Interview with Lisa Morton, PR Specialist and Owner of Roland Dransfield PR
In this interview on The Logros Show – in association with The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce – Lee Dinsdale talks to Lisa Morton, from Roland Dransfield PR. Lisa believes that PR is about more than Press Releases. It’s about Purposeful Relationships. To understand what this really means, read on….
Interview with Lisa Morton at Unity Radio – The Real Sound of the City.
Interview with Lisa Morton at Unity Radio – The Real Sound of the City.
Lee: Good afternoon. This is the Logros Show in association with the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and we are live here from Media City UK. I am delighted that we have another guest in the studio. Lisa Morton is CEO and founder of Roland Dransfield PR which is a communications agency founded by Lisa. We are going to be hearing more about Lisa’s story, her top PR and media tips. Also if you are looking to get into PR Lisa will be sharing what she looks for when she is hiring staff. Roland Dransfields purpose is to create solid and long lasting purposeful relationships between brands, businesses, charities and the media and to leave a legacy from the work they do. The team has a deep social conscience and works on a pro bono basis with many regional and national charitable foundations. Lisa could you tell us a little bit more about the company please?
Lisa: I set Roland Dransfield up one month after the IRA bomb in Manchester in 1996. A lot of people ask me what does Roland Dransfield mean? I named the business after my godfather who was called Roland Dransfield. He is the first entrepreneur I ever met in my life and he was from Salford where we were brought up. He kind of had an amazing rag to riches story and I was intrigued by him. He met my dad one day when dad was servicing his car and thought that he had something about him, so he took him under his wing.
As soon as I met Roland he said, you need to start your own business. One day he came to my house when I was eight, with a bucket and sponge and he said you’ve got a car washing round now! Go out and clean some cars and when you come back you can pay me out of your profits for the bucket and sponge.
Lisa: I was in profit on day one. My pocket money started straight away and I just knew at that point that I wanted to run my own business. So when the time was right I set up Roland Dransfield .
Lee: What kind of services do they offer?
Lisa: We were traditionally a PR company when we started up in ’96. That was traditionally media relations, event management and we started the business without the internet, which is hard to believe. Because of that we relied on building really strong relationships which stood us in good stead over the years. We then diversified. We originally worked mainly business to business so basically working with corporates and brands, who were selling their services to other businesses. Then in the recession we realised that we had to modernise very quickly and became one of the first PR companies to adopt digital. I became a contact marketing and PR engagement firm so everything we do now is about building relationships and we use lots of different platforms to do that on.
Lee: You talk about purposeful PR. What does that mean to you?
Lisa: About eighteen months ago we really looked at what we were offering and PR seemed very old and didn’t really describe what we were doing. So we changed PR into purposeful relationships which did describe what we did and that is creating relationships between businesses, brand, individuals, and the media, which helps them to grow their businesses and obviously then profit. Equally it can then help them to build relationships which can help to create social impact and change. And the idea behind purposeful is that relationships should have integrity behind them. There’s a lot of criticism sometimes that the old school PR was about fluffy kind of veneer type relationships. We want to put bonds down so it’s about intention, integrity and commitment. Relationships like that can last a lifetime so it pays back dividends if you nurture them.
Lee: You’ve recently opened an office in London, congratulations on that. Now I want to take you back to where the story began. You touched on earlier where the name came from, but can you explain, what were the triggers for you to set up your own business? I’m always interested in entrepreneurs and founders and what they were doing at the time. Was it straight out of school, were they doing another job? So can you please share?
Lisa: I had been appointed on a maternity cover for an agency in City Road actually. It’s like an old school advertising agency and they had a small PR company at the time. They got me in to cover maternity and that director didn’t come back so I ended up being MD. It was amazing and I learnt so much. They were quite an old board and were looking to sell the business and I realised that wasn’t going to be for me, so at that point I decided I was going to do my own thing. I left on good terms and I set up with a computer and a fax machine basically.
Lee: So you just quit and did you have any kind of plan?
Lisa: I did, of course. You need to feed yourself if you are to start your own business. My dad had an engineering company at the time on Trinity Way. He needed a bit of marketing support, some brochures and another family friend had some work. I had been doing a little bit of freelance work on the side so I knew I had enough to cover my overheads, with a little bit of a salary reduction at that point. The overheads were low so I knew what my costs were and what my income was, so I knew I would be okay and I had clearance to grow the business.
Lee: How were the early stages?
Lisa: They were brilliant to be honest. Within a month I was working out of Empress Business Centre so we had a serviced office. In that first month I was able to employ a junior accounts exec straight out of uni. They were the days were there was no internet so you had to do a late night. You had to go home, have your dinner and then come back into the office and work on the computer but it was a labour of love. I absolutely loved it.
Lee: Over the period of time you have been growing your business, what have been some of the main challenges that you can share with anyone else in a similar position?
Lisa: The challenges are growth, as you are growing the business you can be quite profitable on your own when you are doing everything.
When I first started the business I could do every single task that needed to be done but as the business changes and you bring new skill sets in, then that is not possible so you do need to incur more costs and think about what kind of things you need to offer to your clients.
Lisa: In terms of challenges ultimately you are the sole decision maker so you carry the can for everything. That can be a burden at times. The last recession was a massive challenge because there were times when I honestly thought I was going to lose the business. A lot of the fees just fell off. Being a PR at that time was nice but now they have modernised that and it’s accountable and digital and more lead generation. They were some dark times, so it was only your courage really that could get you through that.
Lee: So when your back is against the wall and you think you are going under, when you think back to that time, how did you plough on through?
Lisa: I was a single woman with two kids, so I was the breadwinner, so they got me out of bed every morning to be honest. It’s also believing things can’t stay the same the whole time and you just have to keep the faith really. I also think at that time, because of some of the relationships that I had made prior to the last recession which kind of hit in 2008 there was enough good feeling in the community that we all stuck together and got each other through that.
Lee: Over the last few years what do you personally enjoy most now about running your business?
Lisa: I love the fact that it’s all about people. What makes me very happy is that so many friendships have been created through Roland Dransfield over twenty-three years and not just the people that have worked in the business. People stay together and our clients are fantastic. We’ve got the privilege to work with some incredible businesses and business people, so the learnings from that are incredible really.
Lee: Okay you are going to share now with us some basic guides. If you own a business or if you are putting out some marketing content, maybe on your own Instagram or Twitter, Lisa is going to share her tips for firstly, composing and issuing a press release. Maybe you are business and have created a new service product and you want to put out a press release, but you are not sure how to do it. Away you go Lisa.
First of all you need an angle. Think about why the platform that you want to feature your article on would use that. Whether that is radio, TV, or a publication, does this fit into the type of stuff they normally run? So first of all do your research.
Lisa: You need to write a really good headline so you need to grab the attention of the journalist who will receive hundreds of press releases in their inbox every day. Make sure that works and you would open that if you were receiving that. The very basics which we learn when we first get into PR is the five w’s. That is who, what, why, when and where. Make sure you have got that into the press release so people can get actually straight away what the story is.
It’s always really useful to put quotes in there to add some credibility to the story so if that’s for a third party, that works really well. Don’t make them up because they will be checked out. Also really understand the publication that you are working with. It helps to refer back in your email initially to your pitch when you are pitching your story and that you reference back to what that journalist might have written, because it shows that you are actually following the content they produce already and they like that. It’s really useful if you follow on social so if you can find them on Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn, follow them and start to engage with them in the run up to your pitch.
Lee: So we have got plenty tips there. Thank you very much. I wanted to ask, in terms of content, everybody is putting out their own content maybe on Instagram, what are your top tips for producing engaging content either from a business perspective or also from a personal perspective as well?
Lisa: I think where people go wrong is that they don’t think about the platform they are using and their audience. What you need to do first of all sit down and figure out who your audience is, what type of content are they consuming and where do they consume it? Then you can work backwards from that and figure out what’s going to appeal to which audience, and then you can choose your platform that way and what type of content to produce around it.
Lee: Any no no’s?
Lisa: Try not to be too clever. Make sure when you are starting that you are fitting in with what you know you are comfortable with.
Lee: Okay thank you. I know you are setting up a new company?
Lisa: Yes it’s a passion of mine and it is solo travel. You don’t need a man to travel. It’s a travel company for women who want to travel on their own called Voyage Her. We are going to be organising some group trips and then also some bespoke holidays for those places that women might not feel comfortable travelling on their own.
How To Get A Job In PR
Lee: Okay could you give us some tips for anyone who would like to get into PR? Maybe it is someone who is just coming out of college, university, or is in a job that you would like to change.
Lisa: There is a preconceived idea that you need a PR qualification and there are some amazing PR degrees around, but we wouldn’t require that necessarily. CV’s are important and we would look at things that you had done before so maybe things like if you had your own blog currently, or you are producing content of some kind. Have you contributed to a school publication or college? Have you done fundraising at college or university, have you organised events? That is the type of thing that we would be looking for, practical skills in those areas. We also do check out social media profiles. Whether that is good or bad I would start to think about that a year before you apply. More importantly on a positive note if you can show good levels of engagement with people that are in the sector you are looking for, then that’s a tick box.
Lee: What about key attributes?
Lisa: We would look for things like tenacity, don’t’ give up. It’s a tough game to start off in particular so we would expect for people to keep going and listen. We don’t want any divas in the office, so we ask people to play for the name on the front of the shirt not the back. You can be confident and humble at the same time. That gets you a long way. With integrity, do what you say you will do, when you said you’d do it, the way you said you would do it. That really helps your team out. When you come in as a junior member of the team they are all relying on you, your job is really, really important.
Lee: Let’s wrap up now with finding about your thoughts. What do you believe is achieving excellence in relation to both, on an individual perspective and also from a business perspective?
Lisa: From a business perspective you have to look after your people. They are your business. You can’t be excellent on your own, so it is really important to make sure that you have got a happy team and a great culture. Look after your clients because they pay your mortgages. It’s easier to retain existing clients than it is to have to lose them and bring new ones on. Keep innovating.
We have an expression and it is also one of our values, which is after every success we start again so don’t spend too much time congratulating yourself. You need to be thinking about what’s next. From an individual point of view I think there is no replacement for graft.
We’ve talked previously on another programme about ten thousand hours. I agree with, that you are not going to be good at something first time. You need to try again, try again and come back at a different angle, give it another go and then you get better. Never give up and be a learner not a knower. I was brought up and told that you need two ears and one mouth and to use them in that order. I think you can get good faster if you listen and think about what people are telling you rather than what you are going to say.
Lee: Great. That’s similar to what Barry said before and we are noticing as we ask these questions, similar traits and trends appearing. Thank you very much for coming in today and to everyone listening I hope you have a great evening.
Article Transcription by Terry Capostagno
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