All you need to know when doing DIY Public Relations

For a small business or start-up, promoting any commercial news or success is likely to be a crucial part of marketing your services. But PR can be costly and a real luxury for most burgeoning companies.

PR companies can add huge value when done correctly, particularly if the right strategy and press releases are managed effectively. But, unless you spend thousands per year on a retainer, you are unlikely to receive much more than a few press releases (on most occasions) for your valuable money.

However, there are some DIY options to do PR in house. The good news is that there is nobody more qualified to talk about the business than the owners and directors themselves. Of course, developing a successful PR strategy will take time and resources, but costs can certainly be saved – and the increased customer awareness and increased sales you get in return should be worth it.

All good PR writers are good PR readers

The expression is definitely true in PR: to be a good writer, you need to be a good reader. Set aside at least 15 minutes a day to read the news. Learn about media outlets, key reporters, your competitors and how they're talking about themselves. This will help you understand the major media influencers in your industry and start building the connections you need to reach those people.

Respect the journalists

Engage with key journalists well in advance. If you’ve never spoken to a reporter before and suddenly you email them out of the blue asking for coverage, chances are that they won’t be engaged to publish it. Try and get to know any journalists you think will be able to help your PR strategy and send them some praise if there’s an opportunity. Even things such as Twitter retweets or giving them compliments will help your cause.

Journalists will always want to be the recipient of a good story, but unless yours stands out from the crowd, there may be little other reason for your release to be published.

Avoid clichés and jargon

It’s wise to avoid clichés and marketing talk. Phrases like "game changing," "cutting edge," and "disruption" will encourage reporters to switch off immediately. If a journalist is not interested, then your story won’t be published, and nobody will ever read it.

Write about your company the way that you think it will be covered. If you want your story to appear in your local newspaper, try and emulate the kinds of language being used in that publication.

Write a compelling headline

Think of a headline as your pitch. Try and create a compelling subject line to grab your reporter’s attention and in turn the consumer’s. The headline should be punchy and be short enough to read from a smartphone. However, it should still be informative and inviting to encourage further reading. Including words such as ‘new’ or ‘growth’ or ‘success’ could (although not always) help you pass the journalist’s vetting process.

Reverse engineer a successful press release

A successful press release is not just one that you enjoy reading, but one that resembles those covered widely in your industry.

By studying similar press releases that have achieved good coverage by your preferred media outlets, you should be able to make an effective template for yourself. Break down the winning press release into sections and try and understand why they are successful. By emulating success, you’ll give yourself the best chance of achieving the results you desire – so long as there’s no plagiarism!

Five important skills for IT professionals looking to progress

By its nature, tech is rapidly changing industry. It’s also rapidly growing – with the UK’s digital economy up 30% in five years. It’s therefore unsurprising that the skills required by IT professionals are changing just as quickly.

So, if you’re looking to develop your career in tech, it’s important to keep up to date with the latest trends and ensure your CV stands out from the crowd.

"For tech candidates looking to stand out in a sea of CVs, they should be aware of the latest technology trends," said Harry Silvester, Technology Consultant at ESA Group. "Based on hundreds of discussions I’ve had with local hiring managers, the most attractive IT professionals are those who have some experience with emerging technologies, security and mobile.”

Here are some key skills for IT professionals who are looking to bolster their CVs:

1. Mobile technology and cloud computing

Since the introduction of the smartphone, mobile tech has become integral to the way that people and businesses work in the UK. As a result, the mobile industry is now around $50 billion in size - just in creating and deploying mobile apps. Naturally, skilled developers who have experience of both mobile and desktop apps will be more in demand than those who aren’t.

2. Cybersecurity

The lines are becoming blurred between IT specialists and cybersecurity specialists as all hardware and programming now requires some sort of security. With data encryption / protection becoming ever more important in the digital age as hackers become increasingly sophisticated, it’s crucial that security is built into programs and networks at the start of the build, rather than as an afterthought.

3. Willingness to go freelance

A great deal of tech work is built around projects and with the talent shortage in the industry, companies are looking to fill their investments in an agile and flexible manner to boost efficiency. IT professionals who are looking to make their mark, might consider making the transition from becoming an employee to freelancer / contract to make the most of this opportunity.

4. Open to emerging tech

Even just a few years ago, niches such as virtual and augmented reality weren’t making many headlines in the tech world. Now, total revenue in these ‘niches’ are predicted to reach $162 billion in 2020.

By becoming familiar with these and other emerging technologies such as A.I., workers can make themselves much more attractive to companies.

5. Higher-level analysis and decision-making skills

With the rise of big data and analytics, companies can start to save money by automating certain low-level IT functions in areas such as network monitoring. Unfortunately, this can pose a threat to IT jobs.

To avoid any future automation pitfalls, tech professionals should focus on developing skills in decision making, higher level analysis or more creative platforms.

Is working from home the perfect job perk?

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The ability to work from home, whether it’s only a few days per month or more regularly, is becoming an increasingly common employee benefit – although it’s still quite a rarity in the UK.

A recent survey has suggested that only 36.5% of UK workers currently do any work from home, despite 90% saying that they could do so if they had the right tools. Plus, 83% of those asked said that flexibility was important to them.

In theory, many of us would jump at the chance to skip the commute and work in our PJs. But is it really as good as it’s cracked up to be?

Here are some things to ask yourself, if you are given the chance to work remotely:

  • How self-disciplined and self-motivated am I?
  • Am I happy spending long periods of time on my own?
  • Am I confident in working without supervision?
  • Is there a quiet place to work at home, which is free from distractions?
  • Am I more likely to have a better work life balance?
  • Will the communication with my colleagues be good enough if it’s only via email / video instead of face-to-face?
  • Will I be productive for the same amount of time I would be in the office?

If you are answering yes to most of these, then you are probably already set up to work away from the office.

However, if you are in doubt, then you might need to reconsider whether you really do want some working flexibility.

If you’re still unsure whether home-working is the right thing for you, there are still some options to find out more:

  • Ask your colleagues. Do any of your co-workers already spend time away from the office? It may be a good idea to ask them what it’s like, to get a better understanding of the pros and cons.
  • Use your networks. Search online for other people’s stories or use sites such as LinkedIn to ask your connections for tips.

If you have decided you're well-suited for remote work and there’s likely to be an opportunity to do so at your company, how do ask your boss the big question?

The best time to do so, is likely to be after you've thought your options through fully. Be prepared to ‘sell’ in the idea and explain how your flexible working will benefit you, your boss, and your company.

If your employer isn't on board with full-time remote work, then perhaps you could bargain for a combination of working in the office and at home throughout the week. That way you may be able to achieve the best of both worlds and boost your overall productivity in the long term.

6 smart tips for when quitting your job

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Most people will quit their job at some point in their careers – and often more than once. It can be both scary and exciting, but making big career choices can be difficult.

Quitting can be tied to unhappiness or lack of progression, which in turn can be associated with anger. BUT – don’t make a rash decision that you may ultimately regret.

It’s important to move for the right reasons and to move smartly. Here’s our top 6 tips when considering a career move:

Be prepared

It’s likely you won’t want to quit if you’re not 100% sure that your new position is going to start when you think it will. Be prepared to make a back-up plan, just in case the deal with your new employer doesn’t materialise. It’s very rare for this to happen, but we have seen people give their notice in before contracts are signed – and then find out that the unthinkable happens.

Job deals can ultimately be canned at the last minute. Sometime this is due to lack of funds or a downturn in business, however they can be withdrawn if you aren’t legally allowed to do the job you’ve accepted (e.g. through non-solicitation clauses, or even credit checks). Be sure to have your new job offer in writing, ideally including contracts. This way you will have more safety if your offer is rescinded.

Have some savings

If you're living paycheck-to-paycheck, it may hard to outright quit your job and financially survive until you secure your next position.

We’d suggest having at least 2 months of expenses in your accounts before you quit altogether (if not more). This will give you a good buffer to survive on whilst you are waiting for your new salary slip.

Give plenty of notice

Whilst four weeks / one month’s notice is standard and expected in most professions, the more time a departing employee can give, the better. This will help your company enable a smooth transition and will reflect well on your character.

Which brings us to:

Tell your line manager first and never burn a bridge

It’s a good idea to mention to your immediate boss that you are thinking of leaving, before formally informing your company in writing.

This will give them more time to prepare for your replacement and again will help with any future relationship you might have with your former company or line manager. It’s easy to think that you may never have anything to do with your incumbent boss ever again – but it’s surprising how often you might cross paths again in time.

Be direct, but diplomatic

When you quit a job, it's usually because there's a better opportunity for you out there. But if you are leaving because you’re unhappy, this can be more difficult to explain to your outgoing line manager.

Be direct and honest about your unhappiness, but stay away from criticism. This change is ultimately about you, so it’s important to remain positive.

Don’t slack off

It might feel fruitless, but the sensible advice is to keep working hard and avoid coasting for your remaining days in the office.

Step up your game if you can and leave no doubt that you are an exceptional employee. Don’t leave any baggage and finish on the up. This should leave you with a fresh outlook when you start your brand new dream job.

Top 5 recruiting tips for SMEs

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It’s likely that virtually all hiring managers have had a similar problem at some point in their careers: attracting the perfect candidate for a new job vacancy that they are desperate to fill. This challenge can be exacerbated for those at smaller companies, who may find that they are losing out to bigger brand names when looking for the best talent.

For the majority of people looking for a new job, it’s expected that they’ll want to work for a business they’ve heard of. This is because, ultimately, people need job security. And bigger companies are perceived to be more secure than smaller ones.

However, there are lots of people out there who would prefer to work for a smaller business, and not just because of it might be less ‘corporate.’

Here’s our five top tips for attracting (and retaining) the people you need in your business:

1. Find out what the going rate is for the position and match it.

It might sound like a simple tip, but a common mistake that small businesses often make when creating a position, is to base the salary on their budget, rather than on the market. If you want the best people, they are almost guaranteed to chase the best salaries. So, make sure the salary you are offering is going to be enticing to potential applicants.

2. Offer an employee benefit program.

It’s surprising how often candidates will have multiple job offers on the table at the same time – especially if they are experts in a niche industry. In these times, an employee benefit program can move from a candidate’s wish list to their necessity list. Core employee benefits such as medical, dental and life insurance can really make your business attractive to a job hunter, particularly if your competitor isn’t offering the same deal.

3. Be creative with your perks.

Employees are usually just as concerned about the quality of their work life as they are about the amount of money they receive each month.

As a small business, you may not be able to offer the perks that larger companies can – but you may be able to offer decent alternatives. E.g. where a big corporate is offering an on-site gym, could you offer local gym membership?

4. Offer employees progression.

Most employees aren't looking for jobs where they’ll do the same thing for the next thirty years. They're looking for positions that offer opportunities for advancement.

Are you offering staff training programs? Or a clear pathway to progression and higher earnings? Whatever it is, in terms of attracting employees, be sure to get the future possibilities on the table.

5. Widen the scope of your advertising.

The days of placing a small job ad in a newspaper are long gone. You’ll receive a better response to your advert if it’s visible in more places. Recruiters such as ourselves can help do this for you, but if you don’t want to use a recruiter, it’s vital that you make an investment to advertise on large job boards and consider advertising on social platforms such as LinkedIn.

If you’d like to hear more, email Dan Heathcote at dan.heathcote@esa-group.co.uk.

ESA Group have relocated to Edgbaston due to expansion

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ESA Group has completed its office relocation to Edgbaston, adjacent to the Five Ways in the city centre.

ESA Group, formerly Edward Samuel Associates, implemented the relocation after outgrowing its former head office at One Victoria Square, opposite Birmingham’s town hall due to continued new client wins. The company’s turnover increased by 30% year on year in 2016.

To meet its burgeoning need for more space, the business looked for modern, spacious premises that could meet the needs of its expanding number of staff.

The firm has now settled on new offices in Calthorpe Road, Edgbaston.

Director, Dan Heathcote said: “The business has grown every year since 2012 and with the last twelve months being no exception, we simply ran out of room at our previous location to house our ever-increasing team of recruitment specialists.

“We are extremely pleased to have moved into our recently refurbished office, just off Five Ways. The new premises gives us greater opportunity to provide more parking for our staff and visitors, whilst still being in walking distance of the city centre. 

 “Our new office is easily accessible and offers a comfortable welcome for all of our clients and candidates. In addition, we’ve introduced a well-appointed lounge area, which includes a sofa, refrigerator, and fresh fruit every day.”

ESA Group specialises in marketing, human resources, technology and sales roles across the Midlands and plans to add another five staff to its workforce in the next six to twelve months.

Dan Heathcote concluded: “It’s a particularly exciting time to be in Birmingham at the moment, with the number of companies in the city growing faster than any other UK destination. ESA Group are therefore well placed to be able to service new and existing enterprises, who are looking to hire more staff.

“We are now looking forward to being part of the business community in Edgbaston. The additional capacity of the new office will offer us room to grow in to the future, as we look to capitalise on the successes achieved last year.”