PR to Success
Jenny Hassam, CEO of Rhetoric PR shares her story as a Public Relations entrepreneur
Hi Jenny, can you tell us about yourself and your business?
I am the CEO of Rhetoric PR Pty Ltd. We are a creative and edgy PR Agency who work with businesses, entrepreneurs and startups who want to do things a bit differently. We help our clients get exposure, build credentials, gain recognition, boost web traffic + SEO and position them as leaders in their field.
Our expertise is around understanding our clients and finding their stories and repurposing them to better appeal to their target market. We also do social media management, PR strategy, marketing and digital. We work with brands such as Edible Blooms, Kitchen Warehouse to tech startups like Zegami and Dr Sicknote.
And about me, so I ended up in Adelaide after marrying an Adelaide boy!
I’ve worked in strategic marketing, communications and PR roles across London, Europe, USA and Australia for fifteen years.
And seven years ago I moved to lovely Adelaide and worked in senior communications and Director roles for BAE Systems, Australian Red Cross and Professional Public Relations.
Since moving to Aus I’ve had three children and three years ago I thought it was a great idea to pursue my dreams and build my own PR Agency from scratch! The company is going gangbusters and we’ve seen some big growth in the last financial year and now service retainer clients across Australia. We have a lively, creative and hard-working team who work daily with large media outlets including the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Financial Review, Sky Business News and international media outlets.
It’s a constant learning curve, a big test on my resilience levels and fast paced, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Data. Content. Social. Mobile. Video. High impact content that is hyper-local and hyper-relevant is where we’ll see massive growth. If, as startups, we’re prepared to be bold we can be big. Being bold should be a startups catchcry!
How much momentum have you gained since starting the company?
We started the company 3 years ago and we’ve got a very big vision of what we want to achieve and where we’re going. We have grown exponentially in the last financial year and changed our whole product base. This year is still about growth but also stabilising our product offering, focussing on our clients, our service and looking at continuous improvement of our service.
Year 1 looked very different, I was a one-woman consultant bootstrapping, husting and walking around all the new co-working spaces with my little portfolio under my arm, winning my first client Southstart Conference within a couple of weeks of setting up.
Year 2 I took off with my third bub as maternity leave and spent time on doing courses and broadening my skills set and setting up a new website. The website helped massively in lead gen and we went from 20 hits a month to 800 hits a month and bounce rates went down massively, it was awesome and that coupled with other marketing strategies and getting staff on board meant it was time to grow in Year 3.
Year 3 I worked with a business coach who had worked with Sydney agencies who helped us forge our new trajectory, but we still have lots we want to do!
New startups often make the mistake of going down the corporate path and pumping out dry, boring and corporate content. As a startup this is the best time to be daring. Being daring will set you apart from the get go.
What inspired you to start Rhetoric PR?
I’m passionate about helping startups and entrepreneurs get out there. I often see them struggle with the basics around communications and marketing and there are some simple things they can do to start getting noticed and ‘out there’.
There is a common misconception that the media select the best entrepreneurs and they are sought out to profile. This rarely is the case and the best way to get profile, exposure and mentions in the national media is to target them specifically. The better you do this, and there are lots of techniques we use, the more likely you’ll be picked up by the national press for your business idea.
I see our role as an agency is to find the most sellable part of the company or person and find a hook with something that’s happening and promoting it at the right time to the right people. Yes, it helps having those journo connections yourself, but if you’re story and ideas are good enough it’s still doable to DIY your own PR if you’re bootstrapping.
In the digital age, aim to win your target market’s attention. Anyone can buy eyeballs for your content but you have to EARN attention.
What is your vision for Rhetoric PR?
My vision when I started was to create a lively, fun, dynamic team who are passionate about public relations, PR and business and who create and drive change and growth in our client’s companies.
Getting our first office this year and first staff member have been big milestones for us however we have big goals and I see us being a full service digital agency within the next five years with PR being just one offering of a suite of services to the market in SA, Australia and internationally. We already have access to media lists in the US but are definitely keen to expand to the UK and US as we grow – with either permanent or virtual offices there – so that we can service our clients better as they grow too.
I’ve just recently joined the Entrepreneurs Organisation accelerator program which has tough financial goals for us to reach in the first year and means we, as a team, but specifically me as a business owner need to work on the business to realise those.
You have worked with many startups, what are the biggest challenges that startups face?
Some startups don’t even have a target market in mind. Many still say, “our target market is everyone”. While that may be true – and all entrepreneurs are passionate about the impact that their product or service can have, I get that – there are some segments that your time and money is going to be spent much better if you niche it down. As soon as you focus on a niche or on one demographic or segment of the market, that’s when the magic starts to happen.
Startups need to spend much more time on really defining who their buyer personas are so that in every piece of communication they’re talking directly to that individual rather than a mass audience.
Social media is a great place to start if you’re bootstrapping, but once again know who your target market is first and where they hang out, etc. Then you can straight away make things clearer and cater to your audience’s language and character.
Once you know who you’re talking to you can decide whether you need to set up ten social media channels or just the one. For example if you’re talking to mums, use FB and Insta, twenty-somethings Insta and Snapchat. Start small and build excellent communities rather than spreading yourself too thin with dull social media channels that are not targeted enough and that are interesting to noone.
If you can create content that is tangible, relatable, immersive, emotional and/or memorable, you’ll be onto a winner as a startup, as a brand and as a force to be reckoned with.
What’s it like to run Rhetoric PR here in Adelaide?
I love Adelaide and we moved here to bring up our young family and we haven’t looked back. I do miss London, but I don’t miss the commuting, the weather or the traffic in south London at all!
Adelaide is an interesting place to run a business. I love that everyone seems to know each other or has one degree of separation. However, I think for my company to grow we need to be looking interstate and internationally which is why we do travel to Sydney at a lot, also a lot of our media contacts are there.
To build the business as a mum with little ones I initially did most of my networking in business groups online, which has been amazing for us. Facebook still remains a key place where we’ll get referrals and recommendations in different business and entrepreneur groups.
It will get easier and easier to be based in a stunning location and work for clients who aren’t based in the same city or country as you. We’re already capitalising on that and continue to do so.
What kind of advice would you give to somebody who wants to start their entrepreneurial journey?
Get the right people on board, hire slowly, set up your systems well from the beginning and get good legal advice from the beginning as well. Especially if you’ve got a partnership and depending on what structure your company is, those contracts are really going to put you in good stead.
During the early stages where acquiring clients is slow, focus on writing heaps of engaging content to build an audience, drive traffic and try to find your voice and differentiate your value from your competitors.
During the early stages where acquiring clients/customers is slow, focus on writing heaps of engaging content to build an audience, drive web traffic and help you to find your voice and differentiate yourself from your competitors.
Do you have any public relations advice you would like to give startups?
We’re all consuming media now within a bubble. It’s like the bubble has frozen over so we – as consumers – can reject anything that isn’t within our direct interest. This causes new and interesting conundrums for businesses and marketers alike.
To penetrate that bubble we must be more engaging, more real and more daring than ever before.
Investing in marketing, digital and public relations isn’t something that is frivolous spending as a startup. There is no such thing as something ‘going viral’ (unless you have a product that involves a cat playing a piano that is!). 10 per cent of marketing campaign will be creation of a video, the other 90 per cent is on getting it to the right people, going viral means that a startup, company or organisation has invested well into creating content that means something, yes, but also is distributed so that it penetrates our frozen bubbles.
That said if you’re really bootstrapping to start and want the media to pick up your story check out tools ‘Source Bottle’ and ‘Help A Reporter out’ which gives you access to the media asking for content and story ideas.
Also, ensure you take time to really find the key ‘gem’s – as I call them – in your business. If you don’t know what the bestselling points are, brainstorm with your mates down the pub and always back up any statements with stats and data to show the real story behind why you started in the first place. Other angles to get you interest include your personal back story and your opinion as a thought leader in your space or sector. Don’t be afraid to use your voice as the spokesperson of your startup.
Journalists want stories and information that can create awesome content for their readers. If they’re keen to find out more about you and your company always offer up information quickly. Any interest they have may be fleeting – as they get pitched to a lot – so ensure you treat any opportunity like gold as if you don’t nurture that contact they’ll go somewhere else within milliseconds.
To learn more about what Rhetoric PR does, feel free to visit their website –http://rhetoricpr.com.au/