Thursday, 30 November 2017

How to choose a PR firm

We’ve had some really exciting PR workshops in the last couple of weeks helping people to come up with ideas for 2018 on how to promote their businesses.

So if we’re showing people how to do PR, why are we also recommending that it’s a good idea to hire a PR firm?

Well, it’s a huge time-saving if you can get a professional to help you. They know what kind of stories to look for, what to ask you, which publications to place it in and hopefully can write it quickly with fewer mistakes. They know the industry so have good contacts. And a journalist can spot a professional from an amateur release within seconds, which could mean the difference between publication and hitting ‘delete’.

In reality, while you could write a release and send it out, it’s one of those things you can delegate if you have the right PR person in place, freeing you up to spend time running the business. After all, that’s probably what you’re best at!

So now it comes down to choosing the right PR person. It’s a huge decision and can be game-changing for your business.
It’s an important decision and a huge investment of time, money and reputation.

Here are some ways to think about:

1. Keep an eye on the media to see which company names keep popping up in print. If there’s some PR coverage and ideas you like, why not find out who they use?
2. Think about budget. Larger, international agencies have great contacts, resources and impressive offices, but can cost literally thousands of pounds a month. Alternatively, very small agencies tend to be run by former journalists who really understand the press. They often work from a kitchen table or shed and have lower overheads.
3. What are your customers reading? Does your PR person have contacts there? Have they had pieces published there before?
4. Do they understand your business sector?
5. Do you get on? Are you happy for them to call you to ask strange questions? With so much riding on PR, the relationship can be stressful, so it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get on, but can you work together? The better your relationship, the easier it is for your PR person to understand what you want and get the right coverage for your business.
6. Do they promise the world in an attempt to win business?
7. Are there lots of hidden costs or a simple fee structure?

It’s not easy, but once you’ve found the right firm, great things can happen!

Thursday, 26 October 2017

But why should you do PR?

If you're a small business, it can be time-consuming and expensive to get your name in front of prospective customers.

That's why getting positive press coverage is an affordable and effective option compared to activities such as advertising, sponsorship and marketing.

Often, people say that they don't have a good story or that the press aren't interested, but actually small businesses have a huge advantage compared to larger corporates. They tend to be of more interest to journalists because they have better backstories, or are family-run or do things that are interesting. Perhaps they use an old family recipe or bring their product to market in an innovative way. Sometimes the founder found themselves unfulfilled by corporate life and so now has an inspiring work-life balance.

Press coverage is cost effective too. You can put aside some time to do it yourself or you can find a PR pro or agency to do it for you (I'll be talking next month in my blog about ways of finding a PR person who is a good fit for your business). A piece in a newspaper or online tends to stick around, meaning that people are still reading it and finding you months or even years after publication.

The other positive about PR is credibility. You can tell people all you like that you're the best in the business, but potential customers really want to hear this from a third party. And what better endorsement for you than a positive piece from a journalists on your business, product or service.

If you're local to West Berkshire and would like to give your PR a kickstart, then check out the following two workshops:

Fri, 3rd Nov
PR brainstorming session in Hungerford (address on booking)
Just £16.52

Wed, 8th Nov
How to write a press release:

Friday, 15 September 2017

New patron for West Berkshire Mencap

West Berkshire Mencap has announced its newest charity patron – Josh Dugdale.

The filmmaker and owner of the Wasing Estate joins a list of famous patrons including actor Lorraine Chase and celebrity chef Daniel Galmiche who support the charity and raise awareness of the work it does for people with learning disabilities and their families.

Mr Dugdale has supported West Berkshire Mencap for years, but decided to become a patron recently owing to the enthusiasm and leadership of its chief executive Leila Ferguson.

He said: “West Berkshire Mencap is an amazing charity doing incredible work, and it’s a great honour to help. Without the key work that they do – staff, volunteers and families- I can see that there would be an enormous gap to fill, so it’s a privilege to lend support.”

Leila Ferguson added: “We are so grateful to all of our wonderful patrons and are excited that Josh is joining the team. He is a busy man and has such amazing experiences under his belt from founding the Glade Festival to documentary making that we’re thrilled to have him on board. We hope to collaborate with Josh to put on a fantastic Mad Hatter’s tea party in the ground of Wasing in the future to help raise funds for the charity.”

West Berkshire Mencap continues to organise fund-raising events in order to ensure the organisation can continue to provide services. Its next major events are a wine tasting event at Englefield on Friday, 29th September, a murder mystery event on Friday, 20th October, a quiz on Friday, 10th November and its annual race day in early 2018.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017


Newbury lettings agency Regent Lettings has marked its tenth anniversary with a celebratory cruise along the Kennet and Avon Canal.

pic by Stuart March

The firm was founded by husband-and-wife team Graeme and Gill Leech in 2007 and since then has grown in strength and reputation as a specialist, local residential letting agency.

Along with staff, clients were invited to the special event on the horse-drawn ‘Kennet Valley’ barge that departed from Kintbury. The evening included a buffet from Inner Circle Catering, and champagne to celebrate. There was a speech by Mr Leech and a raffle in aid of West Berkshire Mencap.

Regent Lettings is an established, independent agency that is a member of ARLA (Association of Residential Lettings Agents). It offers managed and non-managed services, including impartial advice on property investment in the local area. Regent carries out accompanied viewings, full referencing, video inventories for accuracy, prepares tenancy agreements, lodges deposits with the DPS (Deposit Protection Service), carries out regular property visits and keeps up-to-date with the ever-changing legislation.

Mr Leech said: “We’re so appreciative to everyone who has supported us on our lettings journey over the last 10 years and delighted that they are able to share the celebration with us.

“Our ethos is to treat every property we work with as if it is our own. We work hard to match the right tenant with the right property and all of the rental properties in our care are supported by our team of local property specialists.

“Our aim is to be the most trusted and respected agency in the area by providing expert advice to clients.”

Monday, 14 August 2017


Staff from SPX Flow in Newbury have volunteered their time to help West Berkshire Mencap this week.

The team of five engineers and fitters spent a day carrying out an extreme makeover of the charity’s sensory garden and sports field at the Enborne Gate headquarters.

As well as mowing the grass which had grown to waist height, plus cutting back weeds to make the field usable for team events and sports for children with learning disabilities, the volunteers completely transformed the sensory garden just in time for the charity’s open day.

The sensory garden provides a quiet space for people with learning disabilities to immerse themselves in and to explore their senses.

SPX assembly supervisor Mick Whittaker, who is set to retire from the firm later this year after 49 years of service, said: “We wanted to do something practical to help so we took an in-house poll to see which local charity staff wanted to support. West Berkshire Mencap received the most votes, so we got in touch to see if there was anything they wanted done.

“It’s been really good to see the results of our work and the impact it’s had on the people who have benefited.”

Leila Ferguson, chief executive of West Berkshire Mencap, added: “We are so grateful to the volunteers from SPX Flow who have made such a difference to us by offering their help. We have been absolutely astounded by their willingness to throw themselves into helping in such a practical way. They have already made such a visible difference to the charity’s surroundings.”

Friday, 28 July 2017

Woolton HIll Junior School partners with West Berkshire Mencap

Woolton Hill Junior School has unveiled its new sports kit for the forthcoming school year, provided courtesy of West Berkshire Mencap.
The new kit was presented to the school by the charity’s representative Phil King at the last celebration assembly of the academic year.

It will be worn for sports ranging from football, rugby, athletics and netball and parts of the kit will even form the uniform for dodgeball, golf and archery or any sporting event where children will be representing the school.

Mr King added: “It’s quite unusual for a charity to sponsor a kit like this, but we are delighted to invest in a mutually-beneficial relationship that will raise awareness of the work that West Berkshire Mencap does locally for people with learning disabilities, plus to acknowledge the great work that Woolton Hill Junior School does to ensure inclusivity. We are looking forward to additional opportunities to work with the school and wish all of the sports teams of all ages the very best of luck for the next season.”

Yvonne Standing, headteacher at Woolton Hill Junior School, added: “The school is represented at lots of sporting events and having a bespoke sports kit means that the pupils will look the part and really be able to take pride in their appearance. We are proud at Woolton Hill Junior School that we have children of all abilities so it’s great to work with West Berkshire Mencap and we are delighted to help them heighten awareness of the valuable service they provide in the local community.”

Thursday, 13 July 2017

A Secret Sisterhood

A Secret Sisterhood
Hungerford Bookshop
15th June
Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney

Writing tends to be a solitary activity. When you think of literary greats such as Jane Austen and George Eliot, it’s often a mental image of them writing industriously in splendid isolation.

However, a new book A Secret Sisterhood by Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney has uncovered the hidden literary friendships of the world's most respected female authors. Inspired by their own friendship and encouragement for each other, Sweeney and Midorkikawa embarked on research into previously unpublished letters and diaries, proving that everyone needs support and someone to bounce ideas around with.

The pair talked to a full Hungerford Bookshop on Thursday evening about their new book and why these female friendships are not as well-known as male ones such as Byron and Shelley or Fitzgerald and Hemingway.

The talk revealed Jane Austen's bond with a family servant, the amateur playwright Anne Sharp and why the Austen family were keen to keep this quiet. Sharp was the governess of Jane Austen’s niece but does not appear in any biographies even though she was one of a select list of first people to receive presentation copies of her novels.

The pair also explored the friendships of Charlotte Bronte, who was a friend of feminist writer Mary Taylor despite their first meeting when Taylor announced that she found Bronte “very ugly” at boarding school. However, they were brought together by the love of a good political argument and their differing views helped each other see the world from opposing standpoints. They encouraged each other to make a living from their writing and Mary’s feedback on Jane Eyre was that it was not radical enough and gave such frank advice that her next novel Shirley was more openly political.

Midorikawa and Sweeney also spoke on the transatlantic relationship between George Eliot and the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe, who never actually met in real life. Their correspondence had never been published to date and Sweeney and Midorikawa found a number of letters that showed a unique insight between the two who were the most famous writers of their time on either side of the Atlantic.

Lastly, they discussed the relationship between Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf, a fantastically complex relationship which Sweeney and Midorikawa nearly dismissed believing them to be enemies. Woolf accused Mansfield of ‘stinking like a civet cat that has taken to street walking’ which doesn’t sound like the language of close friends but belied a ‘robust’ friendship that was so strong that Woolf struggled to continue writing when Mansfield died at the age of 33.

With these literary heroines’ achievements and relationships downplayed in the past, it’s reassuring to know that women have always sought strength and support from others throughout history. Sweeney summed up saying: “The truth is that intelligent, creative women have always collaborated and we feel that this is surely the moment to pass that on to our daughters.”

The book is on sale at the Hungerford Bookshop and other outlets, with a preface by Margaret Atwood.

(First appeared in the Newbury Weekly News)