The PR Guru

January 19, 2012


Mark Warren (Lister Trade Frames), Caroline Law (Caroline Law Consulting), Louise Psyllides (The Sentinel’s Business Editor) and I saw the last presentation for the semi-finals of the Local Business Accelerators this morning, and we’ve now got to make the difficult decision of which three fledgling businesses should go forward to the next stage of the competition.

We’ve seen some great presentations over the past couple of weeks, from six of North Staffordshire’s newest businesses. The three ‘lucky’ winners will receive three months’ of mentoring with me, Mark and Caroline, as well as some great coverage and free advertising in The Sentinel. And one of those will go forward to the national finals, with a chance to be mentored by Dragon’s Den entrepreneur Deborah Meaden!

It’s good to see such enthusiasm and passion in our local business community, and they all have growth potential.

So thanks to Optimise Automotive, Lucy Goodwin Designs, MOJO Maker, Dimbleby Ceramics, For Tyres and Barewall for the time and effort they put into their presentations – and to all of the businesses who entered but unfortunately didn’t make it to this stage.

Louise will notify the three winners today and announce them to the wider world in The Sentinel’s Business pages on Monday.


November 3, 2011



We’ve teamed up with The Sentinel on a new competition for local small businesses, backed by Dragon’s Den’s Deborah Meaden.

If your business is between one and three years old, and you believe it’s full of potential, you can take part in the Local Business Accelerators campaign, which has been set up by the Newspaper Society and has £15m worth of free advertising on offer for UK firms.

One lucky winner will be mentored by Deborah for a full year in 2012!

Three winners in North Staffordshire will win three months of free advertising in The Sentinel, and will be mentored by Mark Warren, MD of Lister Trade Frames; marketing strategist Caroline Law; and my good self.

We will also be judging the entries, alongside The Sentinel’s Business Editor Louise Psyllides.

All you have to do is describe how three months of free advertising would help your business – easy really!

You can enter the competition here:

You’ll have to move fast though – the deadline is November 21st.

Further information is also available here:

Young start-ups offered chance of expert mentoring from TV Dragon Deborah Meaden

Competition will give small firms a boost

‘Important to drive awareness’

Businesses happy to share advice

March 4, 2011

10 Reasons to use PR, #4

And now for Part Four in our run down of the biggest reasons to use PR to promote your business.

This one will be attractive to anyone who runs a b2c business, targeting consumers, for example retailers. It’s why the well-known celebrities, multi-national brands, and public sector organisations like local authorities and Government departments all like PR.


You’ve probably heard me mention before how a PR campaign can get you into loads of different media titles, including newspapers, magazines, websites and radio and TV stations. If not, we talked about it in our blog on how PR helps you spread your investment.

The main benefit of PR is you can get into numerous titles for one flat fee – or free if you’re doing it yourself. Exactly how many depends how many you are targeting and how good you/your PR agent is. (Normally we would operate on a target of at least one in ten, although we usually do much better than that.)

So, if you’re targeting 100 titles you can probably expect to get into at least 10. And by doing that, you’ve saved yourself thousands of pounds worth of advertising (because otherwise you’d have to pay for each one you advertised in).

But it gets better! If you combine all of their readerships (not circulations, which are just their sales figures – most papers and magazines are read by more than one person), number of hits, and their listener/viewer numbers, that gives you the size of your potential audience.

In Stoke-on-Trent, for example, there are 14 media titles to aim for: The Sentinel, The Advertiser, Radio Stoke, Signal Radio, Staffordshire Life, The North Staffordshire Magazine, Cross Rhythms Radio, 6 Towns Radio, Focus Magazine, Staffordshire in Business, This is Staffordshire, This is Business Staffordshire, Midlands Today and Central News.

Let’s say your story got into (a not unrealistic) five of them: The Sentinel, Radio Stoke, Signal One, Staffordshire Life, and This is Staffordshire.

Their daily circulation/listener/visitor figures are:
The Sentinel: 53228
Radio Stoke: 22286 (based on weekly audience of 156000)
Signal One: 37714 (based on weekly audience of 264000)
Staffordshire Life: 11000
This is Staffordshire: 13429 (based on monthly visits of 376228)

That would give you a combined potential audience of 137657! And they’re all right on your doorstep! That’s a bigger audience than most businesses can afford to contact through advertising or any other type of promotion.

The print/web coverage alone would probably cost you at least £600.

And as for radio, it’s fairly safe to say advertising on Signal Radio would probably be at least £1000 (including the cost of producing the ad), and it’s obviously difficult to price up the Radio Stoke coverage because they don’t sell advertising. In that case we would tend to use the advertising rates of a commercial station with a similar audience, for example XFM Manchester (min £2000).

So in other words one story which generates coverage in those five places would save you at least £3600!

Your only challenge is to make sure your story is interesting enough to catch their eye or ear…

February 8, 2011

Revealed: the cost of advertising in the North Staffordshire media

Following on from our piece last week about the cost-effectiveness of PR compared to advertising, we’ve put together some info on what it costs to advertise in the North Staffordshire media.

These prices are for colour ads, so you may be able to get a cheaper deal for a black and white one. A black and white ad would not have the impact of a colour one so probably wouldn’t be as successful.

These prices are also exclusive of VAT.

The minimum price is £150 for a quarter page ad in The North Staffordshire Magazine, a lifestyle publication produced by Staffordshire Sentinel News and Media (the same people who do The Sentinel).

This rises to an incredible £9040 for a full page ad in the Express and Star, which has a circulation of over 120000 and covers a massive area from South Staffordshire to the Black Country and North Worcestershire.

Here’s the full list of rates.

The Sentinel
Full page: £3398.40
Half page: £1699.20
Quarter page: £849.60
Eighth page: £424.80

Express & Star
Full page: £9040
Half page: £4630
Quarter page: £2200
Eighth page: £550

Staffordshire Newsletter
Full page: £600
Half page: £400
Quarter page: £325
Eighth page: POA

Stafford Post
Full page: £2672
Half page: £1336
Quarter page: £668
Eighth page: £304

The Advertiser
Full page: £2448
Half page: £1224
Quarter page: £612
Eighth page: £306

Staffordshire Life
Full page: £1350
Half page: £760
Quarter page: £480
Eighth page: £275

The North Staffordshire Magazine
Full page: £450
Half page: £250
Quarter page: £150
Eighth page: POA

Focus Magazine
Full page: £900
Half page: £550
Quarter page: £350
Eighth page: POA
(£50 discount is available for Chamber members)

Please note these are the published advertising rates, and you may be able to negotiate a better deal if you speak to the relevant advertising departments.

When you consider these are the prices for just one ad, it brings into perspective one of the major benefits of using PR.

November 25, 2010

The Sentinel launch Stoke News

Our local newspaper, The Sentinel, have today launched a new section of their website called Stoke news: The best of what’s going on in and around Staffordshire.

This gathers tweets from Twitter that include the hashtag #stokenews and puts them together, so that people have access to all the local stories and events that are taking place in the area.

This is great news for local businesses who should be able to get some publicity from the website – although I think tweets are manually selected according to the newspaper’s guidelines, so some editing will still take place.

It is great for The Sentinel too, as they are seen as embracing the community and coming together to provide a useful resource. Currently the service is a trial, which means that things will continually change and improve. I hope it manages to take off.

October 20, 2010

BroadwayWorldUK announce wrong Sister Act closing date and locals complain over radical hospital design

Once again it seems that one little mistake can cause quite a stir amongst theatre fans. Only recently there was a lot of discussion over the fact that Ben Evans had been incorrectly called lead Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys, playing the role eight times a week.

Today BroadwayWorldUK sent out a tweet stating that ‘London’s SISTER ACT Shutters Early on October 20, 2010′. This caused a lot of comments because Whoopi Goldberg previously had to cut short her run in the West End musical, and this earlier closure would have meant she would have been unable to return for the second time from this Friday until Monday.

It is not unheard of for shows the post closure dates at short notice, which is why some doubts did occur in the first place.

However, upon reading the article it becomes clear that the tweet was meant to read 30th October, because the later closing date it refers to is January 2011. This news was, however, announced ages ago.

It also states that Sheila Hancock is playing Mother Superior, even though she left the cast the week before Whoopi Goldberg joined. The role is currently being played by Sally Dexter, who will take a holiday whilst Goldberg returns to complete her run.

In local news, the controversial design of the Staffordshire’s new hospital is causing the locals to express concerns.

Bright red, yellow and black panels are now covering the front of the new University Hospital of North Staffordshire.

The Sentinel has reported that residents are describing it as looking like Legoland and being too much to look at, whereas the experts have called it a work of art.

It is definitely meant to cause a stir and is an attempt to be modern. I think the radical design is doing much to publicise the work that has been done.

What are your thoughts on the new building? Do you like it and do you think it is a clever way to generate PR?

October 19, 2010

Stoke City giving Tickets For Troops and Shawcross praised for modesty

According to The Sentinel, Stoke City are getting plenty of positive PR by joining a campaign that offers British servicemen and women the chance to attend major sporting events.

The Tickets For Troops scheme allows those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan to enjoy free entrance to a variety of entertainment venues in recognition of their service to the country.

Stoke gave out a hundred tickets for the recent Premier League match against Blackburn and a similar number will be offered for the fixtures against Birmingham City, Fulham and Bolton.

The team are also supporting the British Legion’s Poppy Appeal next month.

Some of the troops made a recent visit to Clayton Wood Training Ground to collect their match tickets, where they also got the chance to meet some of the players, including Ryan Shawcross.

Shawcross was praised in The Sentinel, on Monday, for not getting carried away by rumours that he could transfer to Liverpool or Madrid; saying he prefers to concentrate on playing for Stoke. Obviously this is great PR for the player because fans and the media admire him wanting to stay on playing for his home team.

October 11, 2010

David Johnson

The speaker at next Monday’s coaching programme is David Johnson, from The Sentinel – Staffordshire’s daily newspaper.

He’ll be focusing on how to get your business into The Sentinel’s business section.

As the business editor for the paper and business supplements, there is nobody better qualified to speak on the subject.

David has been working as business editor for The Sentinel since 2007 and since then has been in charge of sifting through all the press releases that are sent to them – to see which ones can be used.

He will be able to tell you what they don’t want from a press release.

Online reporter Alison Kenney has written some tips for making a press release stand out from the crowd, which might give you all some idea as to what to expect from our session – although we go through much more in the two hour slot:

A “quote, from a third-party, can make your news stand out… Readers are interested in who is being quoted and in what they are saying… If it’s a customer or partner endorsing you or product, their quote can explain the unique reason they like you or, better yet, quantify the success they’ve had with your help.”

“Adding “spin” or context can help sell your story to the media. In this case, think like an editor. Why would a writer be interested in your news? If it’s not immediately obvious, you may need to broaden your story’s appeal by explaining how it impacts consumers, the industry, the local region, etc.”

David will be using his expertise to show you how to:

•write a press release that will stand out from the many he gets each day
•find a news story that fits into what he normally publishes
•increase your chances of getting business through the newspaper and its supplements
And all for just £60 + VAT!

To book your place, e-mail

July 21, 2010

Stoke Council’s £1.6m PR budget – what was it spent on?

Filed under: Uncategorized — richardswancott @ 2:10 pm
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The Sentinel has gone quite big on this story today. Basically Stoke-on-Trent City Council has spent £1.6m on public relations in the past year alone – a massive 145% higher than the PR budget for 2008 and a £178000 overspend on what they budgeted for in the 2009/10 budget.

Now I’m sure our council is not the only local authority to have spent lots of taxpayers’ cash on their image and reputation. A study in 2008 found the average spend to be £972000, with 133 authorities spending more than £1m a year, and six spending more than £5m.

There is definitely a need for councils to communicate with residents on the facilities available to them.  The question which needs to be asked is whether as taxpayers we get the best return on our investment – what exactly do they spend our money on?

Given the fact Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s reputation is basically in the gutter, and the image of the city as a whole is not much better, surely we deserve some transparency on where the £1.6m went? That would go a long way to appeasing people like me and improving the council’s image.

This is needed more now than ever, in the context of huge public spending cuts and our council alone having to slash £30m from their budget.

Logically, the next question is where can they save money? Well they could start by outsourcing to local suppliers (or indeed any suppliers!), and making more use of social media. Of course I am a little biased here, being a Stoke-on-Trent PR agency! But I am a taxpayer as well so I would be just as happy if they were using another agency – as long as they were getting value for money.

UPDATE: Stoke-on-Trent City Council has said today (Thurs) the increased spend was to pay for the city’s centenary celebration events.

Ah, ok. Remind me, which centenary celebration events were they?

The only things I can think of are the party in Hanley Park, and the 2010k road race. Is that £500000 worth of events? I very much doubt it – even though the party had a stellar line-up including Diana Vickers, Jedward and Craig David.

But what do you think?

July 9, 2010

Coaching Programme developments

The Be Your Own PR Person coaching programme has come on leaps and bounds over the past few weeks!

For a start, we now have a confirmed* list of speakers and dates!

Here you go:

19th July: Karen Cotton, on how to use LinkedIn to develop your business

23rd August: Philip Thurlow-Craig, on how to get into Staffordshire Life

20th September: Jo Bailey, on how to write a winning award application

18th October: David Johnson, on how to get your business into The Sentinel’s Business section

22nd November: Andy Coyne, on getting your business into Midlands Business Insider

20th December: Jenny Amphlett, on how to get into The North Staffordshire Magazine

17th January: Karen Cotton, on how to use Facebook in your business

21st February: Jo Bailey, on how to organise an event on a budget

21st March: Jodie Looker, on putting together a radio phone-in

18th April: Karen Cotton, on how to use Twitter to bring in enquiries

16th May: Nigel Pye, on getting your business into the national media

20th June: Kurt Jacobs, on using business magazines to raise your profile

We’ll go into more detail on our speakers as the events approach.

Give us a call if you would like more information: 01782 472035 or 07880 733138. Or you can email

 (*Please note speakers, subjects and dates are subject to change)

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