Category Archives for "Behind The Scenes"

Is Media Coverage Relevant for Your Business?

With the advent of social media, is media coverage still relevant for your business – or any business - these days?

Is there any point even exploring this route? Why go through the hassle when you can get as many eyeballs on your business using Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube?

Someone asked me these questions when I mentioned I was doing some public relations for Mastermind Strategies, and they are definitely worth considering.

Social media is easily accessible to all. You can get involved with paid advertising on these platforms, but for the most part, there is no cost attached to setting your business up on social media. All you need to do is set up a page or profile, create content and share it.

This gives the impression that a mainstream media feature for you or your business is a redundant requirement. You may well have come to that decision for your own business.

So why bother getting media coverage?

It is essential to highlight that social media is only ONE type of media content; there are four others that are just as important.

There are large media sites (such as The Huffington Post); single author blogs and / or podcasts (such as this one); multi-author blogs and / or podcasts (such as mindbodygreen); and finally, mainstream media (such as The Times).

As well as the low entry barrier, social media has a quick turnaround (just input your content and hit “Publish”), and the potential to send you viral in minutes! What it can lack is the prestige that mainstream media still possesses.

So even though this section of the media topography has seen a phenomenal amount of change with the growth of the internet, the spread of online access and the evolution of mobile phones, and has been forced to evolve by catalysts such as Facebook, it still has the edge when it comes to its ability to influence audiences and how it is regarded, compared to other types of media content.

Mainstream media has the edge in its ability to influence audiences and is held in high regard

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Think about some big brand names. Coca-Cola, Barclays Bank, Virgin Atlantic, Vodafone are all regularly featured in the mainstream media. If Coca-Cola still takes the trouble to advertise, then there must be benefits to be gained!

The big advantage of being covered in the mainstream media is the potential to be presented to a wider audience.

Those precious minutes when you or your business is featured is an opportunity to showcase your expertise, while informing your captive audience about the range of products and / or services you have to offer.

Getting media coverage - particularly in an editorial, i.e. coverage that you do not have to pay for, has an incredible Return on Investment as it brings you and your business before a large audience, and can translate into your ultimate goal of increased sales.

Whereas paid advertising requires hefty budgets that are often beyond the means of most small and medium businesses (it can cost something in the region of £50,000 for a one-page advertorial in a national newspaper, and the same for thirty seconds during a commercial break for any of the leading soaps!), an editorial feature will generally cost you the time it takes you to pitch your story to a journalist, and then write the piece if commissioned (or give your interview, if it is a radio or television slot).

However, many owners of small and medium-sized businesses either don't want to invest in a PR agency, or just don’t have the budget to do so. Without that expertise many don't know where to start, and miss out on what is a very lucrative source of warm prospects.

Bearing all that in mind (and without Coca-Cola’s PR budget!) it was quite enlightening to be a delegate at a PR conference last week - I explain why I decided to go here - and these were some of the insights I gleaned.

The event was organised and hosted by Janet Murray, a PR coach, seasoned journalist and author of Your Press Release Is Breaking My Heart. She did a brilliant job of making the conference both educational and practical, and with eight journalists from organisations ranging from The Guardian and New Statesman to Marie Claire and Good Morning Britain, it was also the start of some beautiful friendships!

As you can imagine, there were so many gold nuggets of information. Aside from the points above, I have summarised a few more useful tips:

Know Your Publication

I’ll call this one KYP.

Research the publication you want to be featured in before you pitch.

Buy it, read it, get familiar with the different sections of the publication.

Who reads it? Does their target audience correspond with yours? What core issues do their readership face that you could address?

How long in advance should you send in your pitch?

It may seem like an obvious point, but it soon became apparent from the journalists present that many people make the mistake of not doing their homework first.

Find out who edits the section you would like to be featured in

You can find this out from the website or by making a quick phone call.

Stay on top of news and trends

You must have an awareness of what is going on in the world around you.

How is the story you want to pitch relevant to current news stories?

Connect your expertise to current news, and make sure your pitch is tailored to the audience of the publication you want to be featured in.

Think about how your product or service fits in with trends in social media, business, lifestyles, and politics, to name a few.

Approach them with an appropriate, interesting pitch.

Readers resonate with good stories, and so journalists are interested in what's relevant to their readers

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By appropriate, I mean you need to pitch a story that your chosen journalist - and more importantly, their audience - find relevant. True, your ultimate goal is to increase your sales.

But remember that no one else has your business or goals as a top priority! Readers resonate with a good story, and journalists are only interested in what is relevant to their readers.

Make your pitch interesting. Does it have a human interest element? Is there a story of triumph over adversity?

Share your expertise and make your voice heard!

You may not believe it, but you have a lot to offer journalists.

Your expertise and experiences make good stories, and the world is waiting to hear what you have to say, in your unique voice.

Don’t try to be anyone else; YOU have a unique viewpoint that people want to hear.

So don’t be afraid to climb aboard the PR ship. You’ll need to invest some time upfront, but huge benefits await your business.

Don’t Live With The Pain

It had started a week and a half before.

At first, I thought it was down to sleeping in an awkward position, and that the pain I was feeling on my left side would go away in no time.

One day went by, then two, three and four.

Before I knew I, it had become a searing pain underneath my ribcage. It hurt badly when I stood up and sat down; even when I took a breath.

Lying down at night was agony.

Like many, I try to avoid medical professionals.

What is that about anyway? I wonder if the head-in-sand behaviour is a fear of what may be diagnosed, or worse?

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What is that about anyway? I wonder if the head-in-sand behaviour is symptomatic of a fear of what might be diagnosed; a larger fear (of mortality); or both?

I know there are people who are quite the opposite, who run to the doctor at the first sign of an ache or pain. Part of me admires that, but another part thinks that’s a drain on resources, and seeing as I’m fit and healthy, the odd ache I occasionally experience will disappear on its own…

…not this time though. By Day 10 I begrudgingly admitted to myself that I had to “call in the experts”. I finally dragged myself to the doctor and her initial examination wasn’t conclusive; she couldn’t provide a diagnosis, and sent me off for tests.

Now, I don’t like it when I don’t have a logical reason for things; untied ends aren’t my bag.

She sent me off for tests, the results of which would be back in a few days.

And in the middle of this, I had to travel on business!

So let me get this straight. Searing pain, cause unidentified, and I’m away for a week.

Sounded like the build-up to a tragic event in one of those thriller films I dislike so much!

I was nervous about being comfortable on the flight, but thankfully the hours went by quickly as I distracted myself with some work.

I made it there and back on the trip…

…and I’m please to report that the test results highlighted something mild that is now under control.

Why have I bored you with my health mini-drama, I hear you ask?

Well, there’s a corresponding analogy in the business world. I see so many businesses that do what I did to start with; bury their heads in the sand. They have critical gaps in their processes, systems or governance, but pretend the issues can be ignored.

Until, it becomes an emergency, and then it requires more effort and costs more to rectify.

Don't be like me! Don't bury your head in the sand

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Have you been ignoring that thing in your business causing you unbearable pain?

Have you been papering over the cracks?

DON’T be like me; don’t bury your head in the sand.

Call in the experts today; contact me to find out how I can help remove that pain in your business.

Why I’ve Decided To Attend a PR Conference

When you own (and run) your own business, you’re the Head Of Everything.

You are responsible for every aspect of the business: Advertising, Marketing, Business Development, Account Management, Finances, Social Media, Content Creation…

…the list goes on.

I'll let you into a secret: my brain never stops. I'm always working on new ideas, projects & plans for the future

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I’ll let you into a little secret: the wheels in my brain never stop turning. I’m constantly working on new ideas, projects and plans for the future.

I’m always amused when my employed friends celebrate on Fridays, and there are all the colourful TGIF memes I get tagged in on Facebook. As a business owner, the weekend is an opportunity for me to reflect on the past five days, catch up on any outstanding tasks, and plan for the week ahead.

In many ways, I never really stop, and it's easy for professional development goals to fall off my radar.

At the start of this year I decided to remedy this neglect, and committed to taking time out to complete some outstanding accreditations and learn new skills pertinent to my craft.

And this really is new territory! A two-day conference to learn how best to get my business, products and services featured in the media doesn’t quite fall within my comfort zone.

It would be unusual for others in my field too; larger consultancies like PwC or KPMG simply hire a PR agency, and smaller outfits probably wouldn’t bother with any kind of PR at all.

So I’d like to think I’m a bit of a pioneer!

I’ve as much as explained it, but here’s why I’ve decided to take two days out of my business to attend a PR conference.

The Challenge!

I love setting myself challenges.

Whether it’s in fitness and sport (I always have goals: to lift heavier weights, hike longer distances, get more steps on my Fitbit!), or new subject matter to digest and oversee in projects, I love to look back over the month, quarter or year and know that I am not in the same position.

Whether in sport, or a subject to learn for a new project, I love to look back and know I'm not in the same position

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Increased Visibility:

I’m at a stage where I’ve done a lot of work on Mastermind Strategies, and it’s time to actively showcase that to the world. Learning the best ways to do this fits in perfectly with plans for the next twelve months.

Being in the spotlight is new to me, but as uncomfortable as it is, out of the shadows I come!

Networking With a Different Crowd

As my current clients are more on the corporate side, I easily spend a good part of my working week in tall, glass skyscrapers.

This conference will be a good opportunity to meet business owners from other walks of life, take off my corporate goggles for a few days and get my creative juices flowing, albeit in a different way.

I thought I’d give you an insight into what’s going on Behind The Scenes here at Mastermind Strategies this month. I’ll let you know how I get on!

My Top 3 Project Nightmares!

Most of my posts tend to be serious; telling you about the benefits of hiring a consultant, setting up your business strategy, and project threats. This time, I thought I’d amuse you by going down memory lane to describe some of the worst projects I’ve worked on.

Before I do, permit me to let you into a secret:

MOST PROJECTS ENCOUNTER HICCUPS AT SOME POINT.

Back in the days when I was in permanent employment, a common interview question was, “Describe a scenario where something went wrong on a project you were working on, and how you responded.” Or something along those lines.

Initially, I thought it was a ploy to trip me up. I mean, you actually want me to admit that something went wrong? Under my watch??

But as I matured in my field, it became clear that things DO and WOULD go wrong. All the time! The key in that interview question was to understand how I responded when the unexpected happened.

So, if you are working with a consultant or delivery expert who beats his or her chest and claims they have never had a failure on a project, please view them with suspicion…

…but I digress. It’s not about the hiccup, it’s about how you handle it, and the lessons you learn from it.

In the spirit of being vulnerable here are my Top 3 Project Nightmares; the 3 worst projects I have worked on!

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So in the spirit of being vulnerable here are my top 3 project nightmares; the 3 worst projects I have worked on in my time.

The first was in one of the big 4 banks.

I was the Lead Analyst, and the project was being managed by someone else. However, her style was to get involved in the minutiae of everything on the project.

And I mean, everything.

The micromanagement was constant, and it was challenging to work with someone who seemed not to trust my capabilities or expertise, and did not respect professional boundaries.

Lesson learned:

I’m a big believer of doing what I’m good at, and delegating or outsourcing the rest (I think the kids call it “staying in your lane”!)

Sometimes people look to cover all bases out of their own insecurities. This lady clearly didn’t trust me, for whatever reason. Which was a shame, because the project was already quite a challenge for lots of other reasons, and we could have provided each other with moral support.

Instead, it made the project ten times harder. Unfortunately, this situation dragged on for months, despite my best efforts to resolve it and find some common ground with her.

When the project was finally brought to an abrupt end, I must admit I did a little happy dance!

And talking of dragging on for months, that brings me to Project Number 2…

…actually it’s the same project, so I’ve cheated a little.

The Senior Management within the Corporate and Technology Directorates had decided on this fancy initiative. Not just that it needed to be done, but also on what the solution would be, how it would be implemented and when.

Which may not sound bad, but this was done without much groundwork being done upfront.

Call it whatever you will: assessing the feasibility, doing a study, undergoing project initiation activities. If any – or all – of these steps had been done, there is no way anyone in their right mind would have given this the thumbs-up. But they did anyway, and then…

..the project went on hold. Funding was withheld, and the whole team awaited a definitive steer on whether to proceed with it or not. FOR THREE MONTHS!

It was soul-destroying to witness that level of procrastination. The decision to do this had clearly been made in haste, but when the costs became apparent, those who ultimately held the purse strings wouldn’t retrace their steps and “abort the mission”.

Lesson learned:

Don't rush in, thinking you know the solution before you've analysed the problem. And if you have, just admit it

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Don’t rush in, thinking you know the solution before you have analysed the problem. And if you have, don’t be ashamed to admit you’ve made a mistake. Make the decision to remedy it quickly, instead of procrastinating and incurring even more losses.

Project Number 3 was for a smaller company.

Small and medium-sized businesses have their advantages, but a disadvantage can be the lack of processes and procedures. And a lack of will to adhere to them.

In this incarnation, I was responsible for both the analysis on the project, and overall management of it. It was to develop a new internet banking and customer management platform; all very sexy and exciting. We worked with a marketing agency to develop the branding and to make it all user-friendly.

Only problem was, the Marketing team just couldn’t decide what they wanted. One day, it was a blue homepage with purple banners. The next, it was a purple homepage with blue banners!

I understood that creativity was at work, and sometimes one needs to visualise an option to know whether it works or not.

But this wasn’t just for the aesthetic side of things; it applied to core technical functionality too. This went on for months, and got so bad that things were still being changed even as we were testing the finished product!

I honestly had never seen anything like it, and I haven’t since.

I doubt that the agency made a profit on that piece of work. I was on the client side at the time, and as the saying goes, the customer is always right. But I was ashamed to have to go back to them and explain why yet ANOTHER change was needed to a wireframe or concept which had been signed off two days before!

Lesson learned:

Requirements MUST be finalised and approved by the business upfront. That process sounds logical enough, but they must be approved on the understanding that any changes after this point will need to undergo a special approval process, and will cost the project additional time and money.

I knew this, but my stakeholders didn’t buy into the change control process, and I inadvertently encouraged them to circumvent it when I agreed to get things changed, again and again.

So you see, not every project I have delivered has run smoothly.

Just don’t mention “Internet Banking”, or I might just start to twitch!

(Only joking 😊! If you need help delivering or overhauling your Online Banking platform – or any other project – let me know)

My Very First Blog Post

Hello there!

This is the very first Mastermind Strategies blog post, and I thought I would use it as an introduction and a means to give you a bit of background, tell you what we’re all about and perhaps, what you can expect to see and read here.

So, what is Mastermind Strategies, and who’s behind it?

Mastermind Strategies is a consultancy founded by me, Adanna Bankole.

I have had a successful career in business analysis and change management for more than a decade, and developed a strong track record of project delivery in the financial services industry during that period.

I now focus on working with established businesses across a number of different sectors, helping them deliver results that increase their efficiency and profitability.

What exactly do you do?

Mastermind Strategies is dedicated to helping your business be the best it can. We will help you identify opportunities to increase revenue and reduce inefficiencies, by improving the way you deliver your services. We specialise in analysing businesses and managing change of any kind, whether it’s driven by your people, processes or technology.

Mastermind Strategies specialises in analysing businesses, and managing change of any kind

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More specifically, some of our areas of expertise are:

Identifying opportunities to improve your business, and making recommendations on how you can put those opportunities into effect.
Re-engineering your existing business processes so they eliminate waste and are fit for purpose, and can address any specific challenges your business faces.
Ensuring you have a clear path to success by defining the right Target Operating Model for a department within your business, or the business as a whole. This framework helps you pre-define your vision, which is essential when undertaking a significant change in strategy.
Designing, analysing and documenting your project or programme requirements. You’ll need to define the scope of your project before you start nailing down the requirements…and we can help you do this too.
Managing and implementing change in your business. Whether it’s planning for a new business venture, delivering a report on the feasibility of a project, helping you choose a supplier, liaising with a range of stakeholders, facilitating workshops and helping your teams arrive at key decisions, or working with technical teams to ensure smooth implementation of a system, we help you manage initiatives in your business…in the most effective (and least disruptive) manner.

Who writes the blog posts?

I do! (There's a bit more about me here)

Though I anticipate there will be times when I ask my peers, clients or experts in other fields to write guest posts, especially when this benefits YOU. In time, this may grow to include team members and even third party suppliers, but we’ll see!

What sorts of things will you write about?

My intention is to share my views on the things I am passionate about: business analysis, facilitating change efficiently in businesses, strategies and technology that make a difference in the marketplace, entrepreneurship and start-ups, and of course, there’ll be updates on the Mastermind Strategies team, what we’re doing, projects we’re working on, clients we’re working with, initiatives we’re running and new products and services.

How frequently will you upload new posts?

The aim is to post a minimum of once a week.

We’ve all seen blogs which start off enthusiastically and slowly peter off after a few posts, only to crash and burn shortly afterwards. I’m going to work hard to keep this one going, regardless of how busy my week turns out to be.

My plan is to have a general “theme” every month – it could be Strategy, Business Planning, Defining Requirements – and majority of the posts that month will address a particular aspect of said theme, in a way that is relevant for YOU.

Will there be a Comments Section?

Not sure about this one at the moment. While I absolutely want your feedback, I need to ensure I can commit to giving commenters the responses they deserve in a timely fashion.

So there you have it; I hope this gives you some insight into what’s coming.

Thanks for stopping by to read this, and here’s to the first of many more posts!