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Special Guest: Nicola Rowley

Jun 1, 2022 | Episodes, Special Guest | 0 comments

This episode of The Money Compass podcast was published on 1st June 2022. You can listen again by heading to our Episodes page, or on your favourite podcast player.

In this Special Guest episode Emma is joined by PR Expert, Nicola Rowley.

Nicola’s Top Tips

  • Ensure your PR is aimed at your target audience, its about being discovered by the people you want to discover you
  • In order to have good PR you need to understand you story to get that visibility, reach and credibility all at the same time
  • Plan for press interviews to avoid any negative press which could create a bad reputation for your business.

The Power of PR 

 Emma Knights
Morning everybody, today I am joined by the lovely Nicola Rowley from NJRPR, she is going to be talking to us all today about PR and everything to do with it. So hopefully you’re going to learn lots from this as well as I am too.

Nicola Rowley
Oh, thank you for having me on. It’s great to be here.

Emma Knights
You’re most welcome. Do you want to tell us a little bit to start with about who you are and what it is that you do?

Nicola Rowley
Yes, of course. I run NJRPR, as you rightly say, and it’s a communications agency that specialises in strategic storytelling to enable people to harness the power of PR, to be able to strategically tell their stories, and get it out into the media so that then they can reach more of their ideal clients and go on and impact others, through whatever gifts that they have.

I actually didn’t start off with PR, though, I started off as a journalist. I was a journalist for about 13 years working nationally and internationally. I reached the point where I was the entertainment reporter at BBC Three, but I just couldn’t see me standing on a red carpet sticking a microphone under Simon Cowell’s nose when I was 50.

So, I was thinking, well, if we ever wanted to move out of London – because at the time, the media is very London centric – so if we ever wanted to do that, I needed to think a bit more further down the line. I had a look around and had always quite fancied PR because it felt like it was a natural progression to what it was that I was doing anyway, and quite often journalists say, it’s like the dark side, you’ve crossed to the dark side. Now as a side, well actually, it gives you an opportunity to be more creative. But there’s still an element of storytelling in there because you’re just working instead of telling other people’s stories, what you’re doing is you’re just telling brand stories and personal stories depending on who you’re working with.

So I moved across and started doing some incredible, incredible things. I was working with like big brands like Channel Four, and a Honda and Panasonic and all of these kinds of things. But, my biggest client was UK TV and they had a suite at the time of I think it was about 11 different TV channels. I ended up going on and working for them and then I went back to the BBC. So I worked for BBC Worldwide and worked internationally.

Then I went across to Thorpe Park and was the head of PR at Thorpe Park. I did an awful lot traveling around the world, taking celebrities on press trips while they were doing filming for food shows. It was just an incredible journey.

But when my son came along, everything changed. He literally changed for me, so this was 2014, we didn’t have the easiest of starts within 48 hours. He was up in intensive care. He was hooked up on every monitor and everything else because his blood sugar levels dropped dangerously low, and it was quite traumatic. As a result, separation anxiety set in for me, and I never really dealt with the fact that that had happened, and it had been quite a traumatic start.

When it came to returning to work, I was just like I’m going to really struggle with this. I managed to somehow, extend my maternity leave to be the full year. But even when I returned to work, I was finding that I was commuting for like an hour and a half each way every day. I was only getting to see him for 30 minutes a day Monday through Friday and that wasn’t why I become a mum. I’m the sort of person that literally throws themselves into any situation, wholeheartedly and so that’s what I did as a mum.

Even the health visitor had to say to me, can we just remember that you are also Nicola as well, because she could see what was happening, I was just like, it was all about objects. I struggled when I went back to work. I think the commute was just breaking me, I think not being able to see him, feeling like someone else was bringing him up. During the day, it just, it didn’t sit right with me. So when I was at Thorpe Park, I strategically started working towards four day weeks and half an hour journey from home, that’s a better way to do it. I was doing it in stages to make it easier for me to step away altogether.

In 2018, I quit my job. I at the time, was running a photography business, and I literally booked in 25 weddings, and I was just like, right, I’m going to do all of these weddings, and that’s going to be brilliant, because then I could be there for him. Then I immediately realised as I was doing all of these weddings, I was stepping out every single weekend. And I was like, okay, so I do the drop offs and pickups during the week. That’s brilliant. I get him ready for school. I pick him up, I’m with him all the time. Great. But then I disappear at weekends. I was like, I don’t like this, this isn’t going to work. So I had to think again.

Actually, I was also doing bits and pieces of PR at the same time, then my business coach at the time just said to me Nicola, why are you not just running your own business doing PR? Because it’s clearly what you’re really great at, and I know that you’ve tried to make the photography side of things work, but it feels to me like you’re not happy. I was like, I’m really not happy, I feel like it’s really hard work. Being a wedding photographer, I think it’s a really, really tough business to be in, there is so much competition, you know, everyone is kind of competing on price, and I was attracting I think some of the wrong clients. Don’t get me wrong, some of them were the most amazing people ever, but I was finding some I had attracted were not great – when it’s 10 o’clock at night, and they’re on the phone to me telling me that I need to really configure their album. It’s like 10pm at night, and I was fitting around their schedule, not mine.

So I stepped away from the topic altogether, I did PR bits and pieces, and I think that the pandemic really helped in terms of that because of course, the wedding industry, literally it kind of imploded overnight. So I was able to pick what weddings I did have, and then concentrate more on the PR side of things. Then I just built it up from there and it’s become hugely successful, and it just means that I’m there much more for my boy, which is what I always wanted in the first place.

Emma Knights
And it was just finding that balance in the right tipping point of being there and still being able to do what you love.

Nicola Rowley
Yeah exactly! Also, I think, for me, it’s always been about PR. I think sometimes people think that PR is, look at me and jazz hands and isn’t this wonderful. It’s all about an ego thing. Actually, for me, PR is on a much deeper level. It is about other people and the people that you can impact through what it is that you do and the gifts that you naturally have.

So, with Julie, she understands finance, in and out. For her it’s about going out there and telling the parts of her story that enables people to understand how she can help them. So maybe they’ve got an issue with their pension, maybe they’ve got an issue with, life insurance, or whatever else it is, but Julie can point them in the right direction, and then be able to help them.

I think people don’t realise the impact that you can actually have, not only on the one or two people. The more people you reach, the more you’re able to get the credibility that you get when you’re featured in the media. The more reach that you get, the more people you can impact, and that is everything for me because I just think I operate very much from the space of being a heart led entrepreneur.

I’m very much about how can I help others? How can I make that better for someone else? It’s actually just enabling other people to spread the word about what it is that they do so that they can go on and solve other people’s problems.

Emma Knights
So when it came to your own business, obviously you had the PR side of things sorted quite quickly, but how did you find setting up your own business initially?

Nicola Rowley
Yeah, it wasn’t like, oh, yeah, I know exactly what I’m doing overnight. Although I’d run the photography business, that was run as a side hustle. Originally, I set up a photography business as a business that would pay for holidays type of thing. It was a paid hobby.

So then when I like decided, right, I have to do this, if I’m going to be there for him, and so when I did the PR side of things, I had to really sit down and think, do I have everything in place that I need to? Do I have an accountant that I trust, and I like who is going to be able to get everything sorted for me when I need to get it sorted? Are all the legals in place? So in terms of the trademarks, and anything that I’m bringing out. Do I have an audience that I can start talking to and build up from there?

So what I found is that quite quickly, I got people coming to me and wanting to do what I call PR strategy sessions. So they’re sitting down with someone, and finding out what their story is. So I was doing a lot of those. I really, really loved doing those They’re like one of my favourite things to do in my business, because it’s where I then go away, and then I write up someone’s story. Every single story is so different and so unique, actually, our stories are our superpower. We have to remember that.

I needed to make sure that the money was coming in, I was also thinking about profit and loss, you know, what was I paying out? Was I signing up for things that I wasn’t using all of the time?

Emma Knights
Those awful subscriptions that we all sign up for, and then realise I don’t think I really take advantage of that.

Nicola Rowley
Yeah, and doing that and having a review every few months, am I using that? If I’m not using that I need to step away from it. Am I making the most of this? No, I’m not. Therefore, I need to reconfigure that and change what it is that I’m doing. So I had to really start thinking more like a business owner. I’ve got clients, that’s great, I’ve got loads of people coming to me.

I think that everything changed for me in September 2020. I launched the business in March 2019. Put together the website, audit, had loads of lovely testimonials, lots of clients coming to me one to one, it was great, but there are only so many hours in the day. I found that I was really, really stretched.

Then come September 2020, I launched my membership, the PR Mastery Membership. By doing that, I realised that I was able to impact more people at the same time to be able to help them get their own PR and to teach them how to do it in a really safe way, and how to work with journalists that could be trusted.

As a result, it meant that people started getting amazing coverage in magazines. I know that Julie definitely had quite a lot of coverage through being in the membership as well. And it was just like being able to help them in that way and guide them and have journalists coming in from national publications like to talk about what they’re after and what they’re looking for.

Because they’ve given up their time to come into the membership, they’re much more likely to be open to approaches from people in the membership going forward. So this month, for instance, we’ve got the Content Managing Director for Hello online coming in. And we’ve also got one of the featured writers from The Sun coming in as well. A couple of months ago, we had the Editorial Director for Stylist Magazine. So it gives you an idea of the kind of caliber of people that are coming in and talking to the people that are in the membership. It means that everyone’s kind of like oh my gosh, you know, we’re going to get to see this person or we’re going to get to speak to this person.

But yeah, a lot of it is it has been a very steep learning curve in terms of being a business owner and understanding the fundamentals of what needed to be in place. I’ve done all the courses so that I knew what I needed to do what I needed to have in place to make sure that I could run it as efficiently as possible.

Emma Knights
So I suppose you work with quite a lot of people that have been in your position of starting a new business. They might have other parts of the business covered that when you started out didn’t know quite as much about. But obviously, you know, the PR side, which can help them.

Nicola Rowley
I think it’s very easy to think, right in the very beginning, I’m going to do everything myself. I’m going to do the finances, and I’m going to put myself out there in terms of PR, and I’m going to do all the marketing, and I’m going to do all the content on social media, and I’m going to, you know, I’m going to make sure that I’m reaching all the right people all of the time.

Then it suddenly dawns on you, well it dawned on me very, very quickly, I don’t have a clue what I’m doing with tech. Financially, I was lucky in a way I found an accountant, I was with an accountant anyway, for the photography business, because I obviously had to be sending in my tax returns and things like that. But I changed my accountant. So I’ve got an amazing accountant who now works with me on this business, she’s helped me go from being a sole trader, to now a limited company paying VAT, that whole journey. She is kind of taking care of me.

But it’s understanding that you should play to your strengths. So I made sure that I got a tech VA on board, and I have her if I need anything, for any launches and she’s there, if I need things uploaded into the membership group. I’ve now got a community manager who helps me manage the membership in terms of posting all of the media requests that come in, so that that side of things is also taken care of. So I can help with the one on one clients alongside a team of freelancers who were also working with me to pitch the clients out. So it’s become a much bigger operation. I’d say that’s probably happened since the start of this year.

Emma Knights
Incredible. I think it’s something that we always say to our clients that you need to do what you’re good at. So you enjoy the one to one part and the writing stories, and that’s what you’re good at, so specialise in that area.

I say to clients, I know nothing about cars, I couldn’t fix a car, so I’m not going to try and do that myself. I would take it to a mechanic and get them to do it for me. I know finances and that’s what I do.

So it’s the same as yourself, with anybody setting up a new business to use the right people. You’ve got to obviously be making the money to be able to afford to spend the money. But it’s kind of a speculator accumulate kind of thing to make sure that you’ve got the right people doing the right jobs in your business.

Nicola Rowley
It’s all very well feeling like you have to be a jack of all trades and do everything at the beginning. I get that, especially when you don’t have much money coming in. However, I think it’s actually a false economy, to not get a few people on board to support you. Even before you think you need them on board as well.

I couldn’t operate without my tech VA, they would jump in when I needed them. Like I’ve got a graphic designer who is incredible and when I needed her to design something for me, she’s great because she understands the business, what I’m doing and how it all fits together. It’s so important to have a range of people that you can call on to be able to do it.

At some point, I’m sure, I will go down the road of employees and having people that are really invested in the company so that they can take your vision forward of where you want to go. But I think for me, everything has changed since the start of this year. Because I wrote my book, The Power of PR and in writing that book and taking people on that journey to explain how they can harness the power of PR to grow and scale their own businesses. I think there have been a lot of lightbulb moments for a lot of people that they now think, oh my gosh, okay, this is how PR can help me, help other people. Not just be all about me, because it never is just about that.

Emma Knights
So your book, what sort of things are talked about in there? Is it about storytelling? I know that’s a big thing. Obviously, you’ve, you’ve mentioned it, and you are definitely a very good storyteller yourself from everything you’ve said so far.

Tell us a little bit more about what the book is about.

Nicola Rowley
So The Power of PR is a step by step stage, to take you through all of the processes that you would need to get in place but when it comes to PR.

So, if you’re thinking about doing PR for yourself, you’re not quite sure whether or not you want to get an agency on board or perhaps you do but you want to understand a little bit more how it can help your business. It will talk to you about the reasons why you need to understand where they hang out.

So, what media do they read? Is it magazines? Is it newspapers? Are they listening to podcasts or the radio? Or are they watching TV? Once you’ve worked that out, then you can start looking at those places, and those media titles, where you too can also be featured so that you’re getting in front of that ideal clients, and then telling parts of your story or giving expert commentary or just being more visible in front of them. Then they know that you’re the expert in your field. Therefore if they have an issue or a problem, and they need solving, you’re the person that comes to mind.

Always thinking of PR, like a trail of breadcrumbs, it will take you to the point where you want them to get. Sometimes people say, well, so with PR, what, what do we do once we’ve been featured? I cover that off in the book as well, because it’s really important that you talk about the fact that you’ve been featured. Some people get featured and they go, great feature. I think there’s like this silence and nothing else happens. It’s like, well, so how are people meant to know that you’ve been featured if you don’t tell them?

It’s not a case of just doing it once, you have to be seen 27 times by one person just for them to actually register who you are and what it is that you do. So it’s becoming to be one Facebook post. No, definitely not. You need to be emailing your mailing list and telling them that this is happening. You need to be talking about this all the time, you need to be doing lives in other people’s groups and saying, I’ve just been on this amazing journey. These are all of the things that are covered in the book.

I also cover what happens if something potentially reputationally damaging happens to you. So crisis communications, just an overview, nothing to scare you, but an overview so that you don’t make any massive blunders along the way. This is because it’s very difficult to recover from.

As part of the book as well, you also hear from journalists in terms of what they do and don’t want. So I think it’s kind of like a PR journey, all wrapped up in one.

I also have a course called PR mastery the corse and in effect the book is the course. It’s got all of the different modules that are covered in PR mastery, the course, but the book takes you through it all too, because I think once you understand the fundamentals, you will be much more successful in harnessing that power of PR to get yourself more visible and out there.

Emma Knights
So it’s the perfect tool for anybody that wants to  do more PR for their business to get them started, if they’re not quite ready to pass it over to someone else and they want to have a look at things themselves first.

So you’ve talked about what success can be brought to your business, by using really powerful PR. Are there some things that you see that are commonly done by businesses that you don’t really feel adds any value to themselves through PR? Or are there any common blunders or anything?

Nicola Rowley
I mean, we’ve seen all of the classic cases, and I post one of these in the book as well, like the Gerald Ratner moment –  where he turned around and said that his products are really rubbish, and no one should buy them. So it’s things like that, not coming up and saying your things are rubbish.

The other thing that you need to avoid is not saying anything negative about anyone, really, because those are the things that the media will pick up on. So don’t turn around and say, Oh, that was a really rubbish exhibition.

I had a client once who just did an interview for a TV station, and she came away she said, Nick, I did this interview for the TV station. I was like, that’s brilliant. Well done. What parts did they use and did you manage to get your key messages in there? She was like they used a negative thing I said. Avoid negativity, because, if it makes a good soundbite, of course, they’re going to use it. It doesn’t necessarily paint your business in the best light. So think about things like that.

Think about how hard you have worked to get yourself to where you are, you do not want to damage that in any way, shape, or form. I always say to people know exactly what you want to get out of any interview before you even give that interview. Really great journalists will be able to get things out of you that you otherwise thought you weren’t going to share. So if you are an over sharer, write down on a piece of paper that’s in front of you and do not talk about whatever it is x y z, because otherwise, you could be talking about something, it could involve someone else, and you haven’t got that permission to share it. It could be something that isn’t that great for your business. Is it worth it, you’ve worked so hard to get everything in place.

What a lot of people fail to think about when it comes to PR is that PR is not about media relations, and securing lots and lots of coverage. A lot of PR is about positioning, it’s about positioning you in the marketplace, so that people think of you in the right way. The value from PR comes from the fact that it’s a third party endorsement of what you do via a journalist or an editor. So there’s a big part of PR, where, you know, it’s making sure that you protect that reputation.

There are massive businesses where there are departments of people that actually do this. You have to understand the importance of sometimes keeping yourself out of the media, as opposed to just putting yourself in. So it’s not just a case of getting coverage, it’s a much bigger thing. It’s about boosting your search engine optimization or SEO. It’s about being discovered by more of the people that you want to discover you. So think about the targets of what you want to be featured in and you are being featured in. Will they provide you a backlink that will help direct people to your website? What do you put on your website, your current offers, and all of the things that you want to talk about the most?

Emma Knights
I suppose as well as the consistency of making sure it’s the right target audience that you’re aiming at all the way through. Because, if you’ve targeted one type of person from the PR that you’ve done, and then you lead them to your website, which then gives a different message, you need that consistency all the way through to make sure that you’re always bringing your ideal client through.

Nicola Rowley
Yes, definitely, you absolutely do. I think knowing what that messaging is, is absolutely key for the beginning so that you can take people through. The more that you say it, and you might feel like you’re repeating the same messages over and over again, but actually, people need to hear that until it really sinks in.

Emma Knights
Fabulous. Do you have any top tips for anybody that’s trying to improve the PR within their own business? Obviously read your book is going to be one of them. But anything specific that you would kind of suggest to people?

Nicola Rowley
I would suggest, just get a bit of a handle on how your social footprint actually comes across. Google your name, Google the business name – that is what a journalist will do. After you’ve approached them, they will want to see that you are that credible expert in your field. That is why I think even if you’ve got a one-page website, you have a website so you’ve got somewhere that they can go.

I always think that it’s really important to have professionally taken images for that website, it’s no good just trying to do it with a mobile phone and hoping for the best, you need to invest in professional pictures.

Then get really clear on your story. I mean, that is an absolute PR fundamental. If you want to really harness the power of PR and be able to get that visibility, reach and credibility all at the same time, you have to understand what your story is.

Once you’ve got all of those in place, you’re pretty good to go. As long as you know who your ideal client is and where you want to be featured, i.e. the media that they watch, listen to read, etc, then you’re good to go.

I think that just having that knowledge is absolutely golden, to be able to have your story already written so you know it, you’ve got some key messages, you know what you’re going to get out of any interview, you’ve got a website, and you’ve got professional images. That’s it, you’re all good to go.

Emma Knights
If anyone listening today would like to get in touch with you and find out more about how you might be able to help them personally. What’s the best way for them to get in touch with you?

Nicola Rowley
I’m over on Instagram @NicolaJRowleyPR and I have a free Facebook group called the Communications Community. So come on over and say hello.

Also if you’re thinking about PR, and you’re trying to work out, whether you are ready for PR, you’re not sure I have a free quiz as well, which is PR-quiz.com. Once you have completed the quiz, you will receive a PDF downloadable report that will tell you all of the things you need for PR and where you rank on those. For example, what are the things that could really help you right now on your own journey. It’s a really clever tool to be able to assess exactly where you are right now.

Of course, there’s also my book, The Power of PR.

Emma Knights
Fantastic. I’m hoping lots of people will be in touch. I’ve definitely learnt a lot today about PR, and storytelling. I’ve always thought storytelling was an incredible thing, but I didn’t realise how closely it linked to PR and even working with clients in finance, telling them stories about how things work is so powerful. Therefore, I understand completely where you’re coming from and why it works.

So the last thing I’m going to ask you today, which is something we like to ask everybody that joins us on the podcast. Being the Money Compass, we like holidays,  so my question for you is – what is your favourite holiday destination?

Nicola Rowley
I know where I’d like to go next, I’d love to go to the Maldives next, but my favourite holiday destination, I think it has to be Australia and in particular Sydney. I’m a real city girl. I wanted to go since I was 10, I went in 2008 and it was like a dream come true, it is such a beautiful part of the world. There are so many different destinations that I love, but yes, I’m going to go with Australia.

Emma Knights
Fabulous. I take it you’ve been to many places and your career has taken you all around the world.

Nicola Rowley
Yes, I have. I’ve been really lucky. I did a food show which we actually filmed out in Malaysia and we went to New York, I was with James Martin in New York. We were doing a programme about cakes, and I was with Atul Kutcher in Malaysia and I was traveling all over the place. I was with Kelly Rowland in Miami, experiences like that are just incredible. I have to say I do love Southeast Asia as well, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam just beautiful, beautiful countries. Wow.

Emma Knights
Definitely got some more places to tick off the list though.

Nicola Rowley
Yes, definitely. Always so many places to tick off.

Emma Knights
Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for joining me today Nicola, It’s been lovely to have you here and thank you for talking all about PR today.

Nicola Rowley
Thank you for having me.