Tag Archives: Laura Bruce

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.

The Online Profile Builder is here! Bruce PR’s innovative digital marketing solution for SMEs

We’re delighted today to unveil details of our new Online Profile Builder. We developed this in response to the digital marketing needs of local businesses — businesses that are too small to have their own PR or marketing person, but too big to ignore the demand for online content.

Our Online Profile Builder is the perfect solution for businesses who want their business promoted but don’t want to do everything themselves. Bruce PR’s Online Profile Builder will solve the problem of having professionally written, high-quality content for your social media channels, and proper news items for traditional news outlets including newspapers — a crucial mix in the Highlands.

To find out more, visit our stand (Stand Number 1!) at the BNI Highlands Expo today at Eden Court. We’ll be able to show you just how our Online Profile Builder can solve your social media and publicity challenges, with one simple package. Click here to book a 5-minute telephone chat to get all the details.

Join Bruce PR at BNI Highland Expo 9 March 2017

Eden Court building

Do you love networking? Event if you don’t, you won’t want to miss this super event. Join Laura from Bruce Public Relations and her colleagues from BNI Highland for informal networking at BNI Highland’s inaugural Expo on Thursday 9th March from 11am to 7pm at Eden Court in Inverness. The event is invitation-only so please drop us a line if you would like a formal invitation. #BNIExpoHighland

How to boost your business with video

Laura Bruce from Bruce Public Relations speaking to a group at SCVO’s #DigitalMeetup in Inverness 25 January

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you will have noticed that the popularity of video has grown exponentially.

From Facebook to YouTube, we are consuming more video content than ever before. And the business case for video is compelling: according to Hubspot, after watching a video, 64% of users are more likely to buy a product online.

2017: the year of video?

We’ve seen growing interest in video, but I believe 2017 will be the year that video really takes off across a range of social platforms. By taking a few simple steps, any business can capitalise on the potential that video offers to share your message far and wide.

The power of leverage

For small- and medium-sized businesses with small- to medium-sized marketing budgets, video offers a powerful tool to generate leverage in your promotional activity. Equipped with little more than a smartphone, you can create short videos to bring your website and social media channels to life, and reach potentially millions of viewers online.

What should you say?

One of the best uses of video is to help people to understand what you do, and how you do it. A “value proposition” is a tool to help potential customers understand the benefits you provide, the problems you solve, and why they should choose you over your competition. Your value proposition should be a top priority when developing video content, and it’s something we work with clients to develop before doing any marketing or promotional activity. Once you are clear on what makes your business unique, it is much simpler to communicate this and convince potential customers why they should buy from you. [More on this here.]

Educate clients online, and build rapport

Also, consider the questions you typically respond to from clients or customers. For professional services firms like solicitors, accountants and architects, a video can save time responding to queries about your fee structure or services you provide. Perhaps your video could spec out the path of a typical query, and take a potential client through the process so there are no surprises? One of your team could explain how your fees are structured, and which if any services or advice you provide free of charge. A video will save staff time, and also serve to educate your audience. Moreover, by using an actual member of your team, video can build rapport in a way an email will never do.

Use video to accomplish new tasks online

But your video doesn’t have to be about your products or services. I recently worked with a large accounting firm to develop a video to recruit graduates to become trainee accountants. Shared on their website and social media channels, the animated video truly engaged the target audience — outperforming all other recruitment tactics— and generated a talented pool of ideal candidates!

Get something down on paper first

While some people are talented improvisational speakers, don’t put undue pressure on yourself or your team. Start with a script, outlining your key message and some details you want to include. Scripting your video doesn’t have to be complicated, but preparing a script will ensure you communicate what you intend to. And keep it short. Hubspot notes that 5% of people will turn off a video after one minute, but this figure jumps to 60% by two minutes! And ‘word count’ will make it simple to see how much you’ve got before you start filming: between 120 and 140 words will take about one minute to speak.

The crucial ingredient: a call to action

Don’t forget to include a call to action. Make sure to give your viewers one clear action to take — invite them to visit your website, ring your office, download a PDF, or email an enquiry. And make it simple for them to take that next step, by including a link, an email address, or similar.

What are you waiting for? 🙂

Video can positively impact your business in a range of ways – from increasing sales and driving traffic to your website, to educating potential customers about your products or services. The sooner you start using video, the sooner you’ll experience the benefits.

If you want to use video, but are not sure how to start, drop me a line or ring me. I think every business could be using video, and I can help you make the most of it!

Laura Bruce, Bruce Public Relations Ltd. copyright 2017. 

This article is based on my column in the January 2017 issue of Executive Magazine, a monthly publication of Scottish Provincial Press.

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.

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!

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.

PR in good times and in bad: 5 things you must do in a crisis and why crisis communications is vital for your business

Crisis-CommunicationRecent events we’ve been involved in have been a fresh reminder that PR is not just for announcing good news — it’s crucial when things go wrong. There’s a lot more than just your reputation on the line when things go wrong. The survival of your business may hang in the balance.

Here are five things to keep in mind if you are dealing with a crisis.

1. Communicate with your key audiences

If your company is caught up in a crisis, it’s vital that you stay in touch with your stakeholders. Depending on your business, this may be your funders, your biggest customers, or the people who work for you. It may be all  of the above. But keeping them up to date on developments when a crisis hits shows them that they are important to you, and that you will make the effort to share news with them first — even if the only news you have is that there is no news, yet.

2. Communicate with the media

The media can be a very demanding group when there is a crisis. Often, a company’s desire to respond to a media query can lead managers to comment too broadly on events. If you are not in a position to say anything definitive,  it’s often better to say so, and leave it at that. Keep track of who was in touch, and save that list for later.

3. Meet with your key people, face-to-face

Take time to meet with your management team and get the complete picture of what has happened, and what you can do about it. Face to face meetings are best at this time.

4. Call in specialist PR help

In addition to your management team, you will want to speak to your trusted communications advisors. If you don’t have anyone to help you with communications in a crisis, you may miss out on some simple strategies that will make things much easier. Ask around and get a recommendation if you can. You will  probably want to call in a specialist with experience in crisis communications.

5. When you have something to say, get the word out

It’s also crucial, when you do have something to say, to get the word out. Follow up with the media who were in touch, and let them know your position on events. It’s important to keep the  lines of communication open, but be sure to do it only when you have carefully assessed the situation.

A crisis can make or break a business. Make sure you do everything that is required. When the crisis is over, your company may paradoxically have been strengthened by the storm you have weathered — but only if you have managed it well.

If you need help in a crisis, Bruce Public Relations in Inverness can help — -quickly and effectively. We’ve helped clients in a range of industries to manage crises, and we can help you. Get in touch.

PR for Professional Services: why it’s different marketing the services of solicitors, accountants, architects and engineers

I would never have discovered this Argentinian Tango-Reggae band, if they hadn't been performing on the streets of Buenos Aires

No doubt they would have preferred to stay at home, but then I would never have discovered this Argentinian Tango-Reggae band, Jamaicadeiros, performing on the streets of Buenos Aires — and bought both their CDs!

On Wednesday I attended a networking event organised by the Inverness Chamber of Commerce. This was the second networking lunch I have attended, and I must say, I really enjoy these functions.

The format is simple — a hotel meeting room with several round tables set for lunch. Choose your table and then, after a welcome and introduction by the host — in this instance, Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Stuart Nicol — the formal networking begins. Each person at the table takes a few minutes to introduce themselves and to say a bit about their business. During this time, the first course is served, and then, after the introductions, people chat informally.

Someone in legal services asked me about PR, and said he had just started advertising on radio. I was intrigued to learn that he is using advertising, because many professional services firms prefer not to. Traditionally, firms of solicitors, engineers, architects and accountants have shied away from promoting themselves directly. It has been seen to be a bit brash, and frankly, not their kind of thing. But as competition heats up, and your client base diminishes through attrition, promoting your professional services firm may become a more pressing issue.

While advertising is the obvious choice when people think about getting their company name out there, it’s not the only way to achieve this objective. There are many ways to help raise your company’s profile without taking out an ad in the local paper, or committing to a month of 30-second spots on the radio. One of the most simple and straightforward ways to raise awareness of your business, is to go out and meet people at local business events. You may say, “But I’m an engineer, it’s not my job to network!” and of course, you would be wrong. If it’s not your job, then whose is it?

No one cares more about the survival of your business than you do. Unless you have a monopoly on the service you provide, you should probably consider doing at least one or two things to raise your company’s profile.

Three simple — and crucially, low-key —  things you can do are:

  1. Stay in touch with former clients, using a corporate newsletter to share information about developments in your field — changes in legislation, for example. While you’re at it, you can also use your in-house publication to tell clients past and present about new recruits to your firm, new services you provide, recent contracts you have won, and seasonal information such as filing deadlines or an FAQ about stamp duty. A newsletter can be a very cost-effective way to stay in touch. If you don’t have the expertise in-house, a public relations firm can easily produce this for you. Like media releases, corporate newsletters are our stock-in-trade.
  2. If your industry has an awards scheme, consider how you can take advantage of this. Whilst it takes time to put together a nomination, winning an industry award is a great way to promote your business, and give you an excuse to get in touch with your local media. I can’t recommend it enough.
  3. Attend local business events, and make an effort to speak to people you don’t know. I am a big fan of networking, and you can read my previous blog posts about it here. As a self-admitted “people-person”, I have no fears of speaking to strangers at these events. However, I am in the minority it seems. To get over your reluctance to speak to people you don’t know, try to keep in mind this wonderful saying from Canada: “There are no strangers, only friends we haven’t met yet.”

As you can see, none of the suggestions above requires you to be “too forward”. However each of the tactics I listed will help you to raise your company’s profile with key audiences.

As usual, if you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line using our contact form here, or via Twitter @Bruce_PR.