help business owners express the full value of their business through public relations — through a focus on content, consistency, and channels.
What I do is massively relevant to Steve’s Systems and Outsourcing business and also to other small businesses. Because, as he pointed out, getting yourself out there and letting people know what you do as a business is probably one of the things that business owners do pretty poorly.
To contextualise things, he mentioned that he’s a creator by heart. He loves solving problems, creating solutions, and providing things that make people’s lives easier. But what he’s not natural at is actually selling that stuff, getting it out, and helping people. But if you’re not selling or promoting what you do, then no one will get the benefit.
So what are the first steps that business owners like him should take in terms of creating content and getting that noticed?
Most people start a business because they’ve found a problem to solve. Communicating that isn’t typically part of the original business plan. Entrepreneurs essentially refer to those people who are great at solving problems. And for them, getting the value in their business unlocked by sharing that through effective communication is a huge problem.
This really comes down to content to start with. While entrepreneurs can create great information, the struggle lies in creating content so that not just one but different audiences can empathise with it.
Creating Content through the SPEAK|PR Methodology
Typically, we tend to create content that we understand and recognise. In the SPEAK|PR program that I developed (SPEAK stands for storify, personalise, engage, amplify, and know), I talk about content within the context of storification.
As business owners, we often explain what we do and how we do it. In storification, part of the role that we need to play as communicators on behalf of our business is to understand what our content means for our clients, partners, and employees. It’s moving away from “How I’m solving the problem” to “How my customers, partners, and employees are feeling about the problems that they’re facing?” It’s about taking the view from the other side.
In my case, I’m offering PR services and helping clients get noticed. But actually, my clients aren’t looking to buy that service. What they’re currently feeling is that they’re unnoticed. This is also why I’ve published a book called “The UnNoticed Entrepreneur.” It’s all about helping people say, “It’s great, what I’m doing, but what I really need to do is to see what the person is coming to me for.”
- Storify. The first part of my methodology is storification. It’s not what you’re offering but what is the problem that the other person is trying to solve.
This can be quite hard to do but a good way of doing that is to record our pitch and play it back. You can either be on the camera or even just in front of a mirror. This will help you realise that you’ve only been talking about yourself all the time. Normally people say “Hi, this is what I do” as opposed to “Hi, what problems are you trying to solve? How do you feel when you come to my business? Are you feeling anxious? Are you feeling stressed? Are you feeling undervalued? Are you feeling that you need more staff?”
When you record and play it back, you can have an honest sense of how you’re currently representing yourself. You can also do it with a friend or a coach.
A large part of what a PR agency does is to listen to the client and say that what they’re saying is great from their perspective. Then, they share with them, for instance, what a journalist really wants to find out — how does it impact their readers?
- Personalise. The second part, personalisation, is about starting to think about who you’re talking to.
After knowing what problems people are facing, you should ask: Who am I really addressing? You might be familiar with the idea of an avatar or persona. What you need to do as a business owner is to understand who your customer, potential employee, or partner is. There’s not just one audience that you need to address. If you build a business, you might be doing it for your clients but you need to have staff and partners.
Personalisation is about starting to take the message that you have and making it relevant to the individuals. You can only do that if you know who the individuals are.
It can be a middle-aged business person who just started a business. If you’re helping someone to outsource — and that someone has been in the business for 20 years and they’ve never grown — they’d have a different set of issues than when they’ve only started a business and haven’t grown yet. So the message is going to be slightly different. What you offer may be the same, but what the person is seeking to solve is different.
Under personalisation, I also talk about the customer journey. After thinking about the problems that the other person is seeking to solve and knowing who they are — you then need to think about where and when they’d receive the message.
In my case, I’ve got kids. And if I take them to school and someone rings and is trying to sell me something, my mind wouldn’t be on the job. That person would have to ring me back.
As business owners, what we often do is send information when we’re ready to send it. But, actually, a big part of what we need to think about is when the other person is ready to receive our information.
For instance, I’m sending out information about my book. On Zoho, I can elect to send the email by time zone. I can choose to send it at 9 o’clock when I’m ready or by the recipient’s time zone. I can also test the message whether it’s better to be received on mobile or on the big screen.
If you think about who your avatar is and what place they’re at within their day, the content needs to change. You need to send it when it’s relevant and in a format wherein it’s relevant.
- Engage. The letter e in SPEAK|PR stands for “engage” and it’s about creating engaging content.
Most companies do what many people do when they meet socially: They tell a lot of details about themselves and miss the other person’s eyes glazing over. That kind of talk can prompt others to say, “Oh, that guy is interesting. But how do I get away?” Then, they’d be telling excuses like they’ve seen a friend or they’re getting a drink from the bar. These are old social cues that we’re not getting if we’re doing a lot of social media marketing, for example.
Engaging content is content that’s new and interesting. If content is king, context is queen. This answers the question: How does the content embed itself into the lives of the people receiving it?
A great example of it is the Captain Tom phenomenon, the news of which has even reached Sweden where Steve is living. He walked around his compound to raise money for the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) as a way to thank them for his hip surgery.
The reason he went viral is that his content was context-sensitive. He was doing something simple: He was raising money and addressing everyone who has empathy for the NHS. He was doing it at a time when everyone felt an outpouring of emotions because of COVID.
When talking about engagement, it’s not just about creating content that you think is good for your company. It’s about: Will it land with the person who needs it in a way that it’s a thought that’s already in their head?
In SPEAK|PR, storify is about knowing the problem of the other person. Personalise is about getting more detailed with your avatar and what they’re doing in their day. Engage, on the other hand, is creating content that the person can accept and engage with. Under this part is the so-called “cascade theory” by sociologist Duncan J. Watts and it’s all about getting people to share content that they will reshare. Captain Tom is a great case study in that.
- Amplify. Amplification, the fourth part, is about taking one piece of content and sending it across multiple channels. This can be done with the help of amplification tools available to entrepreneurs such as Buffer, Hubspot, Zoho, and MeetEdgar. There are many tools available — some are free, some have freemiums and paid models. But there’s really something for everybody.
If you take one piece of content, you can hook it up to all these different channels. You can basically post once and it will get distributed in real-time, as a repeat post, or as a scheduled post by using the said tools.
Outsourcing is one big part of what Steve is helping people with. And under amplification, you can outsource the amplification to these platforms with a PR firm like what my clients are paying me to do. They pay me to take a piece of information and get it into the media.
As a business owner, you can use your owned channels — whether it’s YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Medium, or Reddit. In China, the popular platforms are Wei Xin, Youku, and TikTok. You can hook these channels up and when you click once, your content will go out to them.
- Know. The final part is knowing, in which I use a special metric called the Active Communications Index (ACI). It’s about how much content you create, how many channels you hook it up to, and how consistent you are.
It’s a common problem how people create content and send it only once. We see this often in smaller businesses that don’t have a dedicated resource. It can also be seen when a business has a product launch, an office opening, or an acquisition and there will be a big flurry of activity. Then, there’s nothing after that. It’s kind of the social equivalent of meeting someone or moving into a new neighbourhood and greeting people once and never saying hello again.
When you’re building a relationship, there will be a lot of touchpoints that you can have. And the ACI is about creating a rhythm. In the same way that you do a daily huddle with your team, you must also need a metric like ACI for your communication strategy.
The SPEAK|PR program is a methodology available online. It’s about helping business owners use some of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools available for content creation, amplification, and storification. While it’s amazing what these tools can do for you, it still comes down to putting your customer, staff, or partner at the centre of your story — not yourself.
Personally, I think that schools do this better than anybody.
When you go to a school as I did when my daughters graduated from junior to senior high school, you’d notice that when the headteacher comes up, they don’t mention themselves at all. They’d say, “Your children have done brilliantly. Look at what they’ve done. Let’s go and celebrate their successes. They’ve been proactive, and they’ve been collaborative, and they’ve achieved great academics.” They never say, “Aren’t we great?”
When I coach my clients, I get them to think about who they serve rather than what they serve. It won’t cost anything. It’s just a bit of a mindset shift. When you start from that perspective, the PR becomes really good fun.
And if you apply that mindset to your business and go through that flow, then you’ll get noticed for what you do.
To learn more about Steve Day and about his podcast, visit www.systemizeyoursuccess.com.
This article is based on a transcript from my podcast The UnNoticed Entrepreneur, you can listen here.