Jessica Hope, founder and managing director of Wimbart PR joined us over the weekend at #SheHiveLondon. With over a decade of experience at places like iROKOTv, Jessica launched Wimbart Hope earlier this year. No matter the size of your business or brand, PR can help upgrade your business. In this installment of the #SheHiveLondon catch up, we share key takeaways from Jessica’s sessions on how to master the PR game.
On the importance of PR for African businesses
PR can help your business or brand majorly by giving you that all-important exposure. It expands your audience and helps prove that you are legit: it’s one thing to tell someone that you’re great, but when other publications or news outlets do it, it’s another level.
Someone reads about you, they get curious and start to build trust in your product. That’s what brings you one step closer to closing a deal or making a sale.
On starting her own business
After over 10 years of building and honing her PR skills, Jessica Hope stepped out to launch one Wimbart PR. Wimbart found it’s niche: African Tech startups and it is flourishing. She never let any social challenges get in the way – recalling one time she went to an industry event six months pregnant and still managed to close multiple deals.
She recognised that business is about making that personal connection. So by putting your real authentic self out there, all sorts of opportunities jump out at you. Mentoring also helped her to make the move from employee to M.D. Having worked for university friend turned iROKO TV CEO Jason Njoku, he encouraged her to take the plunge.
On developing the right PR strategy
Start to build your own narrative. Your narrative is the story of your brand and how your product is going to help customers. It’s what makes you unique and interesting. It’s not just about the story though, if you can back it up with good data and already have endorsements from other people, your story gets stronger.
When you’ve crafted your story you can pitch it to publications, to in-house journalists and freelancers why can then feature your work to their audience of thousands (and maybe even millions if you’re lucky).
On working well with the press
Creating the right narrative isn’t the only important thing to do, you have to be a careful planner. Everything in publishing works on schedule, so if you’re interested in getting a story in for Christmas, you should be pitching it to publications months in advance.
Ask around, go to industry events to meet journalists and get to know what they want. (That’s right networking is unavoidable, no matter how awkward it might seem at first).
Remember many businesses are trying to do what you’re doing, and sometimes being one of the first to reach out to the press will give you the upper hand. Journalists are on strict schedules and also quite cynical make sure your pitch is high-quality, interesting and timely. Remember while the goal is to build your media presence, it doesn’t always happen overnight.
Be patient and be prepared to get ignored at times, don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. Just stick with it, persistence pays off.
On embracing the quirks of your brand or business
To put it frankly, the fact that you exist is not news. When pitching your brand or business you need to think about what your ‘so what?’ is. News outlets get hundreds of stories a day, what is it about you that is specifically interesting?
Jessica used the example of AfroEmoji. While the app was relatively simple, it was pitched to the international market as ‘Africa’s first Emoji brand’.The app got featured on CNN and the Huffington Post which led to thousands of downloads.
Even though there were a few side-eyes about how the African Emojis all looked suspiciously Nigerian, the controversy helped the buzz and put it on the map. Embrace your quirks and let your personality come out. You can’t please everyone, no matter how hard you try.
On building partnerships with the press
The African business ecosystem is still being figured out by international media, this means that it can be tough to get noticed. You can help journalists out by giving them context and a full backstory around your journey so far.
On the plus side, unlike some African publications, Western publications don’t usually charge for editorial features (nothing better than saving some $$$).
Never forget that relationships with journalists can move from purely business to a more personal connection in the long-term. When you think of this as a journey, not just a one-time goal, developing PR partnerships comes right into your reach.