Category Archives: Business Skills

How a start-up can nail their pitch

If you’re a start-up, chances are you are going to have to get out there and tell people about your new venture. What you say, and how you say it, is a lot more important than you may realise.

When it comes to communicating what you do, you don’t want to make a rookie error, just because your business is new. And the last place you want to miss the mark is when it comes to your pitch.

Preparing a powerful presentation is one of the best ways to communicate your start-up’s mission and vision. Deliver it well and you’ll earn a reputation as “one to watch”. Nail it, and your chances of success will increase exponentially. Using the “Power of Three” will help you to do just that.

Let’s say you’ve been invited to present at a crowd-funding event. This is a golden opportunity to shine in front of an audience of key influencers. Get it right, and you are on the road to funding your start-up. Get it wrong, and, well… you may not get another opportunity.

woman doing a presentation

Being asked to do a presentation need not strike panic – a structure will get you started

“Start with the end in mind”

In the words of Dr Steven Covey, “Start with the end in mind.” Deciding what to include in your presentation is crucial. There may be a hundred things you want this audience to know, but you have to be realistic – you can only say so much. Besides, they don’t need to know every detail about you, your partners, or your business.

For your presentation to be successful, it really helps to “start with the end in mind”. What must your audience know before they leave? This will enable you to narrow down the “hundred random things” to a handful of key points.

In identifying which elements are key, you will want to consider answering questions such as: What is your product or service? Are you already trading, or still in development? What expertise do you bring to the table? Do you have any competitors? What makes your start-up unique? How much money are you looking to raise, and how do you propose to get it?

Work out which are the most important points

Once you have got this down on paper – and I do recommend you start on paper – it’s time to decide which points are the most important. You may have five or six things, but there may be some overlap. Work hard to narrow it down, perhaps by grouping related items. Then, decide which are the three most important elements. Be ruthless. These three points will form the body of your presentation.

This is where the “power of three” comes in. It’s the reason there are three wise men, three little pigs, and three Musketeers! Three seems to be the perfect number of items of new information to take in. With your three most important points clearly identified, it’s time to start to construct your presentation.

Use the ‘Power of Three’ to give your pitch a fail-proof structure

The ‘power of three’ gives you a fail-proof structure. Think of a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. It’s made up of three key ingredients – the filling – wrapped between two slices of bread. Those three key ingredients are the three main points that you must convey to your audience for your presentation to be a success.

When assembling your presentation “sandwich” don’t forget the bread! In our sandwich analogy, the “bread” is the introduction and conclusion, and each slice performs an important function. Together, they package your presentation in a format that your audience is familiar with.

When you are introduced, open your presentation by stating your structure. Tell your audience you have three main points, which you will deal with in turn. Knowing what to expect, your audience will relax. Your introduction has let them know they are in safe hands.

Paint clear pictures with facts and examples

Now, tell them your first main point. Support it with facts, or examples. You may want to tell them about your product and what makes it unique. Or you may want to tell the story of how you came to be in this business.

Then, transition to your second main point. For a start-up, it may be your understanding of a gap in the market that your product or service is poised to exploit. Detail this to provide support for your point. Consider sharing an anecdote which is related to this point.

Once you have done this, transition to your third and final point. Remember, you have to support each point with logic and examples. If you are speaking at a crowd-funding event, your third point may be your opportunity to make a compelling case for investment.

With you final point communicated, it’s time for your ‘other slice of bread’ – your conclusion. The best way to wrap up your presentation – both literally, and figuratively – is to use a tried and tested format. Signal to your audience that you are wrapping up by saying, “In conclusion. . .” and then repeat your three key points, briefly.

Make sure you issue a ‘call to action’ to your audience

If you are hoping that your audience takes some action based on your presentation, don’t leave the final step to chance. Ensure that before you conclude, you issue a ‘call to action’: tell your audience what you want them to do. Whether it’s to sign up for your newsletter, or visit your facility for a VIP tour – make it clear what their next step should be. And make it easy for them to comply.

If you want their contact details, collect business cards at the door. If you want them to visit your site, hand out invitations. Either way, ending with a call to action will ensure that your audience not only leaves with a sense of what your start-up is about, but importantly, what they should do with the information they have acquired.

When a business pitch is crucial to the success of your business, you can rely on the “power of three” because it gives your presentation a structure that is robust and flexible.

You can adapt this formula for a presentation of any duration. Just select your three main points – whatever “fillings” you fancy – and wrap your contents in the two metaphorical “slices of bread” that are your introduction and conclusion. Whatever you want to say, the power of three will ensure you say it well.

If you need help crafting a make-or-break presentation, get professional help. It will be the best money you spend this year. Contact Bruce Public Relations for expert advice.

This article was written by Laura Bruce for Bytestart

The pay is awful, but. . .

Members of the board of Highland Business Women at the 2017 awards gala in March

Like many of you who’ve been working for more than a decade or two, I’ve been serving on boards of non-profits and charities for many years. From the Niagara Symphony Association and the Mackenzie Printery, to Highland Business Women and Toastmasters, it’s given me a chance to help an organisation that typically wouldn’t be able to afford to hire me by sharing my expertise on a pro bono basis.

Two years ago I was elected to the committee of Highland Business Women, as the organisation was nearing its twentieth anniversary. Although meetings — which mixed a social element with some professional development — seemed relatively well-attended, many who attended weren’t members, I learned.

Growing membership became my goal, along with raising awareness. I seized the opportunity to invite the women I knew who should be attending meetings, to come along as my guest. I also put my PR skills to work doing media relations, creating content for the website, and helping with the Facebook page. We got coverage in the local papers, people were interested in joining the group, and I even interviewed a few members on my radio show, Dessert Highland Discs!

In April 2016 I was elected Vice President, and already, the change was evident. Membership had grown, and the buzz at meetings was even greater. Working with a great team, we continued to take turns planning and running monthly meetings and occasionally, we hosted two meetings in a month. Attendance continued to grow, and — for the first time — some meetings sold-out, and we had to turn people away.

A year later, having achieved my objectives, I have stepped down from the board. Now with more than 70 members, my objective of growing the membership through a combination of personal outreach, and public relations has been a success. I also feel it’s important to make room for new people to get a role like this. It’s an unparalleled opportunity to develop new skills, particularly leadership skills.

I will continue to act as an ambassador for Highland Business Women, as I turn my attention outward. This weekend, I’m running for election as a director of the UK and Ireland branch of the worldwide organisation Toastmasters International. If I’m successful, it will be a demanding role, but one where I am sure I will be able to make an impact. Toastmasters has been a wonderful addition to my life, helping me to become a much better speaker, and leader, so it’s time to see how I can contribute.

In many ways, the work I did at Highland Business Women was a great microcosm of the work I hope to be doing at Toastmasters in the UK and Ireland.

I encourage anyone looking to stretch themselves to consider what organisation you feel connected to, that you can become more involved in. How can you put your professional expertise to work to benefit your community? The pay is terrible, but you may nevertheless be surprised how much you get out of it.

Why we’re the most expensive PR firm in the north of Scotland

I use to say we were the most experienced PR firm in the north of Scotland. But I recently adjusted that. I now describe us as the most expensive PR firm in the north of Scotland.

When we first started up, we use to compete, loosely, on price. But the clients we got typically didn’t appreciate what we could do for them, and often, despite getting them great results [read: excellent media coverage, strategy insights, positioning wins] the next time they had something to announce they’d make us compete all over again.

Those aren’t the clients we want to work with. “Love them what love you” is our ethos now.

There are some things money can buy.

There are some things money can buy.

We are a PR firm, yes, but we are also stupendously creative business advisors, and talented copywriters, with experience and connections far and wide. We can put you in touch with someone halfway across the world you would never otherwise have encountered. We can develop a value proposition that will earn your business hundreds of thousands of pounds. We can craft the story of your business into the compelling tale it should be — something you simply don’t have the time or expertise to do.

We won’t compete on price. But the clients we have the pleasure of serving don’t complain about our fees. They are happy to pay them.

If you’d like to engage in something far more than a public relations exercise, give us a bell.

Is Facebook right for your business? Take 126 seconds and find out

Facebook can be a powerful tool for some businesses, but is yours one of them?

Facebook can be a powerful tool for some businesses, but is yours one of them?

Facebook may all the rage, but is it the best fit for your particular business?

If you’re not sure if you should be using Facebook for business, we can help.

We can take you through a super-quick, 2-minute quiz so you’ll know once and for all if Facebook will truly help you build your business. . . or if you’re wasting your time, and money.

Click here to set up a free assessment. In just a few minutes, you’ll know whether the latest craze is a good investment for your business. . . or if you should be focusing your attention on a different platform. Don’t waste anymore time — contact us now!

3 reasons your business needs a value proposition

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to explain to people what your business does in one sentence?

If you’ve struggled to describe what makes your business unique, then a “value proposition” may be the most important business tool you’ve never heard of.

If even your dog gets bored when you talk about your business, we can help.

If even your dog gets bored when you talk about your business, we can help.

But just because you’re not familiar with it, doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Whether you are considering launching a new enterprise, or if you have an established business, there are many reasons to develop a value proposition.

Here are three quick reasons why your business needs a value proposition.

  1. Your value proposition describes how you create value for your customers. It captures what you offer, and why.
  2. A good value proposition will distinguish you from your competition. It elegantly communicates your USP or “unique selling proposition”.
  3. Whether you provide a product or service, having a strong value proposition is key to winning customers. It helps them to understand why they should buy from you.

In this video, Laura Bruce takes a group through the basics of value proposition design

If you would like to explore how a value proposition will help your business communicate with its audiences, we can help. We offer a half-day value proposition development workshop. At the end of the session, you will leave with a value proposition that captures the value you create for your customers, and explains why they should buy from you.

It may be the best money you’ve ever invested in your business.

Contact Bruce Public Relations in Inverness to schedule a call to discuss. Don’t wait another day, wasting time with marketing copy that doesn’t tell people what problem you solve. Call us now!

The most expensive coffee you’ve had this year?

What's the true cost of this coffee? The answer may surprise you.

What’s the true cost of this coffee? The answer may surprise you.

If you’re like me, you’re constantly on the lookout for tips and tricks to be as productive as possible. We’re eager to find hacks that will help us save time, Apps to automate common tasks — keen to squeeze more out of each minute.

But when was the last time you questioned whether you should be doing that particular task at all? That’s what hit me today, when I was invited by a connection on LinkedIn to meet for coffee.

According to his message, he’s met me a few times already. My reflex is to accept. And normally, I would go ahead and arrange to meet him.

But today, when I received his invitation, my immediate reaction was: “What will this meeting cost me?”

Agreeing to meet him — and with no explicit goal for the meeting — will probably eat up at least an hour and a half. Normally, being sociable and open to the prospect of developing business, I would have accepted his invitation.

But today is different.

Over the past few months, it’s clear I have become more reluctant to accept invitations, and keener to stay at my desk — generating revenue.

This was reinforced by an interview I recently heard with Seth Godin: “I find I have a lot more time since I stopped watching television, and going to meetings.” What an eye-opener that was.

Is it just me, eager to stay put rather than take the opportunity to meet and deepen a recent connection, or are you also jealously guarding your time at your desk?

As a solo practitioner, if I am not generating revenue, nobody else is doing it for me. On days that I have meetings, I rarely get much done in the revenue generation front. And it’s not just the time I spend at the meeting, or the time it takes to travel to and from it.

For me, the biggest cost is the interruption. Getting into the flow of a new project, developing a good idea, outlining a kick-ass seminar or presentation — that is pure gold. To interrupt it to go for a coffee may cost you far more than you anticipate.

So, the next time you’re invited by a business connection to meet for coffee, ask yourself if you’re headed out for the most expensive coffee you’ve had his year.

7 simple tips to ensure your PR is E-L-E-G-A-N-T

Black cocktail dress on mannequin stand.

Choose elegance over fashion and you will always be happy you did.

Coco Chanel famously said, “That which is fashionable becomes unfashionable.” 

When it comes to promoting your business, do you feel like you are always chasing the latest fashion? All that running’s not good for your looks, darling. Choose timeless elegance, instead. It will do as much for your public relations as it will your personal style.  Why? Because while fashions may change, the principles of public relations endure.

Picture this: you’ve been invited to a party or a dinner. You have no idea what to wear. Most women will agree: when in doubt, choose the Little Black Dress. There’s something quietly reassuring about sticking with a classic. And so it is with public relations.

If you are hoping to generate publicity, the acronym ‘ELEGANT’ will guide you through some helpful reminders to ensure that your PR tactics are focussed. Follow these, and you’ll increase your chances of success. If you have news to share and are considering issuing a press release (or “media release”), the list below will help ensure you do the right things to generate the coverage you are hoping for.

Here are my 7 tips to ensure your PR is ELEGANT!

E – E is for “end”. In the words of Dr Steven Covey, “Start with the End in mind.”What is the goal of the publicity you are working to generate? Who to you hope to reach? What do you want them to know? Most of all, what do you hope they will do once they have read your news? Start with the big picture, and then work on the details.

L – L is for “leader”. Be a Leader in your field. Your words will carry far more import if you are perceived as an expert in your field. Remember, you don’t have to be the world authority on something to be an expert. You need only be the most prominent local authority. If you’re not the expert, find someone who is, and quote them in your media release.

E – E is for “evaluate”. Evaluate what will motivate your audience. Before you attempt to persuade, you should consider what your intended audience is likely to respond to. We recently announced a ‘good news’ story about a local business expanding. This type of story is something most business editors will welcome.

G – G is for “good”. What good are you doing? If you can communicate the benefit to potential customers, the local or wider community, this will help to ‘sell in’ your message. Are you creating jobs? Buying materials from local vendors? Training young people? Growing manufacturing capacity? Spell it out and it will sell the story.

A – A is for “articulate”. Articulate the benefits of your product or service. Spell out exactly what makes your product or service superior, unique, or unusual. Ideally, spell out all of these. In other words, if you’ve got it, flaunt it!

N – N is for “news”. What news value do you have? In other words, what makes your message newsworthy? If you don’t — or can’t — articulate this in your media release, you can bet an editor won’t be interested.

T – T is for “timing”. Think about what is going on in the world, including holidays, seasons, or recent news events. Time your media release to coincide with other events. If you can find a hook that ties your story to a bigger news theme, that will improve your chances of getting coverage.

Good luck!

I hope you find this guide useful. If you have news you would like to share with the world, we’d like to help you get the impact you hope for. With more than 20 years in media relations, you can count on us to help you craft a compelling message. Contact Bruce Public Relations on 01463 216226.

Laura Bruce’s top 10 PR tips from two decades in public relations

Bruce Public Relations founder Laura Bruce, on the banks of the River Ness in Inverness

Bruce Public Relations founder Laura Bruce, on the banks of the River Ness in Inverness

To celebrate our 10th anniversary Bruce Public Relations in Inverness is sharing 10 of our “insider tips” to help you boost your organisation’s profile. Remember, if you have really big news to share, speak to a professional about the best ways to get the word out.

In no particular order, here are 10 simple things you can do to ensure your business has an edge when it comes to PR.

  1. Learn to identify what may be newsworthy in your organisation. Are you launching a new service? Introducing a new product to your field? Are you involved in supporting a charity or other cause? All of these things create opportunities to open up dialogue with key audiences. [Hint: it’s not always the media you should be focussed on.}
  2. Identify the most appropriate social media platforms to reach your customers and clients, and establish a presence here. If you aren’t sure which platforms best suit your business, do some homework or speak to a professional for advice.
  3. Keep your website up-to-date. If you haven’t revised your website since it was built, it is probably out of date. Take a good look at it and see what needs freshening up, and make these changes.
  4. If you have news, consider issuing a media release. (If you’re not sure if you need one, contact us.)
  5. Anniversaries and milestones are ideal opportunities to share some news. If you have celebrated your 10th anniversary, or just built your 100th house, let people know.
  6. Share good news with your own team, first. There’s nothing better to build employee relations than treating your staff as “insiders”. Share your news with them, first. They can be great ambassadors for your organisation, and can take pride in your success.
  7. Take photos. You can’t go back in time, so make sure you get them while you can.
  8. Don’t underestimate the power of sharing insights from your industry. People who work outside your field of expertise may be quite interested in your observations. If you are seeing a trend develop, write a blog post for your website, or share your thoughts on LinkedIn.
  9. Make it simple for people to contact your organisation. Whether it’s through your website, by telephone, or over one  or more social platforms, ensure there is a pain-free route to contact you.
  10. Put a company ‘backgrounder’ on your website. It should contain basic information including when the organisation was established, who the principles are, the main products or services you provide, and a link to a contact form for more information. Some organisations do this on their “About” page, while others use a dedicated page for news. Either way, help people who visit your site to get a handle on what you do, and for whom.

Have you found these top 10 tips helpful? If your organisation has decided it’s time to start communicating, contact Bruce Public Relations. We’ll help you identify the most newsworthy information, and then help you communicate it the most appropriate audiences. We’ve been delighting our clients for more than a decade. Isn’t it time you got some PR TLC?

What your posts on LinkedIn say about you

I am reluctant to post this on LinkedIn. Why? Because LinkedIn is the reason I am writing this.

I am grumpy about grammar.

Today, I am grumpy about grammar.

Does anyone know how to spell, or use proper punctuation? I am aghast.

Catching up on LinkedIn after a hectic week, I scanned a number of posts quickly. First to catch my eye:  “Scotland wide competitions available for post graduate students” . I agree, Scotland is wide, but surely Scotland-wide isn’t such a stretch for a public sector employee on 70 grand a year? And ‘post graduate students’? Are these specialists in installing posts? LinkedIn, you really have to up your game.

Next to capture my beleaguered eye, an update from a LinkedIn connection in PR. This man who shall remain nameless, but whose job title is PR specialist mused about the future of the i newspaper, citing its “potential acquisition by the owner’s of the Scotsman”.

It’s bad enough to have to slog through the scenic images with ‘motivational’ quotes superimposed on them, or yet another picture of Richard Branson with that crinkly smile exhorting us all to ‘be part of a team’, or some nonsense. Those, I have just about come to terms with.

But the spelling, punctuation and grammar on the most generic of LinkedIn updates, well, frankly, it’s just not good enough. And when even PR people can’t use an apostrophe properly, well, you just want to cover your face with your hands and hope it will all go away.

"I'm here for the free range eggs. And if you can't hyphenate, then I ain't payin'!"

“I’m here for the free range eggs. And if you can’t hyphenate, I ain’t payin’!”

I am not sure if it is a factor of people composing nearly everything on a keypad the size of a box of matches, or if people simply never learned the rules of grammar. Whatever the cause, I would like it to stop, please. It’s bad enough with the “free range eggs” at Tesco — don’t make me face the failure on LinkedIn too.

RANT OVER. What is my point? My point is, your posts on LinkedIn reflect on you. If you don’t spell correctly, or use proper grammar, this will reflect negatively on you. People may conclude you are a careless accountant, or less than diligent with the tasks or details they entrust to you. Is this what you want?

Likewise, spell well, punctuate well, and your esteem will rise. The choice is yours.

P.S. I would have posted images of the offending posts, but LinkedIn won’t allow my screen capture software ‘Grab’ to collect these offending snippets. I suppose LinkedIn doesn’t want them preserved for posterity. No surprise there, then.

Why we’re generalists (and why you should be too!)

I just got off the phone. I was speaking to a man with a booming new business, who’s looking to raise the profile of his firm. He asked, “Have you got a package you can offer me?” I told him no, we don’t. I explained that each client’s situation is unique, each looking for a particular outcome or set of outcomes, and so we don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to PR, or anything else.

The prevailing thought for consultants is to find a niche and dig deep. There’s a lot to be said for being an expert in a particular area.

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However, there’s an equally strong argument for having a broad range of skills, and avoiding being pigeon-holed. Let me explain.

With the downturn in the oil industry (which I believe is temporary — but that’s a subject for another day), PR and other firms devoted to serving the oil industry are being hit — and hard. For our colleagues around Aberdeen, it’s been clear for some time that things are on a downward trajectory. Their response to this has been to cast their nets a bit wider, and see if they can find work in other industries. So the first reason to take a generalist approach is because it protects you from the vagaries of one particular industry.

There’s a second reason Bruce Public Relations takes a generalist approach to PR. And it’s not because we aren’t specialists in what we do. It’s more enjoyable to work with a broad range of clients. And the bonus is: we are able to parlay the wisdom we gained from working with a diverse range of clients, to a broad range of client needs. By never having specialised exclusively in health care  — or petroleum — or IT —  or tourism — we have become adept at seeing the common threads in our clients’ situations, and addressing wide-ranging demands with tried and true principles.

So no, we haven’t got an off-the-shelf package to sell you. But if you want a solution that is tailored to fit your business and its particular needs, I am pretty certain we can help.

If that is the kind of thinking that would benefit your business, please get in touch. We help a small number of exceptional businesses to improve their performance. Can we help you? There’s one way to find out: get in touch today.