Teresa Horscroft is managing director and founder of Eureka Communications, an independent Public Relations consultancy specialising in business-to-business (B2B) and consumer PR for information technology and marketing companies across the UK and Europe.
Teresa was originally set for a career in the finance industry, but after attending an interview for a PR assistant at a technology company and landing the role, she never turned back. Having spent another 10 years working her way up from assistant to account director, Teresa was keen to go it alone and founded Eureka Communications in 1998.
Here’s Teresa story.
I got into PR by accident
In the early days, I had a career in finance planned with two job offers, one in insurance and the other as a trainee bank manager for a regional bank. However, I was not excited by the prospect of a smaller yearly pay package than I used to earn in six weeks over the summer holidays as a student. As such, I decided to take on an office administrator role for a year so that I could buy a car and build up some savings before I went back to finance. My very first interview was as PR Assistant for a technology PR company. I never did get back into finance.
It’s important to have more time for creativity
After 10 years climbing the ranks of various PR agencies – from PR Assistant to Account Director – I wanted to do things my way so set up as a freelance PR consultant. I wanted the freedom to choose which businesses to work with – ideally ones that I was passionate about – and reduce my workload. Some PR agencies can be so focused on maximising billable hours for each employee that there’s never enough thinking time. I believe it’s important to have fewer clients and more time for creativity.
In the early days, it was all about me
I began by targeting businesses that I wanted to work for, researched them (looking at who their clients were, what their offer was and how well they articulated that proposition in their markets). I’d then send tailored, relevant emails and letters (which were still more common in those days). I’d planned to follow up with phone calls, but before I could start I’d received direct responses from three quarters of the businesses I contacted.
When it comes to providing consultancy, it’s the experience, attitude and enthusiasm of the individual consultant that most businesses react to. For this reason we don’t follow a traditional agency culture and only work with seasoned PR consultants and content creators. We live and breathe the businesses that we work for and add the sort of value that makes a real impact for our clients.
Stand out from the crowd with a unique approach
Being experienced in a particular market sector is important, but it can also be useful to have no experience because you ask different questions and are prepared to do things differently. We work across technology, finance, media, and marketing sectors and have experience in more. Finance, for example, was a relatively new market for us. When we helped launch the world’s first equity crowdfunding platform, Crowdcube, in 2011 we were focused on entrepreneurs, but we’d no real experience of targeting the investor audience. We did our research – picking up copies of magazines, browsing websites and following industry discussions. This enabled us to target media read by investors with new story ideas and because our approach is different to that taken by other financial PR agencies we, or perhaps more importantly, our clients’ stories stood out.
We’ll not become a big agency – why fit in with the herd when we were born to stand out?
All of our new business comes from word of mouth and past clients. In 17 years, we’ve only ever really aggressively sought new business once and that was after returning from a career break – backpacking around South America in 2000.
At the moment I’ve a bee in my bonnet about Norway (because I love the country) and want to add a Norwegian tech or media start-up to our portfolio. Growth is small, slow and very focused. Sometimes it means exiting an area that we’ve built up a lot of credibility in – for example, in 2005 we moved out of the information security sector after 15 years to make room for a new market research client.
The basic principles of PR remain the same
There’s always something new happening in digital, so I evaluate whether it’s something that I need to simply monitor or participate more actively in. It’s too easy to put too much emphasis into digital media because it’s ‘the latest thing’ without really understanding if it’s the best way to reach your audience. One thing we do find beneficial is social. It’s not just useful, it’s an essential PR tool. We use it to monitor conversations and trends and to communicate with journalists, bloggers and influencers.
Even though there may be new ways to reach an audience, it’s worth remembering that the basic principles of PR remain the same. I think what can be more important to bear in mind, is to keep up with the latest developments in the sectors that our clients operate in. This way we’ll always be able to add value, helping our clients to remain relevant and ensuring that we’re always finding opportunities for them to comment on topical industry issues. Our clients are often impressed with the knowledge we have of their business and that creates a relationship of mutual respect and trust.
Small business owners need to be a jack of all trades
My biggest challenge remains technology. We’re too small to have an IT manager and yet there’s always something that needs fixing, updating or migrating. The simplest technology breakdown can be really disabling for a small firm – and it’s always on a busy day. Small business owners need to be a jack of all trades and if it’s something we can’t fix ourselves we need to know who can help, and help quickly. I’ve taken on some external IT support and reviewed our processes for disaster recovery. We now have regular back-ups, content that is stored in the cloud so that it can always be accessed by me, or any of the team and we’ve multiple devices that can be used if something breaks down.
Stay true to what you know and do it well
Don’t promise something you cannot deliver and treat your client’s business as if it were your own. Most of all. Love what you do.
Find out more about Teresa and her PR consultancy by visiting http://www.eurekacomms.co.uk/
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