Last week I attended Janet Murray’s Soulful PR Live conference for the first time, and I must say I was impressed. Janet Murray, if you haven’t heard of her, is a Guardian journalist, PR expert and online business woman.
The event spanned two days in the Old Street area of London, in a co-working space called The Trampery.
Given that it was a PR event and Janet’s branding is a little more female friendly than most, I wasn’t expecting many men to be there, but even so I think on the first day it was about 95% female vs male attendance. The event decor did remind me of going to a 6-year old girl’s birthday party but even so the attention to detail in the conference organisation was impressive.
Particularly impressive was the design of the workbook:
We were also given a free goodie bag, full of items from attendees of the conference and sponsors, though this again was more rather more feminine than I would have liked!
Day 1 of the Soulful PR Conference:
The first day of the event was based on a series of talks by journalists from a long string of major UK media outlets, notably the Mirror, People, Guardian, The New Statesman, Marie Claire, The Pool, Good Morning Britain and the BBC. A journalist or a group of journalists in a panel would discuss the way their publication worked in terms of who and how to contact people to pitch for stories and the kind of stories that they were looking for. As a small business owner this information alone is invaluable. While PR is something that I keep putting off doing, just having a document (the workbook) with this kind of information means when I do get around to pitching media I will at least be contacting the right people in the right way.
Even better in some ways was the lunchtime speed networking when all the journalists moved between the tables in the room for about 6 minutes each. The guy from the Mirror though seemed to get confused and we ended up with him for two sessions, but he was great fun so we didn’t mind. In this way it gave a way (admittedly briefly) for you to put your name to your face for the journalists.
If you paid extra you could attend a Mastermind session with twenty minutes “in the hot seat”. I didn’t do this, but I think those who did found it really useful.
Day 2 of the Soulful PR Conference:
On Day 2, the focus on the event was much more on the “how to” element of pitching to journalists and how to find people to pitch to. In many ways this was more useful than the first day. There were no journalists present on day 2, though the sessions given were generally very useful.
Janet Murray herself gave the majority of the sessions on Day 2, as well as very interesting sessions from Nicola Snell of Pressloft and Sara Tasker about influencer marketing and Instagram respectively.
So why Canny Janet?
The reason I say Janet was canny is because of her encouragement towards the guests before the event to get them to blog about the conference. I’ve frankly never seen someone make so much effort to activate the enthusiasm of the guests in the build up to the event to get them to promote the event themselves. Here are the pre-event blogs that people wrote before the event:
How to take better smartphone photos at events by Antonina Mamzenko
Four reasons why I’m attending Soulful PR Live by Helen Packham
How to dress for a conference or workshop by Dara Ford
Why I’ve decided to attend a PR conference by Adanna Bankole
How to overcome the fear of talking to journalists at Live Events by Samantha Kirton
How to prepare for an important conference by Cathy Wassell
Why I’m glad I didn’t resell my ticket for Soulful PR Live by Raphaelle Cox
Keeping your energy high at live events – five top tips by Raphaelle Cox
4 questions to ask before spending money on your business by Debbie Clarke
4 reasons why I wear vintage fashion to business events by Kate Beavis
This is very much a win-win for everyone, Janet gets a load of extra exposure for her event and also extra exposure for the blogs mentioned above.
Similarly she’s encouraged lots of people to do follow-up posts, including me! I’m surprised more conference organisers don’t do this, and it truly ensures Janet keeps her Canny Janet moniker.
As I’m a generally quibbling kind of person I’ll mention the slight niggles I had with the event: While the workbook was beautiful, it often didn’t have areas to write things for what was actually talked about, for example Janet asked us to write a pitch and there wasn’t a formal area in the book to write this. Also the whole feminine nature of the design of the event was mildly off-putting from a male perspective. Another niggle was that the speed networking would have been much better happening at the end of the day rather than at lunch, because we had the curious situation where we had journalists giving a cut-down version of their afternoon session at lunchtime to the delegates in the speed networking, as we didn’t yet know who they were.
But let’s get back to the positives : I would happily recommend the event to anyone, male or female interested in getting PR for their business, especially if they are based in the UK.
Takeaways from the event:
- It’s not that hard to get your writing into these publications, as long as you do the work, contact the right person and ideally have a news “hook” to tie the story to.
- Press releases rarely work.
- Non-business stories where you can mention your business in passing are way way more likely to interesting to journalists, unless you are running a truly unique business like naked yoga.
- Read the publications you are interested in pitching to, in fact go further and analyse which part of the publications might accept your submissions.
- Use Twitter to find journalists and stalk them mildly on them to see what they are looking for.
- Lots more women than men do PR!