What’s going on with PR these days?

PR isn’t just for big businesses, or big budgets.

In the glory days of media, sizeable portions of PR budgets would be used for schmoosing journalists, so access to those precious column inches could be gained. But the world has changed, and in these lean times, where media companies scramble to secure income streams in a digital age, PR penetration now comes with a hefty side order of advertising buy-in. Great for big businesses, but a raw deal for SMEs. Which is why Hana Dickinson, MD of The County Wire, is forging a new path that allows all businesses to access effective PR, without breaking the bank.

Once upon a time, PR was all about finding a solid hook, dashing off a newsy press release, and then opening up your little black book to find the contact details of your favourite journalists.

And before your chosen journalist finished the box of complimentary doughnuts you also happened to send along, they would have turned the press release into hot copy.

Not every journalist liked doughnuts. Some preferred being taken out for coffee, or event tickets.

In return, they would take your press releases, pitches and interview requests, use your supplied images, and convert them into the ever-valuable print and digital column inches that were the gold PR teams needed to produce for happy clients.

And then doughnuts stopped working

It’s old news that the traditional media industry is suffering. Magazine sales have shrunk, newspaper circulation has dwindled, and while most publications have moved online, various advertising revenue and subscription models have met with limited success at generating income.

In the current climate, publications have moved towards a ‘pay to play’ approach. A PR pitch may be met enthusiastically… just as long as you buy the advertising space that goes with it. A decent trade-off for large businesses, perhaps, who have the clout to buy their way in. But for many smaller businesses, the high cost of entry has frozen them out of the PR game.

In the olden days, it was easy to spot advertorial content, as it came with a ‘third party content’ note on the top. Nowadays, the line between editorial and advertising has vanished… along with consistent media access to all but those who have the funds to buy in.

Lowering the PR ladder

This isn’t fair, and I wanted to do something about it. Why? Because access to great PR, at an affordable price, is a vital resource for any SME wishing to reach their full potential.

When I saw the way things were headed in the media landscape several years ago, I realised what this would mean for the SME ecosystem, and did what any other businessperson does when the marketplace changes. I adapted.

I wanted a way to remove the financial barrier that was preventing access to PR and media coverage. Which is why, in 2017, I launched The CountyWire – regional online news sites – and the recently launched UK BusinessWire.

Businesses can contribute articles, profiles, press releases and news, and have them feature on the site, in our email newsletter, and via our expanding social media channels.

We offered flexible rates, subscription options, and editorial guidance. The key aim? To ensure the sole traders, start-ups and SMEs that form the economic backbone of my home county – and the country as a whole – could again access the kind of publicity that had become financially out of their reach.

Since launching with SuffolkWire, The CountyWire has expanded to encompass Norfolk, Essex and beyond. My amazing team works with our clients to advise where their PR budgets can best be deployed, and pack the biggest punch. We help them tweak and improve their content strategy. And we continually leverage our expanding digital reach to drive traffic to each piece of content, to spread the word far and wide, so firms can secure new business and growth opportunities.

It’s all about getting the best return for your marketing investment, no matter how small your budget may be.

And the traditional methods can still be used, we can always reach out to our media contacts for our clients, and find ways to secure coverage without breaking the bank.

If anyone tells you great PR is out of your reach, don’t listen. Speak to us today, and let’s get your message out there.