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.

5 Reasons you definitely should NOT enter the Highland Business Awards!

Highland Business Awards logo Inverness Chamber of Commerce

Nominations for the Highland Business Awards 2016 are open!

It’s awards nomination season, and Inverness Chamber of Commerce members will have received an email recently advising of the deadline, and the categories.

Here are 5 reasons you should definitely NOT put your business forward for the awards:

  1. You are delighted with your business and its turnover. Attracting more business would simply be a nuisance!
  2. You’re too busy to write an award nomination! Besides, you entered before and you weren’t even shortlisted! What’s the point?!
  3. Your team already knows you love them — why would you want to sing their praises by nominating your business for an award? They might get big heads!
  4. You don’t need any more promotion or publicity for your business. You’ve already gotten lots of coverage, and that led to more work! Stop that now!
  5. You don’t mind missing out on all the fun and excitement at the Awards luncheon. You hate that sort of thing. And frankly, you’d rather eat a sandwich at your desk on Friday, 30th September.

What? None of those apply to you and your business? Well, why didn’t you say so?!

Ballroom, Dromossie Hotel, Inverness 2015 September

Look at all those people talking to each other and enjoying themselves! Who would want to do that?!

Start working on your nomination now! The deadline for entries is the end of July, but that comes around a lot faster than you realise! If you need help with your entry, talk to us. If you are not sure if you should enter, talk to us. And if you really don’t want to leave your office on the day of the awards luncheon, let us know, and we’ll get some pizzas delivered from our favourite pizza joint to you and your team. 😉

Highland Business Women’s Club 2016 Awards, and how we can all be “shining stars”

Shining Star winner 2016 Laura Bruce of Bruce Public Relations, with Highland Business Women’s Club President Isla Cruden

On Friday night at the Highland Business Women’s Club 2016 Awards, I was named winner of the inaugural Shining Star award for Most Inspiring Woman in Business. It was a real honour, and not for the reasons you might expect.

Created by the Club this year, the reason this award means so much to me is because it recognises the kind of businesswoman that typified the finalists in this category, and one that that I would encourage every woman to be: someone who is not simply good in business, but who makes a point of helping others to succeed as well.

I believe we have an obligation to help others, not just in business, but in the communities in which we live. What good is it to be successful, if your success does not help light a path, and pave the way for others to follow?

With organisations like the public speaking club Toastmasters, I have been very gratified, watching as new members I have encouraged to get involved develop their skills, and start to feel more comfortable speaking to groups. With the Highland Business Women’s Club I have encouraged dozens of women to join the Club and hosted nearly as many at meetings. Several of them took my advice, and among the finalists and winners on Friday night were at least a dozen members I encouraged to join. How gratifying!

Finalists in the Highland Business Women's Club 2016 awards -- photo by Alison White Photography

Finalists in the Highland Business Women’s Club 2016 awards — photo by Alison White Photography

I would encourage anyone who is settled into their business, and competent at what they do, to start to look outside. Find ways to have an impact beyond your own business, to have an impact beyond your own bottom line. If you are lucky, like me you will see women who had been hanging back, start to get into the thick of things. You will see people make connections with each other that didn’t exist before you introduced them. But most of all, you will feel a warm glow that you don’t get just from making your clients happy. You will get the satisfaction of knowing that you have made an impact on someone and something completely apart from your commercial activities. Isn’t that what life’s all about?

We can all be “Shining Stars”. So give it a shot. The life you transform may be your own.

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.

 

There’s more to successful networking than meets the eye (but not much more!)

A recent networking event hosted by Highland Business Women was hugely popular

A recent networking event hosted by Highland Business Women was hugely popular

During a break at a workshop last autumn, I was introduced to a man who provides a service my business requires and that I had been wondering how I would address. I was delighted to meet him. “Excellent timing!” I said, “Have you got a card?” He confessed he didn’t have any with him, so I gave him mine and he promised to follow up. It’s been three months, and I haven’t heard a peep. Unable to progress the sales process with him, I will look elsewhere. More than simply losing my business, he’s also lost out on accessing my extensive network of contacts.

Tip: if you want to reap the rewards of networking, Pick up the phone and follow up with a new contact

Tip: if you want to reap the rewards of networking, Pick up the phone and follow up with a new contact

How many times have you come away from a networking event loaded down with new business cards . . . but without any plan to do anything with them? You return to your office, and empty your pockets. Maybe you put an elastic band around the newly-collected cards before throwing them in your desk drawer. Perhaps you look up one of two of the people you just met on LinkedIn, maybe even send an email. Either way, I am sure you would agree, your follow-up could be characterised as a bit hit or miss.

When it comes to building an effective network, making a new contact is – literally – just the beginning. It’s what you do with that contact that determines whether the relationship will bear fruit. The problem is, you’ve no way of knowing at this stage, which contacts will lead anywhere.

Two years ago I attended a seminar on being more productive. I didn’t realise it at the time, but a handful of the attendees would become key members of my network. Four have become good friends, and two have become clients.

I didn’t attend the event with a plan. In retrospect, it was sheer luck than enabled me to transform these initial contacts into what are now close working relationships. What I am recommending to you is that you do not leave it to chance. Be purposeful. Do something systematic in the wake of these occasions, something that will ensure that each event becomes a catalyst to enrich and extend your personal network. What I urge you to do, is to follow up.

Not everyone you meet will become a client. Not everyone you encounter will be in a position to give you a job. But everyone you come across has the capacity to be of assistance to you – if they are so inclined.

To make the most of networking, start by shifting your thinking about the duration of the networking event. The conference or course or seminar – it doesn’t end when you leave the room. I propose that you’re not truly finished with it until you have captured the information on the business cards you collected, and done something with it.

Getting a business card and leaving it on your desk is akin to planting a seed, but not watering it. You’ve taken the first step by meeting someone and asking for their card. That effort will be meaningless unless you take the next step.

What I am suggesting is that there’s more to successful networking than meets the eye – but not that much more.

Let’s say you attend an event which lasts an hour and a half. You’ve already invested 90 minutes, not including travel time. I would wager that it will only take another 15 minutes – 30 minutes at the most – to dramatically boost the effectiveness of that initial 90-minute investment.

By spending just 15 minutes on follow-up – less time than it probably took to travel to and from the event – to send an email or a connection request, you have catapulted your initial investment to the next level, and are now in the arena where that investment has the potential to pay dividends. It’s once the follow-up is complete, that you have set the stage for something to develop with a contact you have made. It’s the watering after the planting, that will ensure that this new relationship has the conditions to grow.

As you can see, being an effective and successful networker only requires a marginal additional input of energy. Don’t let yourself down by not closing the circle after your next networking event. Proper follow-up will ensure that you not only extend your network, but that you get the maximum benefit from the time and money you invest in attending business events.

P.S. Next time you go to an event, make sure you bring more cards than you think you will require.

Laura Bruce is the founder of Bruce Public Relations Ltd. A talented networker, she would be happy to help you maximise the benefit of your networking.

Harness the “power of three” to power up your next presentation

As a business person, chances are you are going to have to do a presentation sooner or later. If the thought of composing something from scratch strikes you with fear, I’m going to let you in on a little secret, which will make every presentation you make much simpler to master.

woman doing a presentation

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

It’s called “the power of three”, and in this case, the word “power” is very apt. When you are making a presentation – whether it’s a pitch to a potential new client, or updating your colleagues on the latest developments in your department – the ‘power of three’ provides an almost magical structure to ensure you deliver just the right amount of information. It’s the reason there’s “three wise men”, “three musketeers” as well as “three little pigs”!

Think of it as a sandwich. Your content – the “meat” of your presentation – will be up to you. But by putting “the power of three” to work for you, you will have a very robust structure that is simple to follow, and helps package your information into a format your audience can readily take in.

To get started, first identify the main points you want to convey in your presentation. This will be the “bacon, lettuce and tomato” in your sandwich. You may have five or ten, but there may be some overlap. Group them into themes. Then eliminate the weakest ones, and whittle it down to your three strongest or most important points. State your first point or theme, and support it with an example or a story. Then move on to the next one. Before you know it, you will have a well-structured presentation, based around three powerful points.

For best results, wrap your three points between an introduction and a conclusion. This is the “bread” that holds your filling together. Opening with an introduction will put your audience at ease. Tell them what they can expect to take away from your talk. This will motivate them to listen, and help them relax and know they are in good hands. Tell them you have three main points you will make. Now primed for what to expect, they can listen to your presentation’s main points, and follow each one. Conclude by summarising your three points at the end.

Armed with the “power of three” you now have a format you can rely upon again and again, for presentations of any length. Having a “go-to” structure to apply to your content will help ease the pain of making presentations. Your audience will find them easier to follow, and you may even find that you start to enjoy doing them!

Making effective presentations is crucial to becoming an effective leader, but often, we don’t get much opportunity to develop this skill. One of the best places to become more comfortable making presentations is Toastmasters. There are clubs all over the world, including one in Inverness which meets the 2nd and 4th Wednesday each month. Visit www.toastmastersinverness.com and come along to a meeting. You’ll soon be more at ease doing presentations at work. You may even find you have a talent for it!

Laura Bruce is an award-winning speaker and the founder of Bruce Public Relations, based in Inverness, where she works with forward-thinking organisations to raise their profile. She is the two-times Scotland champion of impromptu public speaking (2015, 2014) and recently placed second in Scotland in the 2015 Toastmasters International Speech Contest. If you would like Laura’s help to improve your next presentation, contact her here.

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