It was a good start to what turned out to be a great day at the Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust (PSYBT) Annual Volunteer Conference. Checking my email in a quiet corner of the Edinburgh International Conference centre, a familar looking blonde asked if she could take a seat. A quick glance confirmed it to be Michelle Mone, the millionaire entrepereur and marketer behind the Ultimo Bra range.
Michelle was a guest speaker later on in the day, and told some great stories about how she started out in business 13 years ago with the help of the PSYBT, built up her empire, and now enjoys a life very distant from those humble beginnings. Her story about Bill Clinton was hilarious although I think I’d best keep that one to myself. She talked with great passion about her business and the reasons for her success.
The PSYBT helps young people set up in business for themselves, with grants and loans as well as the aftercare package which involves a volunteer like myself offering mentor support in the critical first two years of business.
The conference was hosted by Fred McCauley who chaired an panel session with some recent PSYBT start ups, and then later there were seminars on helping our PSYBT clients succeed in these difficult conditions. Key note speaker was Prince Charles who talked about his sense of pride in the work that the PSYBT has achieved in the last 20 years helping young people, often from disadvantaged backgrounds, experience entrepreurial life.
What struck me about Michelle’s, Fraser’s and Oli’s stories was that they shared a common thread – The expert use of PR to grow your business. All three have been, and continue to be, very clever in leveraging free coverage for their products by having an interesting story to tell, being media friendly and so making it easy to attract coverage in the press, on TV, and now on line.
A lot of businesses avoid PR thinking that it is expensive, that they are not “news” worthy, or they don’t have the contacts. The word coming from all these businesses however was that good PR was instrumental to their business success, and the secret was in creating a good story.
You can learn “marketing” from a book, or training course. But I firmly believe that great marketing requires creativity. The same creativity that will enable you to come up with the angle that makes your business “news” worthy and attract priceless PR. If you don’t think you are naturally creative, work with someone who is – the rewards are great.
Trevor Beattie at the Esquire Magazine Alternative MBA event said something very similar, and certainly his marketing agency, BMB has demonstrated time and again that it’s not the budget that makes great marketing, but creative thought.