Keep It Simple, Stupid

One of the biggest problems for PR programs is that they are over complicated. There’s a principle, associated with noted aircraft engineer Kelly Johnson, that says, ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid’ – KISS for short. It is something that the PR industry at large either hasn’t come across or doesn’t think applies to the relationships they have with customers, or the work that they do for them.

Over complication in PR, marketing and publicity risks failing to communicate effectively with an audience. I’ll be covering this topic in more detail in the coming weeks, but here is a short piece to get us started.

If you haven’t already read it, I’d also recommend picking up a copy of a book called Insanely Simple, written by former Apple ad ‘guy’ Ken Segall. It’s a great source to turn to when things are starting to get too complicated in your business.


Who is your audience?

Identifying the right audience is the most important piece of any successful PR program. It enables message, delivery mechanism and timing to be tailored specifically and allows a businesses to figure out how to go about building a relationship with it.  In many cases it is about values and vision, rather than products of services – a common mistake made by businesses of all shapes and sizes.

A mistake that many businesses make is assuming that their audience is everybody  but just because, in the internet-connected world we live in just, because an organization can – in theory contact anybody and everybody – doesn’t mean that they should.  Defining your audience will enable you to target the message, the delivery mechanism and the timing to increase the chances of PR delivering the outcomes you want.

In today’s edition of the THINK PR Espresso we look at how to create an audience persona that will form the basis of your next PR, marketing or publicity program.


How To Build An Engaged Audience

Engagement isn’t about exchanging a couple of tweets, or about having your content shared – it’s about building a loyal base of people [that are your target audience] that will take actions on behalf of your business not because you ask them, but because they want to. Here I explain why it’s better to start with a small number of people and build your audience upwards, rather than starting with a large number of potential audiences and simply ‘throwing’ content in to the social ether in the hope that somebody will engage.

What Is Engagement

Engagement comes up in almost every conversation about PR, marketing and publicity, yet very few people are able to define it, how you measure it, or the value it delivers to an organization. What it’s not is an exchange on twitter or Facebook or shared content because you have asked them to. Engagement is the new ‘awareness’ that traditional PR agencies have sold for decades.

True engagement is where a defined audience is taking a distinct action because THEY want to. In the next edition of the THINK PR Espresso we’ll be talking about how best to engage an audience.

What Is Positioning?

Positioning is a challenge for every small business. It is especially difficult when both the competition and prospective customer are large organizations.

Effective positioning in these situations is about focusing on the value you can offer that a larger organization cannot.  Small businesses also have the advantage of being flexible, in terms of approach, model and pricing.

What is Buzz?

It is the, erm, buzz word for entrepreneurs and small business owners, but why?  Does your business or product launch really need buzz and what long-term impact will buzz have to your chances of successfully communicating with your audiences over a longer period of time?

That’s all in the latest edition of the THINK PR Espresso.

What Is Awareness?

Awareness is what most PR agencies sell, but here’s why it is probably not what your business needs unless it is delivering the right message to the right audience, via the right channel and at the right time.

Let’s face it, how many conversations have you ever started with a megaphone?  If your business needs tangible commercial outcomes, rather than just awareness call us on +1. 647.773.2677 or email

What is ‘Brand?’

You often hear entrepreneurs talking about launching a brand. The reality is it is not something that you create and communicate to your audiences – you build it. Your brand is what your audiences say about your business when you leave the room and it’s a combination of everything you do and everything you say.

Brands take time and effort to build and are based on values, rather than features, functions or publicity. They are also very easily destroyed. When you’re thinking about building your brand – about the things you want your audiences to say about you when you’re not in the room – think about what values they will buy in to and how you and your team members can demonstrate that to them on a daily basis.

Brand is often very closely tied to an entrepreneur’s vision, but needs to be like a stick of seaside rock – the values must be consistent wherever somebody engages with it, from sales to product development, customer service to social media.

Watch  more PR Espresso episodes

How important is a name

In today’s THINK PR Espresso we’re looking at names and naming in relation to startup and small business public relations and marketing – specifically URL selection, website and visual brand look and feel and PR. Thank you to Carmen Rojas for the question.

This is a slightly longer video – perhaps a lungo rather than an espresso -and is something that could be the topic for a future Google Hangout, but I hope that there is something valuable in this edition.

The name of a business, product or service is an important part of creating something new. It is often the first thing that prospects, customers, investors and the media will hear and see and you’re going to repeat it many thousands of times over the life of a business. That said, a business idea, product or service shouldn’t be defined by a name. It should be short, memorable and the URL needs to be available without too many substituted letters or numbers.

It is also important that there is a story behind the name. Some stories will be stronger than others, but you need to be able to answer the question about where the name came from. As an example, THINK DIFFERENT[LY] is partly a doff of the cap to Apple and the THINK DIFFERENT campaign that started the process of reviving the companies fortunes; it’s also a reflection of the way that I think – anybody that knows me personally will tell you that I am not a conventional thinker.

Differently is also an adverb – a doing word – which is about actually doing something – in this case thinking – differently, rather than just thinking about it. It also describes the way in which we are trying to change the PR industry and encourage entrepreneurs to think differently about public relations. The square brackets also point to by journalistic days where editors comments or corrections were often placed within square brackets – signifying a third-party, and often silent – voice.

We want to help small businesses owners and startup entrepreneurs to take charge of their PR and marketing and, in the majority of cases, talk for themselves, rather than paying an agency to be their publicist or spokesperson. We are the silent voice – the coach in the background – whispering advice and guidance – in their ears.

The look and feel needs to reflect both the name, the value proposition and the values that you want your audiences to associate with your company, product or service – but in many cases the visual look and feel will be defined more by the intended audience than by the name.

In the case of THINK DIFFERENT [LY] the website is partly a result of my desire for simplicity, partly an attempt to differentiate from the majority of PR agency websites that make many bold claims and, in my opinion, use too many words doing so. We’re also trying to make a subject that is seen as complicated and full of smoke and mirrors as clear and transparent as we can – our audience is, after all, entrepreneurs not marketers and PR people.

In many cases the logo and colour scheme will take care of itself. Ask a designer to create multiple versions of a logo so you can compare and contrast. It’s also a good idea to ask a few peers, customers and prospects what they think if you are able – better to get their feedback before you share it with the world than afterwards.

The problem with most press releases

Press releases are inextricably linked with PR – despite the fact that they are most often used as a publicity and promotion tool [there is no intent to use them to develop relationships with an audience – not even the media]. Press releases can – and, arguably, should be a valuable part of a small business and startup PR toolkit but they must be done properly.

Rather than trying to communicate every feature and function, make wildly overoptimistic claims or tell the world about a minor point release, find one thing that is likely to start a dialogue between your organization and the intended audience. Rather than using one release and sending it out to everybody, develop multiple releases that communicate the most important piece of information to a specific audience.

The press release should be the start – or continuation – of a relationship building process; too often it is used with the intent to get press coverage and most miss the target by a wide margin.