Miranda Leslau’s ‘Life in Black and White’ (with a splash of colour)

When I was creating the miranda leslau pr strapline, ‘PR IN BLACK AND WHITE’, these words were chosen not only to reflect me as a business person, ie quite cut and dry, but also me in life. Sort it out, sharpish – you either want this or you don’t and never waste my precious time. Not only do I love a mono fashion combo (it keeps packing and wardrobe arrangement simple and yes, I do store my clothes as per the colours of the rainbow), it was also homage to my favourite era of Hollywood, when women knew how to conduct themselves and men were ‘real’ men.

This week was an absolute reflection of my brand: black and white, to a tee. I spent the last five days solid rushing around London, meeting with clients old and new as well as charities and retailers. It was really full on, all in the name of great PR and, hopefully, positive working relationships.

It was a week of real ups and downs though; darkness and light, with a few individuals showing their true (rather dark and unpleasant) colours and others being generous of spirit, professional and kind. It reinforced my ‘LIFE IN BLACK AND WHITE’ theory. But there was a difference this week. Me. I was the difference.

Having had Cancer last year, part of me has gone forever, just like the hour that we will lose as of next Saturday night, when the clocks go forward. I now realise that what other people say, do or think actually has nothing to do with me. How I react to them does. If someone treats me badly it says more about them than it does about me. Before, I would always react, albeit internally and revert to the little abandoned four year old girl.

So when the darkness reared its ugly head this week, I didn’t react. I remained calm and didn’t take it personally. I impressed myself, actually. Probably, the little girl part of me wanted to punch certain individuals in the face. In reality, I realised it doesn’t really matter. No-one died and the hands of the clock keep moving, regardless. Their moment will come (I also know this!).

As my dad used to say “for every action there is a reaction…” where there is dark, the light also shone through for me this week. I gave a talk to a group of international students at The University of Buckingham, where I used to lecture in PR. The course was a BSc in Enterprise and focused on entrepreneurship. My talk was about ‘Entrepreneurs, Life and Living’.

These inspired young people loved my talk. They said it was one of the best of the term. And this, for me, made my week. It made all the other crap worthwhile simply because I had impacted upon these creative young people’s existence. My life motto will always be that “I want to make a difference” and hopefully these engaged entrepreneurial minds will go out and make things happen in their lives. I shared my life story with them (albeit abridged) and gave from the heart.

As I type, the dark rain clouds are clearing, making way for the light, once again. Ever present in nature (and in the Orange ads), the future is bright and a rainbow always follows a storm. And this is when I readily embrace a spectrum of colours, as well as within my wardrobe arrangement, of course.

Why good PR is like making cupcakes #sweet

I don’t want to go to sleep just yet as I am fearful about my six-month Cancer scan tomorrow. So I thought I would share with all you lovely readers a few insights into the wonderful of world of PR: to help re-define this often misunderstood business.

For all intents and purposes, PR is the abbreviated version of Public Relations. I actually think this definition should change to Professional Relations, Personal Relations, Private Relations or even Professional Reputation – just not PUBLIC RELATIONS. It is very passé and means sweet FA! Ignore the text books. In PR, you never have time to refer to a text book in a crisis.

The number of secrets I have held back over the years is great and the number of people I have protected in a professional manner, even greater. PR is ALL about reputation and trust, particularly today where everyone is a social media expert or an opinionated pain in the proverbial – we are all exposed. If you trust a brand, you will be loyal to this very brand. Trusted brands on a global scale are companies like Apple, Virgin and innocent drinks… you get my drift. The Big Apple is definitely the order of the day in relation to a consistent theme.

The title of PR has had some pretty poor PR over the years (ironically) and I think the industry needs a re-brand. Particularly when some of the most recognised faces in “PR” are not actually PR’s at all. I shall mention no names but you can guess, as a starter for 10! Many PR’s will over-promise and under-deliver. So who is up to the task of overhauling a multi-billion pound industry? Not I, for sure! For the geeks amongst you, the PR industry was worth $12.5 billion back in 2013.

Many clients seeking PR support fall into any/all of the following categories:-

1. They want to appear on the front page of The Sunday Times, this week

2.They want to appear on the front page of The Mail on Sunday, this week

3.They want to appear on the front page of The Mail on Sunday and The Sunday Times, this week

4.They believe that their product/brand/story is the first of its kind in history

5.They think PR is easy

6.They think PR will make them a millionaire – and fast

7.They think PR just happens without input from both PR AND client

The reality is as follows:-

1.PR is made up of a variety of components, one of which is Media Relations, where you achieve column inches within a variety of media outlets

2.Good PR takes time

3.PR is NOT easy

4.PR is extremely powerful if built and used correctly

5.PR is as much about protecting your brand/product as it is about creating it

6.Most PR’s are only good at a few aspects of PR

7.A positive PR account requires input AND TIME from both client and PR

8.It is imperative that expectations of both client and PR are aligned

9.Forget about the front cover of The Sunday Times within the first week of appointment, unless your client is the Prime Minister, the new Royal Baby or Angela Merkel

10. Positive relationships take years to create and minutes to destroy – prevention is better than cure

11.PR covers off everything from how your team answers the telephone to whether the people that work for you actually want to get up every morning. If something goes wrong in a business and a story is leaked, always look to the disgruntled workers as a first point of call to find the snitch

12. PR is about people and understanding psychology – this is probably the hardest part, PEOPLE!

13. Be polite. Manners cost nothing. Some people in my industry should actually not be let out in public, they are so rude

Over the years I have promoted, launched, protected and created pretty much every type of campaign known to man. I don’t say this to show off. Far from it, I rarely pat myself on the back, moreover to demonstrate that if you are good at what you do in PR, you can apply these very theories to any field or sector.

Flash offices and all the trimmings of a corporate name do not a great PR account make. As in life, some people are dazzled by the bright lights and celebrity names, yet seldom (if ever) will Kylie Minogue or Paris Hilton attend your party unless they are paid to do so. Not just because a PR company has their names on the client roster.

The most difficult part of PR is evaluation and ROI. No-one can ever guarantee results in relation to media coverage: pieces get pulled and planes fall out of the sky. Things happen and news agendas change at 30-second intervals. Some agencies will come up with “brilliant” ways of evaluating campaigns: with point systems, credits, complicated matrices and the like and many will use multipliers of anywhere between three and seven to work out how much coverage was achieved and how much that very coverage is “worth” (compared to what advertising might have cost for the same amount of space).

What is of paramount importance within PR is that client and PR are both are in agreement about outcomes and expectation. If expectation is misaligned, it doesn’t matter what results are achieved, the relationship is doomed. And the working relationship will fail. It is the responsibility of the PR to manage client expectation as much as possible and for a mutual trust to ensue. The PR also has their own reputation to keep intact.

And this latter point is also key. Good PR is based on word-of-mouth recommendation. It does the work for you. In public presentations I often use the analogy of a man saying he is good in bed versus the women he has slept with saying he is good in bed (see the visual above). This is the difference between advertising and PR. Whenever I have pitched cold to a group of people (probably three or four times since I launched miranda leslau pr in 2001) the potential client didn’t believe I could achieve what I proposed in my pitch. Boo hoo. Their loss. I never chase a client as how the working relationship starts is how it will finish thereafter.

From the client perspective, it is important that a business is fluid and moving. A PR cannot keep talking about the same thing over and over again. There has to be a story attached to a product, brand or service. The client has to do some work as well, both in and on the business itself so that the PR Tango gains momentum. And PR generates PR…

Another important definition to consider is sales. PR works on different levels: branding, sales, information, interaction and trust. Let’s say your client makes cupcakes… some activity will lead to sales, some will create awareness (that might lead to sales in the future), some will be reviews to reinforce trust (to help drive further sales and brand credibility) and some will encourage people to try and enjoy or cook their own cupcakes as a treat, gift or celebration. In fact, PR is a lot like making cupcakes as you need the right ingredients with the right tools and cooking time, all fused together with a uniform distribution of heat within the oven!

Media coverage will not always guarantee sales. No PR can tell you that such and such article will guarantee xx amount of sales. How a client uses PR is the answer: for buyers, their first question may focus on “how do you intend to support the launch of your brand in-store?” so use the PR coverage as a sales tool at meetings. You should always promote coverage on social media with hash tags and help create a defined brand personality.

And on this note, my own public and private PR personality must retire to my bed. My eyes are scratchy and my grey matter depleted. But the next time you make cupcakes, think of me and my PR craft #sweet #hashtag.