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Public Relations Strategies with Helen Croydon

George Grombacher June 16, 2023

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Public Relations Strategies with Helen Croydon

LifeBlood: We talked about effective public relations strategies, the value of creativity, why it’s hard for creators to gain traction, how PR has changed and evolved, and the importance of crafting a compelling narrative, with Helen Croydon, PR thought leader, journalist and author.     

Listen to learn the challenges of getting your message out in a crowded space!

You can learn more about Helen at,, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher


Helen Croydon

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:01
Well, I’m left with this is George G. And the time is right. welcome today’s guest strong and powerful Helen Crota. And Helen, are you ready to do this?

Helen Croydon 0:08
I certainly am George. All right, let’s

george grombacher 0:11
go. Helen is an entrepreneur. She’s a thought leader in public relations, or PR. She’s a three time author, a former journalist, she’s helping business leaders, authors, and academics move from anonymity to OT to authority. Helen excited to have you on tell us a little about your personal life smart about your work, and why you do what you do.

Helen Croydon 0:32
Oh, wow, three questions roll into one. Well, let’s start with what with with what I do. And then we’ll go into the personal stuff later, I was thinking, you know, let’s ease into the personal stuff. So I run a PR agency called thought leadership, PR. But I say PR, but we are PR the difference. And we’re with a difference for two reasons. One is that we specialize in personal PR. So that’s raising the profiles of CEOs or founders or businesses, or consultants, academics, authors, people with, with some sort of subject matter expertise. And the reason that we do that is because I had to do that for myself when I was a journalist and author. So I kind of acquired the formula for how to do that. And also because individuals have more stories to tell, so there is more genuine PR value in them, I believe. And the second reason why we’re a little bit different than conventional PR is that we only work with people who have a genuine positive message to share. So that might be that their purpose LED or it might be that they’re in the sustainability sector, or that they’re trying their business is trying to find a novel solution to a global problem. Or it might just be that they’re a consultant. And their way of consulting is to promote a kind of more positive or more mindful way of working. So it doesn’t matter. You know, that purpose lead doesn’t necessarily have to be in the sustainability sector. But we work with people who are trying to affect genuine positive change. And we call it purpose lead. And again, the reason for that is that they have genuine thought leadership to share so they are easier to PR. And I think what most people know PR for is to get the message out there and just to get mentions in the media, for any brand. And in my view, that’s kind of false storytelling. That is you’re always going to struggle if you’re just trying to get PR for the sake of a mention so. But when you actually have a genuine, positive message to share, it’s easy to get media coverage, it’s easy to get attention. So they are the sorts of people that we work with. Because they’re they’re worthy, their message is worthy of being heard.

Speaker 3 2:56
And yeah, so that’s the first question. That’s what I do. I forgot there were two questions or two other questions.

Helen Croydon 3:03
A little bit about him. But me personally, okay, I’ll go into that one. So, I am a former journalist and author, I was a journalist for 15 years, because I always wanted to be a writer. But then I realized about five years ago, sadly, that there is no money in journalism. And there is no money in writing books. If you don’t have anything to promote, there was a lot of value, there was a lot of status value, exposure value and getting in the media or getting books, if you have a business to promote at the end of it. But there isn’t much value if you’re white, or a writer for the sake of being a writer. So after 15 years, being a journalist and yeah, I had three books, one of which was long listed for William Hill book of the year. Another was a what we call a WH Smith bestseller. WH Smith is a is a bookstore in the UK, so they were successful books still didn’t make me any money. Sorry for those aspiring writers out there. So I concluded that I needed to put my skills elsewhere. And at the same time, people were always asking me, How can I get into the media? How can I get on radio? I’ve got a book idea how can I research publishers, etc. So I realized that I had all this knowledge, which I suppose you would categorize as knowledge of how to get a message out how to develop a story angle from your personal expertise. So I figured that I have this expertise, let’s do something with it. So I started doing media work, how to get into the media workshops, little bits of media training. And eventually when I realized that there is a business model there. I set up my business, thought leadership here. And that’s why I’m so passionate about working with individuals who have a message to get out but don’t know how to get it out there.

george grombacher 5:00
I love it. I don’t love that you are a wonderful writer who was very successful but not unable to make a sustainable living. I think that that’s kind of a drag. But now it makes sense that you’re helping people who are maybe in that position you were in, to turn it into, you know, hey, I’ve got this message, repurpose I’m working towards how do I actually get it in the hands of the people.

Helen Croydon 5:25
I think it’s the same with any creative industry, you know, writing, being an artist being an actor, there’s so many talented people out there. But unfortunately, in the creative industries, talent doesn’t translate into making a living. And I think the reason for that is obvious, there’s so many people that that want to do it, and it’s very rewarding doing it. So trying to monetize that it’s difficult. However, you know, if you have those skills, creative skills, but you can use that to promote something else. Like if you’re a writer, and you use those writing skills to promote a business, or you’re a very talented video editor, but you can use those video editing skills to promote a business, then then they’re very valuable skills to have, I think, you know, the the world that we are living in now, there is no place really for, to monetize writing for the sake of writing or acting, or singing for sake of singing, because there’s just so much content out there, that people aren’t willing to pay for good creative work. So it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a place for creativity. But unfortunately, I think creatives have to find other ways of, you know, of monetizing, and using their creative skills on the way to doing that.

george grombacher 6:48
I’d certainly agree, I think that creativity is one of the most important things that we as human beings do. And that, to your point, there’s so much I think that that maybe has the effect of stopping people from pursuing these kinds of endeavors, which, from a financial standpoint is probably a good decision. But a real shame. So you can help people bridge the gap between I’m making something great, and I can actually make money doing it. I think that that’s, that’s, that’s an awesome thing. How do I know if what I’m doing is worthy of engaging with a PR firm such as yours? Oh, yeah, that’s, that’s the wrong quote. I don’t know.

Helen Croydon 7:30
No, that’s a great question. And one that not many people ask, actually, I think a lot of people go to a PR agency thinking that a PR agency can pick up the phone or send an email to their contacts, and then hey, you know, a story will magically appear in the media. And that might have been the case in the 1970s. Maybe when there were just a few PRs interview, a few journalists, and it really was about media relations in inverted commas. These days, it is really about a story. So I think that to answer your question, you should be thinking about what is the message so stroke story stroke narrative that it is that you want to get out there. And I would argue that everyone does have a story. And of course, I say that, you know, I’ve written two memoirs, not because I’ve had a fascinating life, but just because I found two aspects in my life that were worthy of drawing the story out, and I made them relevant to the wider, you know, the wider public. For example, one of my memoirs is about discovering endurance sport in later life. So I made that applicable to the wider theme of why aren’t there more women in sport, and how we can realize that we can do so much more with our bodies than we think we can’t those kind of things. So I mentioned that because that is an example of drawing out a personal story that has some resonance with the media. So I think anyone who is thinking of PR, and you will have a story, everyone has a story, but you have to be prepared to maybe we angle what you want to talk about, with actually what the media and what the public or what the business media if if you want b2b media, you want industry press, you have to pivot what your what you can talk about and what you’re willing to talk about to what the what the audience is actually interested in. So yeah, I do wish that all the clients that came to me actually asked that question they were they came to me some really do have clear messages, they have a clear purpose. They want to get out they have a book, they might have a bit of research, they might have a genuine new approach to doing business or they may have you know, a methodology and that is absolutely black and white. What it is they want to get out there. They are very easy to PR, we do have some people that come to us who Yeah, they don’t have a clear idea of what the message is, but they just want some exposure. And in that case, that’s where we have to do a little bit of work of extracting the stories. And they’re the ones that have to be a little bit flexible with what it is that they can talk about or be featured on.

george grombacher 10:21
makes a ton of sense right there. That I am an artistic person, I am a creative type. And I’ve made this thing that is so amazing, and so wonderful. But nobody’s really that interested in it except for me. So it’s probably a pretty common trap.

Helen Croydon 10:40
Oh, I don’t know, well, what is it? Let it test me? I bet there is some what is it? You would think that isn’t of interest to other people?

george grombacher 10:47
I’m not saying necessarily me, everything that I do is super interesting to everybody. I’m saying for other people, the starving artist, that whole trope, right? It’s more common than it’s not that I am I have a passion for the thing that I’m interested in creating in a creative, but it’s not something that is desired by by other people.

Helen Croydon 11:10
How do you widen it? How do you make that relevant to what other people are searching for? That is the art of storytelling or, or journalism, if you want to call it that. And that is the reason why. In my business model, I only recruit journalists to do the media strategy. So most PR agencies would have they call account managers who are from a PR background. And you know, they they know the different titles, they have a good context book of journalists, but they’ve never worked in the newsroom, they haven’t got that experience of developing a story, knowing what knowing what an editor was gonna want. So that is where we’re a bit different. I employ journalists, because that is exactly what they are going to do. They have this almost instinctive ability to look at a big story or a topic and know what the top line is, what is of interest to the wider public. And what is the link to a trending themes right now? What’s the link to the zeitgeist. And it is a skill,

george grombacher 12:23
for sure, the ability to look at something and from a different angle and sort of tease out to figure out what it is that is going to to be lightning in a bottle or whatever the term might be is 100% of skill. And just the perspective that you’re talking about is very, very valuable. That PR has, I’m sure it’s changing constantly. And the different ways that we’re consuming information is changing constantly. So how, what are the primary delivery mechanism? The the primary mediums, outlets that that y’all are using to help people get the message out?

Helen Croydon 13:01
Yeah, again, that’s, that’s a brilliant question. And my answer would be, it’s pretty infinite. And that is why, again, you know, that that is part of the skill of PR, that is the art of PR, it’s finding those platforms that match, and you’ve hit the nail on the head, that is exactly how it has changed. It used to be that, you know, you’d have a very finite number of printed publications, perhaps and you know, a few broadcast news channels, perhaps a few digital publications as well. But you’d have a very wide but defined list of places to go to these days, things are cropping up all the time. And there was no distinction in the format. So you know, a speaking event, it could be a conference, or it could be a webinar, a podcast might be a podcast, but it might also be a YouTube can’t channel and a podcast, a publication might be a publication, but it might be a branded publication. So it could be a blog that belongs to a big brand. It’s still kind of media because they still publish editorially independent articles, but it belongs to a brand. There are these, you know, little kind of niche blogs, industry blogs popping up that some people wouldn’t call the media because they might be owned by kind of just a blogger in their bedroom. However, they may have 1000s of followers and a very, very direct following of people in a particular industry. So they’re still very powerful for certain people who want PR in that area. And so it is just infinite, and it is almost impossible to keep a database or to keep a contact book of all these platforms. And that is exactly how PR is changing. You know, and I get when I do sales calls with clients often the question is astor’s are what sort of publications do you have contacts in? Where you’re going to get me into? That is just an impossible question to answer because the media is vast. And when I say media, I mean a wide definition of media, I mean, podcasts, webinars, branded journalism, or the Creator content, you know, influencers, social media feeds, that’s all classed as exposure. Right? And so yeah, so PRs changed hugely in that respect.

george grombacher 15:31
It’s fascinating. And there’s new stuff popping up all the time, literally. So. So how then do I evaluate a PR firm? If I am in the if I’m in the market to say, You know what, this is interesting. What What questions do I need to be asking? How do I know this person is going to actually deliver on? And I guess the greater question is, what is a successful engagement with a PR firm? When I suppose we can just keep kind of peeling? peeling the onion on on that? Hmm,

Helen Croydon 16:05
I would ask, I would want to get a sense if they really understood what it is that you want, or can talk about your messaging, because essentially, that, I think, is what it comes down to. It’s not about the contacts anymore. It’s about getting a story to match what the publications are looking for. So that would be if I was looking for a PR agency. That’s what I’d want to know. You know, how in depth you’re going to get on my talking points. The second thing is, you know, how do they pitch do they do blanket press release? Big campaigns, if they say they’re going to pitch to hundreds of outlets, I would walk the other way. Because again, that might be like the old school way of doing it when the when there was only printed publications, and they genuinely did read press releases, because they was looking for stories. These days, journalists, just they don’t read press releases, you know, they don’t they don’t care. They’re on Twitter, looking at what is interesting. They’re following all the millions of worldwide digital publications. So the wider a PR agency pitches, the more dubious I would be of best strategy. I think bespoke pitching bespoke story development is the way to go. And to your question of what, you know, what benchmarks what KPIs, again, it is, it is so difficult, and this is part of what I think the existential problem of PR is that you just can’t put KPIs, you can never guarantee coverage, I think we’ve never not got coverage for a client. But you can’t ever say I’m gonna get one piece a month or two pieces, we say that as a guideline, we say our aim is to get one to two pieces a month, if you’re on this package, two to three pieces a month if you’re on that package. But in reality, that can never be a real KPI. That’s just an indication of how much time and effort you’re going, you’re going to be putting in behind the scenes. So I think you can ask for that as a KPI from a PR agency, I’d be interested to know how other PR agencies actually, you know, respond to that and what KPIs they do put in because I think it is a challenge of the industry.

george grombacher 18:37
That makes a lot of sense. And I can certainly speak to my experience with people reaching out to me is I don’t respond to anybody that isn’t making a personal reach out. It’s just doesn’t even have my name on it, or it says Hi, and then a comma. So like, well, this is just email, you know, can I get a

Helen Croydon 18:55
lot of PR agencies pitching guests to

george grombacher 18:57
dozens dozens every day? So that makes sense, Helen? See, I was able to tie that back to me somehow. It’s amazing. Helen, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? And how can they engage with you?

Helen Croydon 19:14
They can look at our business website, which is thought leadership Or they can also follow us on Twitter, which is thought lead PR so our handle or just Google thought leadership PR and you’ll find us

george grombacher 19:31
excellent. If you enjoyed as much as I did show Helen your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas, go to thought leadership And check out all the great things that Helen and her team are working on. Find them on Twitter, thought lead, PR I’ll certainly link all the places in the notes of the show as well. Thanks, good, Helen.

Helen Croydon 19:54
Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.

george grombacher 19:56
And until next time remember to your part but doing you or best

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