We caught up with Catriona Pollard to find out how this vibrant and successful business woman grows her business and keeps her creativity flourishing.
I really enjoy our approach to PR, which is what makes us unique. How we work is this wonderful combination of creativity and strategy. We build a connection between communication tactics and business outcomes.
We don't pump out press releases all day. We believe that good PR is more clever than that. Good PR is about asking the right questions, understanding the landscape of the media and market, and having an antenna poised to pick up on any opportunities to benefit our client's business.
I love seeing the results and making a difference to businesses by getting them the right PR and profile in social media. I love it!
Who makes up the CP Communications team?
I have a team of five dedicated and creative consultants working across a range of clients from most industries.
What has been the most challenging experience of having your own agency?
There have been different challenges as the business has grown. At the beginning it was how to find clients, then it was dealing with challenge of how to best deal with growth.
Once I decided to take on staff, it was finding the right people and keeping them! I also had to deal with the challenge of stepping in the spotlight and building my own personal brand.
But they are all challenges I'm happy to take on as it means I continue to grow and evolve.
How did Social Media Women come about and what do you hope to achieve with it?
I got into social media very early on. I was really drawn to it - how it was fundamentally changing the way we communicate and connect with people.
I really enjoyed going to social media meet ups and functions and found that it was mostly men in the room. With men organising events, men were asked to speak and I found there was a certain level of ego as well.
I wanted to create a place where women could network and ask any question even if it was a really basic question. We have a phrase at Social Media Women where "No question is a stupid question". It is a forum where we can share our ideas and experience.
Men are welcome to attend, however we only have women speakers talking on a wide range of topics. We are also online (obviously) so have vibrant online community.
How has the rise of social media changed the opportunities for small businesses to get their voices heard?
Social media is the perfect platform for a business to start connecting with people, to tell their stories and build their profile, reputation and credibility. At no other time in history have small business had this opportunity.
For small business the place to start is with their story. Everyone has a story. So think about what stories you have, or your business has to tell. You can use the same stories across both PR as well as social media - you just use different channels.
For a specific story, using PR you might write a media release, but with social media you might write a blog post. It means you are reaching different audiences with the same story.
One technique for developing story ideas is to note which questions are commonly asked by customers and use these ideas to write a trends based article. This article can be pitched to key journalists and bloggers.
You can run a survey or poll about issues relating to your product or services, or piggy back on other surveys. Do you have a personal story that's inspirational such as how you came to start-up your business or a true rag to riches tale?
Storytelling is a constant effort. Be strategic and plan out your stories and the mediums you will use to tell them.
You have a passion for the democratisation of journalism and blogging, what do you think are the core benefits this brings to the small business community?
With social media, you are developing credible relationships with huge numbers of people directly - often they feel that this relationship is one on one.
With PR, the media's representation of a story can significantly impact on public opinion about an organisation, product or even a person. Editorial has a credibility factor as it is endorsed by the journalist or third party.
However, there is always the risk that you can't control what the journalist writes so then you consider going straight to the source - via social media.
Using platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, you're cutting out the third party and offering your messages directly. It is a much quicker, more direct route of communication to a very targeted audience who have chosen to engage with your brand on social media.
You can actually become the direct source of news about your company or brand by writing a blog and posting articles or media releases on your website. This can help raise your profile, increase your credibility as an expert in your field and all that fresh, relevant content being posted online certainly doesn't hurt your SEO efforts!
I know you also have a love for art and creativity, how do you balance your time between art and work?
At the beginning of last year I decided I needed to seriously create time for my art. My business can take over and I had to consciously make time for other passions. I find art and creativity inspirational and its gives me beautiful way to create - beyond words.
Last year I successfully entered into exhibitions, and this year I have my own exhibition in October. I do fibre sculpture and it can take a month to finish one piece of work, so that is a good reason to create every day!
What are your 5 tips for making public relations and social media as successful as possible for small business owners?
There is nothing to be scared about; social media is just another form of communication. Social media allows any business to engage, listen, share and exchange ideas with consumers in ways that have never been done before. Most importantly - it's free!
When it comes to social media you need to act just like you would at a real life networking event; you need to listen, respond, provide interesting conversation, monitor what people like, provide what people like and most importantly be yourself and inject a personality.
To embrace social media we suggest you start by creating a Facebook page for your business, creating a Twitter account for your business, creating a LinkedIn account and creating a business blog.
Don't just stop at opening the accounts, you need to participate. If you behave like a bad friend, not sharing or 'being there' then you won't get many contacts. Be open and give it as much time as you can.
You can never have too many contacts. From specific association networks to broad business groups, there are so many opportunities for business owners to network, but just turning up isn't enough. And it isn't just about getting new business either.
Running a business can be an isolating and stressful experience, but when networking you learn so much about different types of businesses, what is happening in the business community and have the opportunity to share your experiences.
Remember, good networkers also always follow up those they meet. It's not about getting as many business cards as possible, but connecting with people. Try setting a goal for each event to get two business cards with the invitation to contact them and arrange a coffee meeting to chat in more detail.
3. Write an article
Writing and distributing media releases is just one way of getting media coverage. You can also write an article and pitch it to a publication.
Many publications are stretched for resources and welcome well written articles. You can write an article that positions you as an industry expert and offers topical, helpful information. Ensure it is written in an objective, informative and entertaining manner.
Make sure your article is free from blatant advertisement or advertorial. Research which publications your potential clients read, or simply pitch to your major industry publications.
4. Update your website
Did you know that search engines read articles too? Offering interesting and informative articles on your website is a great way of building credibility and getting people to come back to your site to read them. It is also a fantastic way of increasing your 'Google ranking'.
The aim of increasing your website's Google ranking is to feature higher-up in the organic search results that appear on the left-hand side of search results pages, so that potential clients can find your website.
You can write articles that include variations of the main keywords or search phrases people use to search for you, your business, your products and services, and your industry. If you are stuck for ideas on what to add to your website to keep it fresh, think about what has been happening in your business recently. Readers love to read positive things about your business.
5. Get customer testimonials
Getting customer testimonials seems so simple, however many people forget to include them in their PR and marketing strategy. Testimonials help to build credibility and trust for your business and are a very powerful way to position your business as an expert. Including customer testimonials on your website and in marketing collateral can also help to win new business.
Set aside some time to either ring or email your customers to ask if they would mind writing a brief testimonial. If they are short for time, ask them quickly to explain what they most like about your service or product and offer to write it up for them.
Meet Catriona Pollard of CP Communications
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