Tag Archives: Inverness

Laura Bruce elected to Toastmasters UK and Ireland leadership team

Members of the Toastmasters District 71 Leadership Team 2017-18 are formally inducted at a ceremony in Manchester at the D71 Spring Conference on 13 May. From left, Red Skelton, Patricia O’Reilly, John Cox and Laura Bruce

Founder of Bruce Public Relations, Laura Bruce has been elected to a leading role at Toastmasters International in the UK and Ireland. She was elected PR Manager of District 71 at the organisation’s spring conference in Manchester on Saturday, 13 May. She will spearhead efforts to raise awareness of Toastmasters, which is the world’s largest public speaking and leadership development organization.

Gerry Dunn, Director of Toastmasters in Scotland said, “I am delighted that one of our outstanding Scottish Toastmasters has been chosen to head up Toastmasters International’s PR operation in the UK and Ireland. Demand for Toastmasters’ communication and leadership programmes is growing rapidly, but in many ways it is still a well-kept secret. Laura is the ideal person to get the message out so that more people can enjoy the fantastic benefits that the Toastmasters programmes offer people.”

Laura founded Bruce Public Relations in 2006, and credits the voluntary organisation with strengthening her business. She said,  “With the help of Toastmasters I have become a better speaker and a stronger leader. Since joining, I have also become an ambassador for Toastmasters and encouraged hundreds of people around the world to seek out their local club, and recruited dozens to our club in Inverness. I am delighted our members elected me to this important role.”

Laura has been a member of Toastmasters Inverness since early 2014, and will complete her term as President of Inverness Toastmasters on 30 June. She was the inaugural winner of the Highland Business Women’s “Shining Star” award in 2016, and served as Vice President of Highland Business Women until May 2017.

Since 2014 she has produced and hosted a weekly radio programme, Dessert Highland Discs on North Highland Radio, and she writes a column on communications and networking for Scottish Provincial Press’s Executive magazine.

Toastmasters’ District 71 comprises all of Ireland and all of the UK except London on the south. Bruce is part of a team of four who together will lead District 71. They include District Director Robert Skelton from Cambridgeshire, Program Quality Director Patricia O’Reilly from Dublin, and John Cox, Club Growth Director, from Nottingham. Their one-year term commences 1st July, 2017.

Inverness Toastmasters meets the second and fourth Wednesday evening of each month, and visitors are always welcome. For details visit the club’s Facebook page, or the club website at www.toastmastersinverness.com.

About Toastmasters International

Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organization’s membership exceeds 313,000 in more than 14,650 clubs in 126 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience. For information about local Toastmasters clubs, please visit www.toastmasters.org. Follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.

About Bruce Public Relations Ltd.

Established in 2006, Inverness-based Bruce Public Relations is a boutique PR and marketing firm that helps small- to medium-sized businesses in Scotland and beyond to raise their profile and grow their business.

Finding the “net” in “networking”: reflections on the first BNI Expo

Has it been a week already?

The inaugural BNI Expo took place one week ago, on 9 March, and the response to this new local networking event and exhibition was tremendous.

But first a bit of background. Thirty-four local businesses make up BNI Highland, which is the Inverness-area chapter of BNI. The organisation is a worldwide networking and business referral organisation, and members of BNI Highland meet weekly.

The BNI Expo at Eden Court was an opportunity to showcase our businesses to the wider community, and we each invited our contacts to come along, meet the other BNI members, and find out more about our businesses. I spoke to more than 100 people that day, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. We also used the day to launch our new “Online Profile Builder” and are delighted at the response!

Each week at our Thursday morning breakfast meetings, BNI members each have a 60-second slot to share a bit of information about our business and request a specific referral from the other members. More often than not, someone around the table will be in a position to help make an introduction on our behalf.

I was a founder member of the BNI Highland chapter, and have been the Education Coordinator since we launch all those months ago. In my role, I introduce the weekly education slot, where a member shares a 4-minute presentation on a topic to help others in the room do business better. Sometimes, like today, the assigned member isn’t able to present their slot, so it has been a great boon to my impromptu speaking skills! Recent education topics have included how to make the most of your 60-second slot, what makes a good referral, and how to make the most of your 1-to-1 meetings with other members.

“One-to-ones” [121s] are the core of BNI; these one-hour meetings with another member enable each of us to learn more about our colleague’s business, and the types of referrals they are looking for. We learn to recognise opportunities where a referral would be suitable. And best of all, we get to know each other better.

Beyond the business passed, BNI has been the source of many new friendships for me and for my colleagues in the room.

Today, we got heartfelt thanks from one of our members, who credited the support he received from all of us, for helping him get through a difficult time personally and professionally.

Which was a helpful reminder: the ‘net’ impact of networking isn’t always just evident in the bottom line.

If you’d like more information about BNI, or how Bruce PR can help you to raise the profile of your business, ring me on 01462 216 226 or drop me a line. I’d be happy to chat.

Our 10th anniversary wasn’t what I expected

The 10th anniversary of Bruce Public Relations wasn’t quite what I had expected. Principally because it landed smack dab in the middle of one of the most hectic periods we’ve had. There’s “hectic” harassed and stressed, and then there’s “hectic” huge sense of accomplishment and pride. I am delighted to say, this was the latter.tedx-generic-image

First time on stage doing comedy -- what a thrill! Thank you Comedy Bothy and Hootenanny's!

First time on stage doing comedy — what a thrill! Thank you Comedy Bothy and Hootenanny’s!

On 7th October, I made my stand-up comedy debut at Mad Hatters above the famous Hootenanny’s in Inverness, and the following week, on our actual anniversary, I gave my first TEDx talk, at TEDx Inverness at Eden Court. I don’t think I have been that busy since we celebrated the opening of the Welland Canal and christened a new ship for Canada Steamship Lines — on the same day!

I got an incredible kick out of the stand-up comedy, and was thrilled when I was not only rebooked for December, but approached by another venue! And the TEDx talk? Well, that was an incredibly poignant and moving occasion.

What these events and the anniversary have made me realise is that the things that use to seem insurmountable, can soon become quite manageable. But I also realised something else.

I was approached afterwards by two women, both of who had to chase after me as I raced out of Eden Court desperate to get a bite to eat. Each one told me that my talk, “When we procrastinate, we can’t be great”, had made them cry. I was incredibly moved, and humbled.

What a privilege it is, to have that opportunity, to make an impact on a stranger. I’ve since met other people who heard my talk, and have also been touched by their comments.

Which brings me round to say: you never know when you are going to make an impact on someone. You never know when the words you say off-handedly will touch them, so do your best to make that impact a positive one, an encouraging one, a hopeful one.

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!

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?

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.

 

Laura’s Top 10 Tips for Terrific Networking

Networking can be fun. It is also good for business.

Networking can be fun. It is also good for business.

As a natural networker, I sometimes forget that it doesn’t come so easily to everyone. And even natural networkers sometimes forget how to make the most of networking opportunities (see #10 for the one I often forget to do!).

To help you make the most of the time you spend at networking events, I have created my own “Top 10” list. Which of these have you already mastered, and which do you need to work on?

  1. Dress for success. Ensure that what you wear matches the image you wish to project. If you are attending a business function, dress in business attire. A solicitor’s attire will probably be more formal than a graphic designer’s. When in doubt, dress more formally rather than more casually.
  2. Come prepared. Bring more business cards than you think you will need. I always try to wear a jacket with pockets. My strategy is to put a supply of my own cards in the right-hand pocket, and place the cards I receive into the left. Keeps it simple!
  3. Name tag on the right side. This is a great little trick. If you are wearing your name tag on your right side, it makes it simple for someone you meet to glance at your name tag as they are shaking your hand. It’s especially good if someone you have met before has forgotten your name — they can sneak a glance as you shake hello!
  4. Smile. Even if you feel nervous, smile. Remember that while most people don’t like networking, everyone likes a good sport. A smile is a great way to “introduce” yourself to the room as you arrive: even before you have said a word, you have made a good impression.
  5. Adopt an open stance. Position yourself so that people feel they can approach you. If you are speaking to someone, don’t face them directly — it will look like you are having a private conversation. Face the room and be approachable.
  6. Ditch your colleagues. The premise behind networking is to extend your network. You don’t achieve anything by chatting to the people you work with.
  7. Be cheerful. Once you start speaking to someone, keep it light. You may be fuming about something, but a networking event is meant to be light-hearted. Steer clear of controversial subjects, and stick to current affairs and local goings-on.
  8. Don’t say, “So what do you do?” This gives the impression you are only interested in speaking to someone based on their job. Instead, open with something neutral and friendly. “How’s your week going?” is something everybody can answer, and works as a good opening line. It also allows someone to highlight something they feel may be of interest.
  9. Know when to move on. Once you have made contact, don’t cling to the person for the duration of the event. You are both there to make new contacts, so allow them — and yourself — to move on with a polite exit strategy. Extend your hand and shake theirs, saying “Good to meet you.” If you haven’t exchanged cards yet, this is the time to do so. Ask them for their card, and offer them yours. And move on.
  10. Tip number 10 is for “Follow up.” Once you get back to the office, take the stack of cards from your left pocket (you did ask for cards, didn’t you?) and spend a few minutes entering the details into your contact list. Send a short email to say you enjoyed meeting them. You may also want to see if they are on LinkedIn, and if so, send a connection request. If you promised to set up a meeting, now is the time to act on that promise.

There you have it — my handy guide to help you make the most of your networking. Was this list helpful? I’d love to hear. Drop me a line and let me know.

The PR you do every day (but may not be aware of!)

Networking events can be pleasant, once you are comfortable speaking. Just ask these three!

Networking events can be pleasant, once you are comfortable speaking. Just ask these three!

It’s a mouthful of a title, but bear with me: as a businessperson, every time you open your mouth, you are doing PR for your business. If this has come as a shock, don’t be discouraged.

What I am getting at, is that your business’s “PR” is not just what you formally do with your PR agency or marketing team. PR is far more than just the sum total of media releases you issue, the social media messaging you send, or the media coverage you generate.

As my late mentor Lou Cahill APR famously said, “You’ve got PR whether you like it or not.”

In essence, what Lou was saying is, you and your business have a reputation. The variable he highlighted, is the degree to which you manage it.

And like it or not, every time you open your mouth, you are contributing to the sum total of that reputation. I was struck by this at the BNI meeting in Inverness last week. I am a founder member of BNI Highland; BNI is a worldwide business networking organisation founded by Dr Ivan Misner. Something that I immediately realised is that the group’s format of a 60-second presentation by each member — at every meeting, every week — is something that strikes fear into a number of would-be members.

What I am noticing however, is that after even two or three meetings, some member’s presentation skills are improving. They are becoming more at ease with speaking to the group about their business. Some [read: Hamish Malcolm, Grant] are even making the most of these “mini-pitches” by incorporating humour and using inventive props. Well done to them!

They may not realise it, but each member’s incremental improvements in their weekly pitch, results in an improvement in their business’s PR, because we all go away with an improved image of their firm. Woefully, the converse is equally true: people who mumble their way through a pitch, speak too quietly or never get to the point are not doing their own, or their business’s, reputation any favours.

If the thought of making a 60-second pitch about your business fills you with dread, then Toastmasters is the place to replace your fear with confidence, and get the skills to make sure you communicate effectively. You’ll have the unexpected benefit of making some new friends as well.

But remember, every time you open your mouth, you are contributing to your business’s reputation. You owe it to yourself to do the best you can. If you haven’t got the skills to do the job well, the onus is on you to get them. Your business deserves it. Don’t let it down.

Toastmasters Inverness is hosting a social evening Wednesday 17th June at 7pm at the Glen Mhor Hotel in Inverness. If you are interested in learning more about the group, go along for dinner and to get a feel for what the group offers. Membership in Toastmasters may be the best, most cost-effective investment you can make in your business! Click here to find out more about the dinner Wednesday evening.

Why awards pay great dividends (even if you don’t win)

Most organisation have no idea of the potential benefits of awards.

Most organisation have no idea of the potential benefits of awards.

Are you thinking of nominating your company for an award, but wondering if the time and effort required will be worth it? Are you a rising star in your industry, but still small potatoes compared to your competitors?

It may be worth spending the time and effort to enter the awards, for reasons you may not anticipate. Here are three compelling reasons to get an entry in, plus one benefit you probably never anticipated.

  1. Profile: Winning an industry award is a great way to get on the radar of potential investors, employees and key influencers. It’s like a big, flashing neon sign has been lit over your company and it can really help to open doors. Having won the award, your organisation has new credentials. Put them everywhere – on your website, social media pages, business cards and all over your marketing materials. People like to work with award-winning companies. Be one.
  2. Publicity: Most awards programmes have an element of publicity attached, which can be particularly beneficial for smaller organisations that don’t yet have much profile. Take advantage of the potential for this by entering awards where you have at least a decent chance of being shortlisted. Most awards schemes publish a list of nominees, so even if you don’t win, being shortlisted will give you some worthwhile exposure.
  3. Focus: The time and effort it takes to create a well-written and well thought-out application for an award benefits you as a business leader. It focuses your mind on where your company has come from, where you are, and what makes you unique. The best awards programmes also ask you where you are headed. If this is something you haven’t thought about recently, completing the entry form can be a timely reminder.

And the unexpected benefit of putting together an entry: Team-building.

One of the biggest rewards – surprisingly – has nothing to do with winning. It’s the potential the process holds, to bond your team members. The key here is to get everyone involved in the nomination process. Make it a truly organisation-wide effort. Let your staff know that you are planning a nomination and that you would like their input. This is the time to ask your team what they think makes your organisation unique. It may be things you never considered – from how you fill orders, to the way you reward employees. There is gold dust out there – you simply need to ask and you will receive.

The best results will come out of a culture where employees already feel a part of your business and feel their contribution is valued. But even if that’s not the case, the awards process opens the door to getting that culture of communication in place.

Good luck!

If you think you could use some assistance articulating what makes your organisation award-worthy, find a talented communications team to work with. If you need some advice on how to select someone, please get in touch.

This article by Laura Bruce of Bruce Public Relations was published in the June 2015 edition of Executive Magazine.