How to pitch education journalists in the UK

With schools now back in full flow, it is a perfect time for education companies to get back on the radar of the top education journalists in the UK. Our experience working in education PR for almost two decades has given us invaluable insight into how to build relationships with education journalists in the UK, and how to convince them to cover your story.

Exclusives, exclusives, exclusives!

Exclusive content is paramount for the vast majority of journalists and education journalists are no exception. Of course, there are times when Apple, for instance, might release the new iPhone and coverage appears far and wide and no one really cares who else is getting this press release in their inbox as the whole world just needs to know immediately. But that is a privilege afforded only to the top companies in the world – and if you’re not one of them yet, you need to manage your media relationships more carefully.

Instead, you will need to give education journalists what they want, which is usually an engaging narrative backed by never-before-seen data with a personal case study. If you’ve got this winning formula, then you need to offer it to your top media target as an exclusive.

The top tier education trade titles such as Schools Week and TES always want exclusive data, research and insight. In fact, this is the number one thing they will often ask should you pitch any of them. DO NOT be that person that pitches ‘exclusives’ to multiple titles as everyone knows everyone and you could find yourself in an embarrassing situation. Plus lying is never good. National publications like the Guardian, FT and Telegraph in particular always ask us whether or not we have pitched the story elsewhere.

Large, representative data from reputable sources

How many times do you read something in a reputable publication whereby they mention a company you’ve never heard of with a weird name and research based on a really small sample? Never. This is because the readers will have never have heard of them!

A small sample size cannot be representative of the total population, and the results simply wouldn’t be statistically significant. As a result, most media outlets would turn the story away.  As a general rule, if you are presenting data to education journalists, it is important to have a sample size of at least 1000. National education editors, in particular, want to hear about interesting research that is done in conjunction with large reputable research firms such as IFS, CEBR, YouGov etc. They need to maintain their own credibility which means they can’t publish stories based on unreliable data.

It’s almost like texting a mate

Yes we have been in this game for years and yes we have managed to build some great relationships over time but fundamentally pitching can be just the same as speaking to your friends. Do they really want to see paragraphs upon paragraphs of background information on your company? Or would they prefer something short, sharp and clear?

National education editors will rarely send detailed emails and will either pick up the phone and have a good old chat like the olden days or send a line saying what they want. It might seem snappy getting such a short answer, but you need to deal with it. Journalists are busy and you can have in-depth chats with other people in your life.

Use case studies

Education journalists in the UK want to hear from the end user about how your product is affecting their lives. The end user could be a teacher, a student, a parent or a legislator. Whoever your end user is, they will be much more likely to get an interview (that you arrange) than your company CEO. That might seem unfair – you are doing all the work pitching these journalists, so shouldn’t your CEO get the headline? But remember that case studies are the most positive form of PR you can get – your CEO is paid to sing the company’s praises – a case study is not. That means that their story is more authentic and convincing.

Keep it simple

The nationals in particular, don’t want complicated data and in-depth stories. They need to be able to engage their readers, who are usually just regular consumers. That means concepts need to be kept simple and accessible, which means you need to work hard on your messaging and story generation.

Don’t ignore the trades

While the national media might be top of your target list, remember that the education trade media plays an important role too. These media are consumed by specialists and the journalists know their subjects in-depth. That means you can get more complex with the media angles that you take to them.

For example, Amy Gibbons, a reporter at TES says: ”Anyone who knows me will say I love a good investigation – especially if it involves spreadsheets, graphs and charts. But I think my favourite part of the job has to be the rush of uncovering a good story and bringing it into the public eye; it’s excitement and nerves in equal measure.”

Education journalists at the trade media will also be more open to press releases and company announcements, and they are more likely to link to your website (which is SEO gold dust). And it’s crucial to remember that the nationals get many of their stories from the trades, so having a trade press presence can support your national media coverage agenda.

Follow the rules of good media relations

When pitching education journalists in the UK, be a good PR pro.

Do your research. One journalist at a top tier trade title sends any stupid emails/follow-ups she gets to the wider team with the subject line “BREAKING NEWS”. You don’t want your sloppy pitching to be called out.

NEVER make demands or ask to check the copy before it goes live – that’s just not how journalists in the UK work.

And ALWAYS stay responsive when speaking to journalists. If you can’t make an interview, if your schedule has changed or if the story you were pitching is no longer relevant, then have an honest conversation with them, keeping them in the loop. They will respect you for it.

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Running a successful radio PR campaign

As a digital PR agency, we understand the value of taking the best bits from the traditional PR world, and further amplifying them through new and different channels. A perfect example of the best of both worlds is throwing a radio PR campaign day into the mix when launching a new product or service.

Let’s start with the basics: what is a radio pr campaign? It’s usually a single broadcast day in which you push to maximise a PR campaign’s reach via radio (and sometimes TV as well). It usually involves a spokesperson, working from a studio for the day to get the company’s message out on as many relevant radio and TV programmes as possible.

When planning and launching any campaign, there are loads of moving parts, and this is especially true if you decide to bring broadcast into the mix. Having run a bunch of successful radio PR campaigns, we’ve put together some tips to help you get the most out of yours.

Choose your story

The window for coverage in radio PR campaigns is narrow. That means that once you’ve reserved the studio, and the spokesperson’s time, it’s critical that you secure as many slots on radio and TV programmes as possible. To do that, you need to choose a story that will grab producers’ attention.

Producers and program organisers, on both TV and radio, are fundamentally numbers driven. Their main concern is finding content that will be of maximum interest to their audience, will get people talking, and keep people tuned in. If your story is something the media has covered a lot recently, then consider coming at it with a fresh take.

When you’re choosing your angle, make sure to get opinions from different stakeholders – your PR agency, your broadcast partner, and people from across your company – as that experience will help steer the story in a newsworthy direction. Don’t be afraid of considering multiple angles: it’s better to change your mind to go down another path than to go for a weaker story and limit the campaign’s impact. Do your research and find an angle that appeals to the outlets you’re targeting.

Co-ordinating with print and online PR

Another crucial element is co-ordinating your broadcast efforts with your work on other PR channels. This can make a huge difference in how far the message spreads and how professional the organisation appears. Pitch the online and print media the day before you broadcast so that the story appears to viewers, listeners and readers simultaneously. Critically, be clear about where people can go for more information, usually a simple hashtag or URL, and make it catchy and easy to remember.

It’s also important to make sure the messaging of your brand, the story of the brand and the reason this campaign exists in the first place doesn’t get lost. Making sure the connection is there and that it’s easy for it to come through in interviews is a tricky – but important element of the story generation and moulding process.

Timing and matching the media agenda

We recommend doing everything possible to avoid planning your radio PR campaign on the same day as another major event. The larger event will inevitably consume all of the media’s attention, leaving your efforts far less effective than they may otherwise have been. If, for instance, you expect the chancellor to announce the new budget on your planned broadcast day, you can be sure that the media agenda will be focused on the contents of the red briefcase and not your campaign.

Wherever possible, move your launch to a clearer day. Media planners such as Janet Murray’s media dates diary and a bit of research go a long way here. Some patient observation will quickly reveal which days are emptier for the media and therefore better for you to target. Keep in mind that typical sell-in to the broadcast media starts at least a week in advance. This varies depending on whether the programme focuses on news or features, with the latter often having more rigid planners.

Of course, the nature of the news business means that there will always be a risk that you launch your campaign and are still overshadowed by an outbreak of a deadly virus, or the US President tweeting “covfefe,” but hey, sometimes you just have to roll with the punches.

Preparing your spokesperson

Your spokesperson plays a huge role in getting the message across and generating media interest, so it’s not something to do by halves. It’s important to choose the lead headline or story before you settle on a spokesperson. This may sound counterintuitive, but it’s really important. The spokesperson needs to be able to speak confidently on the topic and, ideally, has a history and reputation in the industry.

It’s perfectly valid to choose someone from within your company, but media training is non-negotiable. It’s also preferable that the spokesperson has engaged with the media before, as this reduces the risk of nervousness. Try not to let company politics play too big a role in choosing the spokesperson: if the CEO is the ideal person from a subject matter and charisma perspective, that’s great. If not, investigate your other options, as it’s always better to have someone who is confident speaking about the topic than someone senior stumbling or making simple mistakes.

Once you’ve chosen your spokesperson, the next step is to prepare them for your radio PR campaign. Brief them on every detail of the announcement, throw them questions designed to put them off balance, and do your homework about the various personalities that they’ll be speaking with throughout the day.

Another factor which can be overlooked is your spokesperson’s accent. From a clarity standpoint, you need to choose someone who is widely understandable across regions. This means choosing someone without a thick accent who enunciates clearly and speaks in a measured tone.

Availability and regionality

One challenge to contend with on the day is scheduling. The unfortunate reality with a radio PR campaign day is that many opportunities will only come through on the day itself – if you’re lucky, they’ll come through the day before.

To be safe, it’s best for your team and the relevant spokespeople to block out most of the day and be agile enough to adapt to a changing schedule. Typically, most media opportunities will come in between 8 AM and 2 PM. Occasionally, some requests for interview also come in in the following days, so make sure your spokesperson isn’t jetting off for a celebratory holiday just yet. Fundamentally, you need to fit producer’s needs and the schedules of their shows, and it’s better to be ready and flexible than potentially miss out on some great hits.

One mistake that many companies make is discounting opportunities simply because they’re not national-level programmes. This is a terrible missed opportunity. There are hundreds of local radio stations in the UK, including the regional BBC channels, and they have a significant listenership. Any opportunity to get your story out there is a chance for your story to land, so don’t turn down local media unless you absolutely have to.

During the research phase, try to find some regional demographic breakdowns of the data, as these are perfect for tailoring your story to different regions and appealing to local stations.

Finding your studio

If you want your radio PR campaign to be a success, you need to have your spokesperson in a dedicated broadcast studio for the day. This should come with a producer or technical specialist who can ensure that tech doesn’t let you down. Radio producers will only be interested in your story if they believe it is interesting, your spokesperson has credibility and the audio will be crystal clear – you cannot get away with radio interviews over a mobile phone.

Want to make sure your broadcast day is a success? Contact our PR strategy experts today.

Written by: Tom Pallot, Digital PR and SEO Strategist at TopLine Comms


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B2B PR case study: launching a medtech start-up

Dictate IT is a one-stop source of medical transcription, digital dictation and speech recognition services for NHS Trusts, GP practices and private medical groups. It needed to launch its clinician developed services to the medical sector.

The Objectives

  • To launch Dictate IT to the healthcare industry and IT media.
  • To position Dictate IT as the leading supplier of dictation and transcription services to the medical sector.
  • To educate IT managers and decision makers in NHS Trusts on how Dictate IT’s solutions can revolutionise Trusts’ information management systems.
  • To highlight Dictate’s unique features, such as the ability to integrate with hospital intranets and sub-systems, including electronic patient records and GP’s notes.

Our Strategy

We started with an editorial brainstorm in which TopLine developed a clear picture of the software, company structure and relevant media angles.

The team then developed a strategy to raise the company’s profile after it won a framework agreement to supply digital dictation, speech recognition and outsourced transcription services to 200 NHS Trusts – Dictate IT was the only supplier under the agreement awarded the right to offer all three services.

One of the key challenges was to demonstrate the work Dictate IT already does with existing NHS clients to prospects and the industry, and TopLine embarked on a programme of case studies, journalist introductions, research and news announcements highlighting the value in efficiencies, cost savings and ultimately improved frontline care.

A piece of commissioned research asking voters their opinions on using IT in the NHS for increased efficiencies was timed to coincide with the general election to create a hard-hitting news story.

The results

We achieved over 93 pieces of coverage over the fourteen-month contract

Regular hits in key publications that target NHS IT and procurement managers. These included eHealth Insider (7 pieces), Hospital Equipment Supply (13 pieces), Health Investor (5 pieces), SmartHealthcare (3 pieces), Health Business (2 pieces), Talking Outsourcing, Outsourcing Professionals, British Journal of Healthcare Computing (5 pieces) and Hospital Bulletin (2 pieces).

“TopLine has truly put us on the map ahead of our competitors and helped us demonstrate our unique offering to NHS Trusts around the country. As our first B2B PR campaign it was important that the agency understood our product and what we wanted to achieve from media contact. In this case, it was a mixture of clarifying myths surrounding the use of IT in the NHS – and actively introducing the company to the media. But we also wanted the industry to know that we are the biggest supplier to the NHS, and TopLine has managed to achieve this.” Mark Miller, MD, Dictate IT

Looking to grow through PR and marketing? Check out our technology PR services.

How much does PR cost?


Whatever your reasons for wondering “how much does PR cost?”, you’re probably not going to find an easy answer. And that’s only partly because many people who write posts on the subject deliberately avoid straight answers! But while there isn’t one easy answer, there are definitely answers. And in this post, I will cover what goes into costing up a PR campaign, how PR agencies charge, and offer some guidelines for what you can get for different budgets.

Things to think about when it comes to PR budgets

When trying to work out how much PR costs, there are a number of things you need to think about:

Retainer or project?

Are you looking for ongoing PR services to continually build your brand, generate leads, protect your reputation and grow your business? If yes, you should hire an agency on retainer (usually a fixed monthly fee) to deliver against your PR objectives.

However, if you have a specific product, service, event or campaign you want to focus on, then a project might be more appropriate. Note that you’ll likely pay more for a one-off project than a few months’ worth of retainer activity. That’s because the agency will have to invest the same amount of time in learning about your business and they have to recoup the cost of that investment over a shorter time period.

What are your objectives?

Why are you investing in PR in the first place? And can PR realistically deliver what you are expecting? Are you looking for leads? Brand profile? Investment? Job applications? All of these can be delivered by PR, but PR is not always the best way to reach these objectives.

If on the other hand you are looking to build or manage your business’ reputation, to create brand awareness and to make your company synonymous with a particular issue or cause, PR is a great route to take.

Who is your target audience?

Are you targeting one specific audience (e.g. small businesses) or many (e.g. tech businesses, educators and property investors?). The more audiences you target, the more PR resources you will need.

What’s the scope of your PR brief?

Are you just looking for media relations? Or is it broader to cover digital PR, SEO, content, crisis communications and media training? Whatever it is, make sure you brief your agency the right way.

Where is your target audience?

Are you focusing on one geographical area or is your requirement global? Each country has its own body of media, and may require local PR people on the ground to deliver your PR strategy. So the more markets you operate in, the more you will need to spend on PR.

How do PR agencies charge?

There are typically three ways an agency might charge for their services: time, deliverables and outcomes.

Most agencies charge based on time. That means you pay for the hours or days that the team spends working on your account. This is usually estimated and agreed in advance with you, the client. How much time is required will depend on what you are trying to achieve, and how quickly.

Some agencies charge based on deliverables. That means they have set costs for producing and pitching in a media release, drafting an opinion article or selling in a story.

And a few agencies charge based on outcomes. For example, you pay a small retainer and then you pay them a percentage of the business that they generate. This is lovely in principle, but it’s quite hard to implement in practice. That’s because there are many factors that will affect outcomes that are not within your PR agency’s control (such as how well your CEO handles media interviews). Also, remember that with more risk comes the possibility of higher rewards: so when outcomes are really good, your PR agency suddenly becomes very expensive!

What you can get for different PR budgets

I’m guessing this is the part of the post that you were most interested in: what do you need to budget for PR? Below I have outlined some budget ranges and what they will buy you in terms of PR services.

Less than £1,000 per month

You won’t get much in the way of quality PR results for less than £1,000 per month. Instead, I recommend you take our best-selling PR course, and try to do it yourself.

£1,000 – £3,000 per month

It’s unlikely you will find an agency willing to work at this level, with a few exceptions. If your brief is very straightforward and easy then you might find an agency willing to work at this level. But beware – it will take a lot longer to see results. It might be worth looking for a freelancer to support you in this instance. We like the PR Cavalry.

£3,000 – £5,000 a month

Now you’re starting to get into a budget zone where you should be able to find a solid agency that will deliver good to great media relations results in a single market. They might also include some content work, but you will still need to pay extra for campaigns and additional services such as crisis comms.

£5,000 – £10,000 a month

If you’re focusing on a single geographical market, this is a very effective budget range. You’re going to find a great agency and they will deliver great results, that will cover both digital PR and SEO. You’ll also be able to invest in some interesting campaigns that will give your results even more of a boost.

£10,000 – £20,000 a month

At this level you should be getting a more comprehensive service that includes full content and social media support, press office management, media relations, crisis communications, onsite and offsite search marketing and really effective and creative quarterly campaigns. You might also be able to cover two or three geographical markets at this level.

£20,000 – £50,000 a month

You’re now looking at high levels of PR service, across multiple markets or multiple target audiences. This budget level is ideal for international campaigns supporting multiple business objectives.

£50,000+ a month

This would be the starting point for a complex business with significant international PR and issues management requirements.

Project fees

If you are not ready to commit to a retainer, then you might be interested in a PR project instead. From an agency’s perspective, projects can be a great way to build good relationships with clients and to show off what the agency is capable of.

However, projects are notoriously unprofitable because the client usually expects the same level of understanding of their business and their market that they might expect from a retained agency – yet the agency has fewer hours in which to build this in-depth knowledge. Some agencies will see a project as an investment in winning the retainer. Others will be happy to lose money on a project in exchange for a great PR case study. And others will simply decline the work.

This is very much down to the agency, although you’re more likely to get an agency interest in your project if it excites them – do you have famous investors? Is your product so obviously disruptive that it’s going to be an easy sell to the media? Does your comms team (and your management team) have a huge appetite for risk? Is your company a force for good? Is there an ethical alignment? These will all be factors that might tempt an agency to take on a project.

If you need help figuring out how to get the most out of your PR budget, then feel free to contact us.

Written by: Heather Baker, CEO 

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How to brief a PR agency to get amazing results

You’ve landed on this page because you are ready to invest in PR. Great news! Your brand is about to get a major boost. Your website is about to see its rankings climb on Google search. Organic traffic and leads will surge. People across the industry will be clamouring for jobs at your company. And your CEO will become famous…


…you’re about to throw good money at an incredibly frustrating relationship in return for a few scraps of coverage and an expensive but awkward Christmas lunch.

Which scenario you get is really down to you. Because getting amazing results means appointing an excellent B2C or B2B PR agency, and building an incredibly effective client-agency relationship. And it all starts with the PR brief. I’ll help you get it right by explaining how to brief a PR agency the right way.

Educate yourself on PR basics

If you are totally new to PR, then it’s worth educating yourself on what PR is and what it isn’t. This will ensure you set realistic goals, have meaningful conversations with agencies, produce a solid PR brief and get the best result.

You can read books on PR. You can search the web. You can listen to PR podcasts. Or you can sign up for the Ultimate PR Masterclass, Udemy’s best-selling PR course (by yours truly).

Gather your team

Before you start writing your PR brief, or speaking to agencies, it’s important that you gather your core team together and hash out your PR requirements. Why are you doing this? What do you hope to achieve? Has anyone worked with a good agency in the past?

This is an essential step in the process, because you need to ensure that when an agency receives the brief (and spends hours responding to it) that the brief is a true reflection of the requirements.

Whoever in your company is going to be part of the team that selects the agency will need to sign off on the brief. This is important – don’t make agencies pitch for a brief that isn’t agreed – you’ll waste a lot of their time and create really awkward moments when they present their proposal to your CEO and she asks them “why are you targeting small businesses when our priority for the year is teachers?”

What should a PR brief include?

These are the sections that are essential to any good PR brief:

  • Company info: provide the basics here. I usually think one line of background with a link to your website is enough. If your website doesn’t provide a good overview of your company, you need more than a PR agency.
  • Objectives: what are you trying to achieve with PR? Are you looking for brand recognition? Leads? A new brand profile? Organic web traffic? You might want to look at our post on 30 PR objectives and how to measure them. If you have educated yourself on PR, then you should be able to set realistic objectives.
  • Target audiences: who are you targeting? This is really important, because some agencies are specialists in certain industries (like tech PR), while others are very familiar with certain audiences (like small businesses). If your audience profile is included, then agencies will be able to establish quite easily whether they are the right fit.
  • Competitors: without going into too much detail, it’s worth listing your core competitors. That will give the agencies context on how you fit into your market.
  • Spokespeople: this one isn’t essential, but it is going to be helpful for any PR agency responding to a brief to know who they will be promoting. Is it just your CEO or are there subject matter experts within the business who will be your spokespeople?
  • Core issues and stories: it’s good to highlight what stories you want to focus on. Your agency will hopefully not be limited to these stories, but they need to know what issues are a priority for you and why. This post on how to determine if your story deserves media coverage should help.
  • Other marketing activity: It’s really important that your PR agency understands the basics of your marketing strategy. Do you already have an SEO agency (that you expect your PR agency to work alongside)? Are you investing in paid search? What events are coming up? Which events agency is running them? Who makes your lead gen videos and animations?
  • Budget: Now you might be one of those clients who really really resists sharing their budget with potential agencies. But please don’t be one of those clients. You’re going to have to reveal your budget at some point, and it’s a very useful way for an agency to determine if they can work with you.
  • Process: explain your process and timeline for choosing an agency.
  • People: let the agency know who will be involved in the decision so that they can tailor their pitch accordingly

If you are totally out of your depth, contact a few agencies, discuss your requirements and ask the one you like the most to help you develop the brief. They probably will.

Then create your long list

Now’s the time to start scouring the web, scrambling through PR Week’s rankings, mining your network and stalking PR people on social media. You want to create a solid long list of potential agencies.

And turn it into a shorter list

Please don’t send your brief out to 15 agencies. They will all request a call, and you will end up giving up a whole day of your own time having 30-minute conversations with agencies that will never be right for you. And you’ll waste the time of 14 agencies who never really had a chance anyway.

Instead, dedicate a couple of hours to researching the agencies on your long list. Check out their websites, peruse their case studies, follow them on social media and read their blogs. You’ll soon get a feel for which agencies might be the right fit, and you’ll have narrowed down your long list to around 5.

Bin the NDA idea

You really don’t need anyone to sign an NDA (in case someone in your team suggested it). Your story will not be leaked to the media. Because the media needs a lot of convincing to run your story – journalists are not sitting there at their computers waiting for news to leak! They are swamped with irrelevant news pitches all the time and they don’t have time to investigate your new product!

Get in touch with your top few

Reach out to your top few (we suggest five maximum). Don’t send them the brief. Instead, ask for a call. On the call, discuss your brief and see how they respond. You will be able to judge quite quickly from the call whether you have good chemistry with the agency, whether they can handle your brief and whether you want to work with them.

End the call with the agencies you like by agreeing to send them the brief.

End the call with the agencies you don’t think you can work with by politely telling them it doesn’t really sound like the right fit – please be honest with them. Don’t string them along!

Send the brief to your favourites

Now you might be wondering why we don’t recommend sending the brief to your long list, or even your shortlist of five. The answer is simply that any good agency that wants the work will throw all the resources it can afford at the pitch. This could run into tens of thousands of pounds in agency hours. It’ll only be worth their while to do this if they know they are in with a chance (e.g. if they are up against one other agency rather than nine!). The good agencies will simply bow out of the process if they think the chance of success if too low.

Be respectful throughout the process

Clients often abuse the pitch process and it can be very disheartening for the people working in agencies. People is the operative word here. You are dealing with people and you need to treat them with the respect that all people deserve. So,

  • Don’t ask for ridiculous things. We once had a potential client ask us to guarantee that his account manager wouldn’t leave, because they had had staff changes at previous agency. Short of violence and bribery (two things we just don’t do), I have no idea how he thought we were going to deliver on that!
  • Be responsive. If an agency asks a question during the process, answer it as it will guide how they produce the proposal.
  • Be honest. If the CEO pulls the budget halfway through the process, tell the agencies immediately that the pitch is off. Don’t let them spend another second on the pitch. This happens and they will be okay with it. If your CEO’s other half runs an agency that is pitching, tell the other agencies – they have a right to know that this isn’t a fair pitch.
  • Don’t keep secrets. If an agency asks who they are pitching against, tell them. If they want to see your target personas, share them. If they want to know how much you are spending on paid search, let them.

Review proposals / pitches fairly

Once the proposals / pitches come in, give them each a fair reading. Evaluate them against set criteria and make a decision that you can justify if anyone asks.

Give feedback

At the very least, tell the agencies that weren’t selected that they weren’t selected. You would be disgusted amazed by how many clients are so scared of having that difficult conversation that they just go off the radar. It’s awful. Please don’t be awful.

Written by: Heather Baker, CEO and website user numbers

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An intro to engineering PR

What is engineering PR?

An engineering company needs PR and marketing assistance much like any other business. Whether to attract scientists, engineers or mathematicians to apply for jobs at your firm, generate leads from prospective customers or attract investment, engineering PR is about building the profile and protecting the reputation of your business.

As an engineering firm, your needs will be very sector specific and require a certain approach to achieve results. Most engineering firms are, as the name suggests, made up of predominantly engineers – who might not be that familiar with PR and all it entails. At Topline, we’re an experienced engineering PR agency that understands the unique challenges engineering companies face – and gets a kick out of the work they do. And so, we decided to put together this blog to help you get the most value, and best results, from your PR efforts.

Outline your objectives and budget

Before you start drafting content or dreaming up headlines, you need to decide what it is you want your PR campaign to achieve. This could be one of numerous things: increasing sales leads, attracting visitors to your website, generating job applications or enhancing your reputation.

With objective stated clearly upfront, you can use your current performance as a benchmark, and set measurable milestones along the way (e.g. inbound leads generated by month; organic web traffic or online searches for your company name) to track what‘s working and what isn’t. This way, if you need to make any changes to the campaign to boost results, you can do so immediately.

Never start any PR activities without a set budget in place. Your budget will guide your entire PR strategy, help you choose your tactics and provide a realistic goal.

Know your audience

A good PR strategy is relevant and understands its audience. It knows who they are, what they read and listen to, what keeps them awake at night, what their competition is doing, and how to react to industry trends such as new technology and legislation. Your audience will guide the content you create, how you package it and where you share it.

Typically, engineering audiences want to know about innovations that can help them save time and money or help them reduce waste. They also want real-life examples that include details of the savings that have been made elsewhere which is why case studies make for valuable content.

Build your target media list

Once you know your audience, you will be able to get started on building out your target media list. This might include print and online publications like The Engineer and Science Daily. But it should also consider engineering podcasts and social media like reddit.

Produce your content

Once you know who you want to engage with, it’s time to plan how to engage them. When choosing your communication channels, the PESO model – which stands for Purchased (such as advertising or advertorial) Earned (traditional media outlets) Shared (social media) and Owned (your own email, website and blogs) – is not a bad guide.

Brainstorm newsworthy campaign ideas and develop them into stories for each of your target media. It’s worth making the most of content by re-working each piece for a variety of different channels. But be careful, don’t copy and paste identical text, especially if you’re placing stories in the media. Editors don’t like to publish duplicate content as it hurts their search engine performance. It will also risk their reputation with their readers, who expect high-quality publications to carry only unique content.

Follow the rules of engagement

When placing content in the media, remember that editors and journalists are all busy people. Whether they work at a broadcaster, a national title, a specialist trade or technical publication, their time is stretched thin. Typically, journalists receive hundreds of emails every day on a multitude of topics, so it’s not easy to get their attention.

To stand out from the crowd and build relationships, you will need to follow some rules of engagement. Make sure your story is newsworthy (if in doubt, check with a neutral third party). Get to the point quickly, avoid technical and sales-y jargon, and include high-quality images in high-resolution (preferably including real people in a real situation).

Make sure you do your homework and only pitch stories to relevant editors. If you do get a bite, answer any follow-up questions quickly. Keep to the word count, follow editorial guidelines to the letter and respect their deadlines. If the editor asks for your feedback on the draft, review it for factual accuracy but don’t go changing sentences.

Monitor and measure your campaign

Measuring PR activity can be tricky – particularly for engineering companies. The sales function is often long and complex, with multiple touch points and decision-makers.

For example, in the lead up to a bid, an Engineering Procurement Construction (EPC) contractor will have links with contacts in commercial, technical and managerial teams – some being one-to-one relationships and others based on reputation. At the other end of the spectrum, a manufacturer of engineered components will often have connections with a chain of distributors and wholesalers and few direct links with buyers.

PR can support both businesses, but it’s hard to measure sales in isolation from other activities. Therefore, it’s worth apportioning a percentage of sales success to PR on the basis that it is a team effort.

PR can also be measured by, for example, the number of published stories in specific media, both online and print. However, these don’t measure the real impact on the business’ bottom line, so they can’t be the only PR measurement. We also like to look at leads generated, links built to your website, inbound enquiries from journalists, changes in organic traffic and increases in branded searches (i.e. searches for your company name) as good indicators as to the effectiveness of engineering PR. Sometimes we also benchmark with annual surveys about the company’s brand recognition and reputation.

If you follow these rules, you’ll build trust and editors will come back to you when they are looking for news and comment on other topics.

When done right, engineering PR can really deliver excellent business results. If you have any questions or would like any help, get in touch with our directors. 

THIS is how you reach small businesses (backed by new data)

Wondering how best to get your product in front of SMEs? Well, we surveyed 150 small business decision makers and they told us exactly what you need to do:

Invest in PR

Traditional media still reigns supreme, with 66% of small business decision makers keeping abreast of current affairs via TV news. National newspapers (52%), radio (48%) and local newspapers (47%) all featured heavily as well. While 23% cited business media as important sources of news. Interestingly, 38% told us that they tend to use national newspapers to find out about new products and services. And online media was the top source of business advice, cited by 66% of respondents.

Conclusion: if you want to get in front of this audience, then develop a small business-focussed PR strategy designed specifically for these media. Just like Xero did. Combine newsworthy campaigns with business advice, product reviews and thought leadership.

Don’t overlook search marketing

When investigating new products or services, a whopping 50% of small business decision makers turn to Google. That’s millions of potential customers searching for your products and services every day. This is only second to Facebook (used by 52%).

Conclusion: if you want to capture this incredible traffic, you need to get started on your B2B SEO strategy. And the best time to start that strategy was a year ago. The second best time is now. See how Nucleus Commercial Finance managed this. And note that if you want to make progress with B2B SEO, you need to invest resource into online PR as well, because this will form the link building component of your SEO strategy.

De-prioritise cold calling

Only 13% of small businesses find out about new products and services via direct calls from suppliers. Okay, 13% is still over 750,000 small businesses. BUT why invest in cold calling when small businesses have told us that they prefer online searches (50%), Facebook (52%) and YouTube (49%)?

Ignore social at your peril

We asked small business decision makers about their social media use and it is prolific! In fact, 78% use Facebook daily. That’s every day. A huge 71% use YouTube daily, followed by Instagram (59%) and Twitter (48%). And they’re not just looking at memes and gaming videos.

Social networks used daily by SME decision makers

On Facebook, they are keeping up to date with news (52%) and discovering new products (53%).

On YouTube, they are looking for new products and services (49%) and searching for business advice (56%).

Conclusion: to reach small businesses, you need to be supplementing your digital PR and search marketing strategies with social campaigns, like WorldPay did in this award-winning case study. And any good social media strategy will require some excellent video marketing skills – fortunately we know the perfect video production company. 

And if you need help reaching small businesses, you might want to contact our CEO, Heather. Having run her own small businesses for over a decade, been a founding member of the PRCA’s SME group, and UK president of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, she knows this space. You can contact her here. 

Digital PR case study: profile and leads for a financial betting company

The founders of, a fixed-odds financial betting website, had ambitious growth objectives. To achieve these they needed to make the brand famous and attract leads.


  • Build a solid media presence
  • Drive traffic to the site
  • Educate the public about fixed odds financial betting
  • Be positioned as the leading financial bookmaker
  • Generate new account registrations

Our strategy

We took a PR-led digital strategy aimed at saturating the financial press with BetsForTraders content, including:

  • Articles positioning BetsForTraders as the best way to make money on the stock markets, even during a recession
  • Daily and weekly stock market reports by the company’s market analyst, delivered at key story-production times to the financial press
  • Case studies in key media showcasing the site’s winners
  • Regular calls, interviews and market updates with the business media
  • A continued presence in the gaming press
  • Site vouchers as competition prizes in leading magazines, blogs and papers

The results

In only five months, this strategy delivered:

  • 328 pieces of coverage, with an audience reach in excess of 125 million
  • 58 pieces of national coverage, including The Times, The Independent , The Sun, The Guardian, Financial Times, Reuters, Forbes, Bloomberg, CNBC, and
  • An independently-verified 22% increase in recognition of the name BetsForTraders
  • Spikes in visitors to the site after key media announcements

The hype around the BetsForTraders brand created a surge in new player registrations and the site continued to grow. The founders exited via trade sale to a FTSE250 company. 

“I have been thoroughly impressed by the quality of service and value for money we have received from TopLine Comms. They keep abreast of current events, and are proactive about finding opportunities where we can comment. Thanks to TopLine, we have built up a name for ourselves with potential clients and are well known within the industry for having outstanding PR.”

Managing Director, 


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