Thirteen years ago this year, I left a fabulous career of heading up media affairs in the trade and investment arena for the UK Government in South Africa, to start up my own B2B specialist media consultancy.
After a long-spanning career of working with the who’s who of UK royalty and high flying politicians through the organisation of their media programmes, media centres and press interviews, it was time to find new challenges. After all, what is left and how do you top organising one of the first photo shoots for newly released from prison Nelson Mandela with the then British Ambassador, Sir Robin Renwick; working on spin doctor supremo Peter Mandelson’s media programme or handling the media for Prince Andrew’s meeting with President Mandela?
Fabulous times and opportunities.
I have always liked trade and business. I have always liked products and technologies and how they work and benefit industry. I love architecture and design, automation and successful deals. I love conveying to appropriate readerships the success of these deals and innovative inventions.
A year’s research was conducted, and some steely nerves were absorbed into my system and off I went, SJC Creative, a specialist B2B media consultancy was launched in 2004.
Nothing really prepares you for the ‘solo’ life. It wasn’t so much the lack of structure, as I am a highly disciplined person and excellent at time management and establishing priorities. I am also obsessed with deadlines and delivery. I like people, therefore I like my clients – well most of them 🙂
What you are not prepared for is the way businesses treat other smaller businesses when it comes to paying the bills. In my employed state I would never hesitate to ensure outside contractor invoices were settled promptly, and it never occurred to me that this might not be the case when the role was reversed. Huge learning curve and the impact it has on small business cash flows.
Late cancellation of or just not pitching for scheduled meetings was another intriguing issue. The ‘Brits’ are never late for meetings, we are born with clocks and electronic calendars in our mouths, and when time is money is petrol costs, for clients to ‘disappear’ was a frustrating element to deal with.
The slow pace of getting editorial signed off or the lack of understanding as to why media communications cannot be written like a hand-out brochure or why social media writing is no cheaper than print writing (no brainer eh?), all were activities that required much ‘driving time’ to reach mission accomplished status.
But, it was not all doom, gloom and Cadbury Crunchie bar type devastation.
There are wonderful industrialists out there, they are innovative, creative and proactive. They offer world class services and technologies. They understand your expertise and value it. I love their obedience in media interview prep time, and how they call when uncertain and need a steadying hand when planning media activities or targets.
I have seen medium sized businesses grow through a sustained and proactive media presence into large kingpin players within their sector. I have seen global players put their thoughts where their mouth is to express sector opinions and reinforce their reputation as opinion leaders of importance through selected media outlets.
The swing to online is more than just a ‘We need to be on social media’ catchphrase, it too needs to be planned, combined, understood and more than ever measured accurately by professionals who glow in the backroom of the floating social platforms. Clients need guidance here as well and welcome debate and input – very refreshing.
The adage ‘any publicity is good publicity’ should be thrown out of the window, there is such a thing as bad publicity as Twitter users find out at their peril via knee-jerk online reaction and response.
For someone who loves to learn technology, the learning curve throughout my portfolio of clients has been and continues to be amazing. There is very little I cannot engage on.
Enjoy your clients if you are also flying solo in the big bad world. Read the fine print. Stick to your ethics and morals. Put your clients first always. Have a blast and enjoy, the downtimes are minuscule compared to the immense satisfaction of a job well done and clients that enjoy your prowess.