December 27

Do I need a PR agency, when I don’t have money?

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Come along now.

Let me take you into the heart of a PR agency, and show you what happens behind the scenes.

But perhaps before that, let’s take a look at why we work so hard to do Public Relations (PR).

After all, is PR that important, especially if you’re a small company, or even a solopreneur?

Why we work

I remember the time I spoke with a video editor at a pop up store I was running.

We happened to chance upon the issue of finding paying work, and what it meant for creatives.

For the first time, I shared with her how difficult it was in running a creative agency.

I remember all the times when I would bring a bunch of 5 bananas to our co-working space, because it was the cheapest thing to eat.

Or when I would let myself feel the hunger pangs, because I knew that even though I could afford the $3.20 for the caifan, it was better spent elsewhere.

For the first time, she shared too about how she had similar experiences.

That was when I saw how the creative community, especially those in the early stage of their careers, when they were still trying to find a steady pool of paying clients, struggled.

We stand with creatives

When you look at a creative go to work, it’s quite unlike anything else.

I’ll share the process I’ve seen other creatives use. Once, as I was covering a story on busking in Singapore, I found myself in a cramped, 4-room apartment.

In the studio, where there were blue sound absorbers on the wall, stood microphone stands, around. Amplifiers littered the room.

It looked like a mess.

And there, 5 singers sat to work through their rehearsal.

A pitch fell flat. Someone suggested that they try to pull the note at the end, so there was greater emotion in the song.

Yet another duet portion went awry.

They tried it again, and again.

Whenever you see creatives at work, you see people who chase dreams, regardless of the outcome.

Whether they land on the big stage, or not.

It is stunning to see, but we also hear the difficulties of being creative, especially as a solo artist.

The difficulties of being an artist in Singapore

For all the progress art has made in Singapore, there is still far to go. The biggest issue we’ve seen with creatives is in terms of getting steady clients.

At the top tier of the market are companies, who can afford to pay tons of money for good agencies.

At the other end might be companies like yourself, who wonder,

Is PR really worth it?

We believe it is.

And we believe that we have a different model that’s bringing independent creatives to the companies who need them.

Wait… what does this have to do with PR?

You might wonder what bridging creatives and companies has to do with PR.

We weren’t trained in PR. So if you want a textbook definition, we don’t have it.

But to us,

PR is landing the right message, with the right audience, so you get the result you want.

And for this to happen, we need creatives to do the work that can amplify your brand.

Good PR is targeted

We don’t chase vanity metrics such as:

  1. Page views
  2. Time on page

These are the common metrics that most people chase to see if their campaign is working.

But for us, a quality engagement matters much more than quantity of engagements. In other words, if people have a higher conversion rate because of what you’ve put up, you win.

Over the years, we’ve worked with some of the largest mainstream newspapers, and we’ve seen clients who come to them, wanting a sponsored story on their product or service, but then having no way of tracking that.

Good PR is tracked

That’s why a good practice to monitor conversions.

You don’t want to be wasting your money, especially with PR.

But it’s hard to place a dollar value on PR, or what it does for you, especially when you can’t ‘see’ its effects.

How do you track conversions, especially with something as nebulous as PR?

One way is through Google’s tools, such as the campaign URL Builder, which allows you to track exactly where each lead comes from.

Google Dev Tools is a good place to start to track campaigns
Google Dev Tools is a good place to start to track campaigns

But the other way is also for you to check Google Analytics, where you can filter how many people are going to that specific page, and setting up the conversion event so that you can see what is happening.

Good PR is a trio

We didn’t start out trained in PR.

And that’s given us the space to think differently about what we do, and to question industry practices about what’s good, and what’s not so good.

In the playbooks of most PR professionals, their toolkit contains the all too familiar ‘media release’. Honestly, we think that can sometimes be a waste of time.

Because journalists have no time, and won’t bother to read it if it’s not compelling.

If you want to do PR on your own…

That’s why one key advice for people running a PR campaign is to nurture relationships with key tastemakers in the media.

This involves cultivating a relationship with them, rather than a transaction, where you only approach them because you want something.

That’s not really the point.

One of the easiest ways is to ask these media journalists out for coffee.

Make it agenda-free. Talk about how you want to learn about their work, and ask them questions about themselves.

This isn’t manipulative.

It’s worked for us because we genuinely want to learn from them about the media scene and how it works. It’s helped us to move from having absolutely zero networks in the industry, to eventually have some semblance of a network that allows us to write for them.

Another hack we’ve found is through award nominations

It might surprise you to see this,

but you can nominate yourself for awards.

Yes, I’m not joking.

If you look at awards that we’ve been shortlisted for, such as:

  1. The Nottingham Advantage Award Module of the Year 2019
  2. Nottingham University’s Global Graduate of the Year 2019
  3. Tan Tock Seng Hospital Patient Action Awards 2021
  4. SG Good Design Awards 2022

We’ve nominated ourselves for those awards.

You might call us shameless, but if you don’t believe in your work, then who will?

One easy way is to simply search for “(Your field) awards” and then see if there are any prizes you can nominate yourself for.

This can help you generate positive PR for your work.

Don’t be embarrassed about your work. If you don’t value yourself, who will? And please, don’t say things like,

I will let my work speak for itself.

Sure, but you might also need to give it a little push.

The most painful things we’ve found in working with product companies is how they often hold the mistaken belief that the work will speak for itself.

Having made our own products, we’ve also seen how what we may think is good, may sometimes not look that way to customers.

What’s vital is leveraging mainstream media so you can begin to attain a greater measure of credibility.

Can you do it yourself?

In the International Futures Forum, they love saying,

No solo climbers.

No one who climbs far, climbs alone.

You might think your company is able to do it alone, and wonder what exactly you’re paying for when you engage a PR agency.

Here’s what you get

Today, as a PR agency, we take our role within the creative space seriously. We know that our relationships with editors and the media haven’t come about by chance, and as Peter Parker once said,

With great power comes great responsibility.

Relationships with editors

To get an editor, who has a million things on his plate, to trust you with a story you’re submitting, especially when you’re a nobody, is tough.

But what we want you to know is that there are agencies and professionals who do this for a living.

There are professionals who know how to craft pitches to the media, so that the media will be interested in them. What you need to know is this.

In today’s news cycle, editors have to write good stories that people will be engaged by.

That means a long history of your company’s founding isn’t going to float, even though it does fill you with great joy to remember it.

Remember, editors aren’t there to sell your company. They are there to sell stories.

More importantly, the best professionals are those that know where to pitch, so that you get the impact you want.

Navigating the minefield of media, to get the best impact

Look at Facebook, and you will see that today, any story can be posted.

But whether it gets the result you want is another matter entirely. You could write a great story and post it on your Facebook account.

But you may not get the outcomes.

Because we live in an attention economy, where the loudest story wins. It’s not necessarily the best story, but it’s the one with the best network.

That’s why people are paying tons to influencers to promote products to their networks.

Media targeting is vital for you to get the result you want.

At the end of the day

I always remember this incident when I was 8. Then, my mum handed me a paper diary, as a birthday present.

And somehow, that habit of journaling has stuck with me since.

For us, PR is journaling the stories of great brands, companies, and people, who are eager to change the world.

Each and every day, people wake up, create, and put their creations in front of the world, hoping that the world will take it up.

And often it doesn’t.

That’s why for us, this work isn’t mercenary.

It’s a mission.

It’s a mission to amplify brands we believe in, for the greater good of the world.


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