Newcastle Startup Week: PR focus with Lauren Archer
Brand marketing and PR consultant Lauren Archer has a varied background of working in communications across a range of sectors.
Working both in-house and agency for over a decade, she became a freelancer in 2018, specialising in tech and digital clients.
She now works independently with companies such as Evolved Search, Notify Technology and Shoptimised, as well as serving as the secretary for the CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations) North East committee and a board member on the North East Chamber of Commerce Women’s Advisory Board.
I caught up with Lauren during Newcastle Startup Week, where Lauren appeared on the ‘PR on a shoestring’ panel, to learn about her career journey and get her insights on best PR practice for startups in the region.
“Hey, Lauren! Tell me a little bit about your background, and how you came to work as a PR freelancer.“
“I worked in-house for nearly 10 years; at Gateshead Council, in financial services, and then I went into agency, and that’s where I kind of found my feet in the communications field.
“I was at [Newcastle digital marketing agency] Silverbean for three years, when I started I went right down to the nail, asking: ‘What are you trying to achieve? What do you want for this business in the next five years?’ and we worked out a strategy.
“We got to such a point where people were queuing up to work at Silverbean. It was just such a buzz, and from a communications point of view I thought ‘there’s real power in this’.
“I went to Visualsoft and was head of marketing there. It was a combination of tech and digital and a bigger team, so I was just picking up so much insight.
“I felt I could offer so much more than I probably did in that role. You get to a point in agency life where you delegate tasks when actually, I really enjoy ‘the doing’. I enjoy the thinking, but I like mucking in and getting on with it.
“I started working for myself last June, and I’ve got that back now, because I’m literally the comms person for all these different clients that I work with. With bigger clients, I’m in their office more and integrated in their team, with others it’s like ‘right can you just run our social media strategy for us and our content’.
“I’ve been freelance for almost a year, and I get stuck into more things that I’m interested in now. I play a bigger role in the CIPR, as well as running events for one of my agency clients.”
“What excites you about working with startups specifically?“
“With startups, I think they have the right intentions from the beginning. A lot of the companies that I work with already know what their mission is, they know what they’re trying to achieve.
“From a communications point of view, it’s not ‘the last thing on the list’. They’ve already got [their mission] ironed out, whereas when I’ve worked in-house it’s been one of those things: ‘Right, we need a mission, we’re supposed to have a vision’, but it’s not the fabric of their business.
“With startups and freelancing, you can integrate your mission and what you’re trying to achieve from the very beginning, and it stems back to everything. So you can ask: ‘does this PR strategy align with our company values and what we’re trying to achieve in the long term?’ rather than sending a press release just to tick a box.
“A lot of clients that are a little bit further along are like: ‘We need coverage every month. We need at least five pieces of coverage’. Why? Why do you need that? Is it part of your long term strategy that you’ve identified from the very beginning or is it something that you’re panic-doing?
“That’s the definite difference I find in working with startups.”
“What are the common mistakes that you feel new businesses make when it comes to their PR strategy?“
“I think trying to do too much is a big problem; trying to say something about everything, and trying to appeal to everybody. I think everyone’s guilty of it in some way or another, as you want to be seen to be saying and doing the right things. But actually, by spreading yourself so thinly, you’re not really appealing to anybody.
“If you can, have the confidence to really nail an area of expertise and stick to it. You don’t have to have an opinion about everything, you can just say: ‘this is my area’.
“You will gain far more value and so will the people that you’re talking to or that you’re trying to sell to by doing that, rather than being like: ‘I know everything!’ It’s impossible.
“To avoid that, outline what you’re trying to achieve. Who do you want to work with? Who are your target audience? What do you want in five years for your business? What do you want in ten years?
“If that all aligns, great, and you can comment on whatever it is that aligns with those things, but otherwise don’t waste your resource. You could be using that time so much better!”
“What does the North East in particular have to offer startups from a PR perspective?“
“I think it’s a very close-knit community. I don’t know what it’s like in somewhere like Manchester, but from my experience of agency life in London I don’t feel like it was the same at all.
“People are far more accessible here, you’ve got journalists at events, and there’s loads of different pop-ups and meetups you can go to and actually chat with people.
“I think there’s so much support if you want it. You’ve got to know where to ask for it, and obviously there’s a load of resources such as Sunderland Software City and Founders Friday - which I think is a fantastic monthly initiative.
“Just getting out there is far easier, probably because it’s a smaller place, but everything you could possibly want support-wise is in a close-knit network.
“I also think people are just a lot more eager to help and eager to give another person a leg up. I’m sure there’s lots of lovely people across the country, but I live in the North East and I know that that’s a characteristic here, and that’s something that I think my clients have benefited from.
“We might have competitors, but we’re all essentially trying to do the same thing, and that’s build a better tech scene, build a better digital scene for the benefit of everyone.”
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