How do you grow awareness of your brand on a start-up budget?

Emma Lloyd, Tide member and Founder of PR and Marketing consultancy BIG little LDN, hosted a brilliant Masterclass sharing PR and Marketing Hacks for Small Businesses. We caught up with her afterwards to gather her top tips.

Tell us a bit about yourself and BIG little LDN. What’s BIG little LDN all about and why did you decide to set up the business?

Six months before getting married, my husband and I found ourselves ​under immense pressure, both financially and emotionally. We’d just bought our first home, kitted it out, and ​became unexpectedly forced into a legal battle on just one income. My salary alone wasn’t enough to keep us afloat, especially at the business end of planning a wedding. Being ​available during evenings and weekends ​whilst living in East London, I thought ​about doing some bar work, but after giving it some thought, my husband suggested ​that it might be more worthwhile asking the local businesses if they needed marketing and PR support. Having just moved to an area with one of the highest concentrations of creatives in the world ​we felt it might be an opportunity missed, so I put a message on a local Facebook Group to see if there was any need for a PR and Marketing Manager and sure enough, there was.

Two businesses got back to me almost straight away – MDF Cut to Size and Matthew Booth Photography, who I still work with today. They were both so happy with the results of my work that they recommended me to two other companies, and again, two more after that. Before I knew it, I had a pool of six clients without even having a website yet.

By the time the honeymoon had arrived, it was a huge sense of relief, fused together with a sense of immense pride at what I had achieved. In the lead up to the honeymoon I was working an average of 17 hours a day, seven days a week, for six months – but we got through it and the wedding happened as originally planned. For the first two weeks of my honeymoon it was all about recuperation and wellness but I also found that I could not stop thinking about what I had achieved in the weeks leading up to it. ​The initial intention was purely for the purpose of funding the wedding and I had no intention of continuing beyond that, but I didn’t I want to let my new clients down, and it seemed I had ‘got the bug’. 

I couldn’t stop thinking about how I could scale up and improve on what I had achieved already, simultaneously, as my clients were emailing me about successes related to my work, in my absence, it was obvious I was having an immediate impact on their bottom line. 

It filled me with immeasurable pride and that’s when I realised what my true purpose was. It wasn’t about the money, it was about going on that journey with my clients, helping to grow their business and experiencing the joy and appreciation they had for the contribution I was making. 

So, somewhere on a beach in Bali, BIG little LDN was created.

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So, you specialise in developing PR strategies for small businesses. Small businesses can worry the media won’t be interested in them and therefore they don’t tend to do a lot of PR, do you think that’s the case?

Sometimes when you’re so close to your own business and get caught up in the day-to-day operations, PR is the last thing on your mind. It can be overlooked as a nice to have, and when you do have something worthwhile, lack of experience in navigating the press and formalising a press release could mean your story isn’t considered newsworthy. 

Having said that, there are so many small businesses making waves in the news. It’s just about timing and researching. Think about what journalists are interested in, the topics they like and how can you apply these topics to your business. 

Why should small businesses consider editorial media as a way to market their business?

Because nothing says you’re doing something right like someone covering your story in the press. 

The more people you can get talking about your business in a positive light will ultimately result in a better reputation and more customers. Not only that, press coverage isn’t easy to secure so when you do it’s a proud moment. It’s recognition of your hard work that’ll then give you more to talk about on your social channels or website. If it’s print, get it framed, hang it in the office. Make your staff feel proud to work for you and use it to attract your next batch of talent.

How can small businesses compete to be heard alongside the corporates?

You need to really understand what makes you or your company unique. 

Is it a first? Is it unusual? What are people talking about right now? Is your business disruptive? It also has to be genuine editorial, so the fact that your company or event simply exists is not enough. You have to really think about what issues you are bringing to the forefront of society. What do you want to be known for? What problems are you trying to solve? If you don’t make an effort to highlight these then why should people care? 

Think about the benefit of being a small company vs a corporate. Small companies tend to know their customers much better than large companies because they can afford to have those one on one conversations. Getting to know your customers personally will inevitably develop more meaningful relationships in a way it would be impossible for a larger business to do. Listen to what they want. Develop products and services they want to buy and promote them in ways that are interesting and on the channels where you know they are listening.

Get that right and it’ll cause a ripple effect. Supreme is a retailer who are completely owning this at the moment. Queues of people around the block of their stores, a branded brick selling for £1500 on eBay. Why? Because their concept is exclusivity. One of the social currencies of their Gen Z audience. They’re not creating content. They’re creating news. Word of mouth is a powerful thing and it can affect your business both positively and negatively. 

What type of media should small businesses try to feature in?

It depends on the sector you’re in and where you are. Local press is easier to secure than national and obviously there are industry specific publications to suit your business, both niche and mass. Having said that, when BIG little LDN did the PR for the new ‘Jumpers for Goalposts’ football festival, we recognised that it wasn’t just the football community we needed to speak to. One of the themes of the festival was the rise in women’s football, and at the time, many female targeted publications, like Stylist were writing about the 2019 World Cup. We ended up getting the event covered in Stylist and as a result, reached a new type of audience that perhaps would not be an obvious first choice. It’s all about maximising your exposure as much as you possibly can. 

Find nuances in your business that allow you to speak to different audiences and if you don’t know who those audiences should be, Hubspot has this really great guide to creating different audience personas.

How should they approach the media to have a chance of being mentioned in the press?

Most publications have desk managers for each of the sections, be it Tech, Business, Fashion, Health, Sport etc. They should be your first port of call if you don’t already have a relationship with a journalist. Their job is to filter out anything relevant and send it onto the Editors. Indeed, you can also send press releases straight to the Editors. They decide what makes the news and what doesn’t; whilst they also know which journalist is best placed to cover your story. 

As I’ve said before, always make sure it’s relevant, first and foremost. A sports journalist won’t cover a story about a new health product. While there is a link between sport and health, you’d be disappointed turning to the back page of the papers to read about a new health product. Their job is to serve their readers and not to make your story fit. Always put yourself in the shoes of the reader, take a step back and think, does this fit? Is there a genuine story or is it just a sales pitch? If it’s the latter, it’ll be a waste of time sending it. 

We spoke a lot about how to navigate the press and attract PR coverage in our recent Masterclass, PR and Marketing Hacks for Small Businesses. 

Are there any other marketing tactics small companies can steal from corporates and apply to themselves?

In a world of emails, physical items really stand out so direct mail when done well can have a really positive impact. It doesn’t have to be expensive if you do a small batch and really target who your sending to. Again, before doing this, you need to be absolutely clear on what you want the outcome to be.

Invest in a strong idea that’s going to get cut through, invest in quality materials and print – it’s been proven that someone will consider direct mail more valuable the heavier it is – and make sure you send it recorded delivery. No matter how much more it adds to the final bill. Ultimately, you want to make sure your hard work is being received.

Make use of National Awareness Days, but don’t just jump on the bandwagon, like all those companies who changed their logo to a rainbow and said they were supporting Pride. Give it true meaning, a real purpose and make sure it filters through to every member of staff, otherwise your customers and the press will see right through it.

Make time to celebrate your achievements. Make time to update your website, your customers and your staff about them. Marketing and PR is as much about communicating internally as it is externally. If you have an engaged workforce who feel connected to your business and can see the positive impact they are having is recognised, they will become your greatest brand ambassadors and marketeers. 

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Sarah Penney

Sarah Penney

PR and Communications Manager

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