Last year I went on a PR and Marketing course called Brand Booster run by marketing consultancy Keep Your Fork. Run by the thoroughly charming, infectiously positive and wonderfully inspiring Faye Smith it was a six week course run once a week in Sheffield. This is a review of the course, I have not been paid for this article and all opinions are my own.
I met Faye at a networking meeting, she is one of those people who walk in the room and bring with them such a massive personality and confidence that you are immediately drawn to them. As I listened to her talk, I was drawn in by her and felt I wanted to talk to her more. She later told me about her workshop on PR and marketing and I thought it would be great for our photography business The Picture Foundry. It was £397 for the six week workshop and after careful consideration I decided to go ahead and book on.
I know this seems like an awful lot of money, but I compared it to paying for an advert in a good magazine and thought I could learn more and earn more from gaining this knowledge and skills.
It was held at a lovely pub on Ecclesall Road in Sheffield, on my first week I was terrified as I walked into the room, but I was warmly welcomed by Faye and immediately felt settled. I had emailed Faye beforehand and told her about my Ulcerative Colitis, that I was having a flare up and explained what that meant. I told her about how I may need to leave the room suddenly as I didn’t want it to be awkward on the day. She emailed straight back and was so understanding and compassionate, saying anything I needed she would sort. So when I walked in the room and realised just how narrow the route to the loo would be if I was at the end of the table I had a slight panic, but she had thought it through and had nonchalantly put her coat and bag over the chair nearest the toilet, she then said “Sam, why don’t you sit here!”
It sounds like a really small thing, but when you are in a flare, things like access to a toilet becomes vital. It almost stopped me attending as I was terrified of being embarrassed by running to the toilet or even worse, having an accident in front of a room full of business people!!
Over six weeks Faye teaches you about the following topics; Creating your personal profile, Writing a press release and handling the media, creating a PR plan for press, radio and TV, developing a marketing plan, developing a sales plan and contact strategy and your person style, image and photos.
You get an email each week with all the notes from the day along with a piece of homework to develop your skills. Along with this you get Faye as your personal PR machine, sending you all her press requests and supporting you in finding journalistic opportunities for your business.
Its the sort of course where you have to work at it. She isn’t a magician and isn’t going to make money just fall into your lap. But what she does is inspire you, teach you and support you in learning everything you need to know about PR and marketing for your business.
Some of it is common sense. But that sort of annoying common sense where you know you SHOULD know it and be following the rules but just don’t. Other things are just a real insight into how to push your business PR ahead of your competitors.
There is a little business speak, but on the whole it is really easy to understand and clear. If I didn’t understand anything I felt completely confident to raise my hand and ask a question without feeling silly. It was just a really friendly yet professional course, not at ALL stuffy like some business workshops and conferences I have attended before.
So results? Within three months of the course I had got myself, my photography business and the arts group I work for into local and national press and even a 4 page spread in a national magazine. In the eight months I have got both businesses on Radio Sheffield as well as other local radio stations. It gave me real life skills of how to make the media work for me in a simple, easy to follow format. I keep my notes and refer back to them all the time.
It did one other thing. Faye inspired me to start this blog and really push it forward. She told me that everyone has a story, something unique and interesting about them that the world wants to hear about. I had never thought about using my illness and my experience in this way before. Since starting this blog I have had well over 30,000 views, hundreds of emails and messages of support. I have been featured on other blogs and I was invited onto BBC radio Sheffield to talk about my International Women’s Day talk.
I wouldn’t say its all down to Faye and the course, like I said it isn’t magic. What I have achieved is down to my hard work, innovation and stubbornness but the skills I learnt have been invaluable. I now know how to contact journalists, how to write my press releases and I have a solid marketing, PR and sales plan. I left the course feeling confident and inspired and ran with the ideas, skills and support given to me. It has changed the way I do business for the better, and things are really going from strength to strength for me.
Just so you know, the amount of free advertising we have had through the skills I learnt on the course outweigh the cost of the course many, many times over. But you have to be prepared to work at it, if you need some guidance on PR and marketing for your business I would wholly recommend Keep Your Fork and the Brand Booster, but you have to take what is given and make it your own, then work your arse off at it!
Ill give you one example, Faye talked about tying an event to an ‘international day’, she gave us a link to a website with all the weird and wonderful days on it (http://www.national-awareness-days.com/), we talked about different ways to use this to your business’ advantage. I took a look and realised that a couple of weeks later was Yorkshire Day and started plotting. With the confidence and skills I had learnt along with a shed load of initiative and probably a couple of loose screws I decided I wanted to do an event on Filey Beach for Yorkshire Day with the arts group Responsible Fishing. I got on to councils, leapt through hoops and skipped with the red tape and pulled off an event that they said was just too short noticed. I then got on to local newspapers and radio and got the event covered by several newspapers, three different radio stations and got local councillors to come down to support the event. You can have a look at the day here.
From this, the group got a huge boost to their audience, Facebook and twitter followers increased and traffic to the site was up. I was happy with this, we hadn’t been paid for the day, but had managed to get free accommodation from the lovely Filey Brigg campsite. Then we got a message from somebody who’d seen the day and commissioned the group to do a big paid piece of land art on another beach. This one event sparked from an idea from Faye has grown into a lot of well paid work and a TON of free advertising.
I think this is a great example of the results of the course. Like I said, nothing is handed to you on a plate, but it is what you make of the advice given.
For more information on Brand Booster and Keep Your Fork, see the website.