Every business, regardless of size, needs a voice.
But smaller businesses find it harder to get out and promote their brands and services. This may be cost-related, or due to a lack of PR experience. Whether using in-house resources or an agency, PR is another expenditure for already-stretched owners.
This is where PR Dispatch comes in – a platform that combines media contacts and DIY learning, giving small businesses everything they need to promote their brand and get great press in a way that’s affordable.
We speak with Rosie Davies-Smith, founder of PR Dispatch, to find out more about growing her business, and her advice for other small business owners.
In 2011, Rosie was interning at an independent knitwear company where she was tasked with carrying out PR duties. But she had no idea what this meant.
“I was given a pile of magazines and told to pitch knitwear to appear in Christmas gift guides,” Rosie says. “A few days later I got responses and thought, this is incredible – this is how businesses gain awareness.”
After working with many more brands, Rosie founded her own agency, LFA, in 2013.
“I started with no experience, and often wondered about small business owners in the same boat. I asked myself, if we could feed all this information and expertise into a platform, would companies be happy to pay for it? We gave it a go and got 30 sign ups in the first month,” she explains.
This became PR Dispatch, which was founded in 2017.
And while LFA lost too many clients to continue during the pandemic, PR Dispatch went from strength to strength. Now, hundreds of small business members use the platform.
Rosie tells us about her passion for working with small businesses:
“Building trust and credibility as a small business is absolutely crucial, and getting featured by the press allows them to do that. It’s amazing to give small businesses the power to make people aware of their products, services, and stories.”
She adds that she loves the nimbleness of small businesses. “It’s amazing how they are able to jump on press opportunities so much quicker than large businesses. Their agility is really refreshing.”
Rosie describes some of the major challenges her members face:
“The recession is a huge challenge, and many small businesses will need to slash their PR budgets. This is why it’s really important that we’re affordable. Marketing teams have the opportunity to learn how to do PR and get access to our database without breaking the bank.”
Rosie adds that, while reading the media can be especially scary for small businesses, it’s also important to focus on the positives.
“For example, I’ve been reading articles about how during economic downturns, more people treat themselves to one-off meaningful purchases. So, this can be an opportunity for affordable luxury brands to come into their own. It’s a really challenging time, but there are opportunities for small businesses,” she says.
A helping hand
As for how Rosie works with Xero, she says, “I love Xero! I’m dyslexic and the thought of accounting absolutely terrified me, but it was recommended by my accountant and I found it so easy to use from day one, even when running two businesses.”
She adds that PR Dispatch is solely a subscription business, with all payments made through Xero’s Stripe integration.
Rosie continues, “We write a lot of award applications, and we’re always asked questions like, what is your turnover for the last three years? This isn’t always easy to quickly and accurately provide, but Xero allows me to do that, and makes award entries so simple.”
And Rosie is emphatic about the value her accountant, Stuart at Accountancy Extra, brings to PR Dispatch:
“I’ve been working with Stuart for ten years and he’s my lifeline. He’s helped me with everything from complying with Making Tax Digital, to advising me on my house move. He goes above and beyond.”
Tips of the trade
Rosie offers her tips for small businesses struggling in the current economic climate:
“First, think twice before paying a PR agency. There are databases available that can help you build your own press contacts, and you’ll save a lot of money. Second, think about the providers you use, and how you can work with them for PR purposes. Will they profile you on their websites?”
She adds that niche publications are also useful in getting your brand out there. “Everyone wants to be in The Guardian, but there are really interesting, sector-specific publications that would love to profile you as a founder.”
Finally, Rosie shares her hopes for the future for PR Dispatch:
“We’re currently supporting 450 brands, but I’d love to grow that to thousands. Really, I want to stay true to what we’re good at. I want to continue to run my own PR workshops, and make sure my team has enough flexibility to do the things they love.”