‘You cannot go into PR without building relationships.’
Louise Third has embraced this principle in the planning and writing of her book PR on a Beermat, first by partnering with the originators of the beermat idea to develop it for PR, by writing collaboratively with partners, and by involving journalists and other media professionals to share their expertise in her book.
In this fascinating conversation we talk about PR, the role of a book as part of a business’s storytelling, visual thinking, self-publishing and more. Energising and inspiring listening.
Louise’s site: https://www.louisethird.com/
Louise on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LouiseThird
Alison on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bookstothesky
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Alison Jones: PR is simple, it just needs to be done well, says public relations consultant Louise Third MBE. If you want to get noticed, you must make some noise.
And it’s putting those words into practice that is the thinking behind her book PR on a Beermat. If you are looking at this on the video, rather than just listening on the audio, there it is. And you can see it behind Louise as well.
As the director of her own company, Integra Communications Limited, Louise has handled public relations, media communications and crisis management for clients across the healthcare med tech, hospitality, financial services and enterprise policy sectors. Plus the old celebrity.
I don’t know whether that means occasional celebrity or just odd celebrity. A passionate campaigner, she offers pro bono PR help to charities tackling food poverty and providing support to refugees. Both of them very, very timely at the moment, obviously.
So firstly, welcome Louise. It’s really, really good to have you here.
Louise Third: Well, it’s lovely to meet you, Alison, and of course get to know a little bit more about the Extraordinary Business Book Club.
Well done and just lovely to feel part of your community.
Alison Jones: It’s a nice place to be, isn’t it? We are a lot of good people here, so welcome to us.
First of all, I mean, going on the community thing, tell me about the beermats. Where did the beermats come from?
Louise Third: Yes. I’ll be honest, it isn’t my own concept. I came across the book, The Beermat Entrepreneur back in 2003 written by Mike Southon and Chris West. They went on to have a column, I remember, in The Institute of Directors Magazine and I rather got hooked on their wonderful approach to the simplicity of life, the simplicity, apparent simplicity of business, the way they put it.
And the beermat essentially tries to convey that if you can’t summarize the purpose, the why, the who for and the what of your business on the back of a beermat, maybe you’re not as focused as you might be. So it’s a slightly lighthearted, what would you scribble on the back of a torn up beer mat in a pub when you’re suddenly brain dumping with your friends, I’ve got a great business idea?
So that’s where the beermat concept comes from. So it’s very much Mike and Chris’s baby, but I got to know them. I introduced myself as you do at a conference. And I said any chance we might work together in some shape or form. So all credit to Mike and Chris.
And Chris West, by the way, is himself an author, an author of fiction. And those of you who want to look Chris up actually might be worth having a look at what he does write and he often tours the literary festivals and it’s been a delight to work with them both.
Alison Jones: Fantastic. And it’s such a great example of, I don’t know if this is a metaphor exactly, but that concept of the beermat, it’s so concrete and so familiar. That’s what makes… and also unexpected, and it’s such a great example of how that can really capture the imagination.
Louise Third: It’s a story. It’s a metaphor, but it’s also a story which people get straight away. And when I describe how you might sit in a pub and do this, people get it straight away. So yes, it applies just as much to business. Indeed there are other beermat books, there’s Finance on a Beermat, Marketing on a Beermat, Sales on a Beermat.
But it was back in 2007 that I didn’t take much persuading really, but Mike and Chris said, yes, Louise, you can write PR on a Beermat but that was in the days of eBooks very much, you know, the beginning of the ebook, but more of that..
I just really enjoyed…
Alison Jones: We will get onto the publishing, yes, absolutely. Hold that thought.
Let’s stick with the beermat just for a second, because what’s interesting is I think, often when we see a book that has got a really good concept like that, often our reaction is damn, I wish I’d thought of that idea, but your reaction was, Ooh, that’s a great idea. I wonder how I can extend that.
It must’ve taken actually quite a lot of guts to go and introduce yourself and say, oh, I really like your idea. Can I work, can I pick it up and run with it? Basically.
Louise Third: Yes. Those who know me will know that I have a feisty attitude to life. And I guess that’s what’s kept me going through my business career. I’ve always been self-employed actually. So I just do it. I just go and ask, you can always ask and people can always say no,
Alison Jones: You have literally nothing to lose, right?
Louise Third: I think also it helped that we enjoy each other’s company and we appreciate each other’s skills and what we bring to beermat. And I believe, you know, I’ve helped them a little bit on the PR for some of their work. So, it has been a two-way flow. I think all three of us have benefited from that relationship.
Alison Jones: So, I mean, I’ve got to ask: if you’re going to put PR on a beermat and I know it’s actually a book, not a beermat but, you know, what is the sort of guiding principle, because it’s a short book, what did you want to really get across about PR?
Louise Third: Yes there’s one diagram in the book, which I want everyone to…
Alison Jones: The Venn diagram?
Louise Third: …copy out whatever. And it’s a simple three circle Venn diagram. And it’s the best summary, it’s foundation of many of my workshops and training because it’s around planning.
Yes. If you can see that, one circle is what are your messages? What are you trying to get across? Let’s clarify those first of all.
The second is who your audience is. Who do you want to get to? Who are you really trying to target? And of course you can imagine for different businesses, they’re all different. So it’s not just about sales.
And the third circle of course, is the media. How are you going to get that message out there?
So by the time you overlap all three, guess what? You get an area in the middle that is the perfect ideal campaign, PR campaign, because what you’ve done is you’ve aligned all three key components of PR into one. Now I’ve just summarized a profession globally in a simple Venn diagram.
And you think, oh, that’s a bit too simple. Of course it’s complex in many, many ways. It’s the application of PR that becomes quite complicated, but that diagram is essentially the beermat.
Alison Jones: The beermat version.
Louise Third: Let’s put a diagram on the back of a beermat and take it from there.
Alison Jones: It’s amazing, once you have a diagram in your head, it allows you to process the more complex information much more easily, doesn’t it? Because you’ve got a framework within which to contain it. You understand how the bits fit together.
Louise Third: Yes you have. And I’m also very conscious that we’re talking about books here and the written word, and I come across a lot of entrepreneurs, and business folk who are actually dyslexic and who struggle to capture a lot of words and process them. So I often use diagrams, I often use colour. If I have to use a PowerPoint slide, it’s always visual.
Because I have come across folk who’ve said, Louise, is there any way, for instance, you could put your book into an audio book for me because that’s the best way I’ll understand you.
Alison Jones: And the visual thing I think, you don’t have to be dyslexic. I mean, we are just visual people aren’t we, that’s how we’re designed, we absorb information visually so much faster than we do reading. So I think it makes all kinds of sense to layer on the access, to give people different ways in to the message.
Louise Third: And that’s why I think so much good PR is based around storytelling and having the spoken word into a piece of press work or into an article because otherwise it’s dry and one-dimensional. Once you start to introduce examples of the so what, and this is how I did it… That’s why all of us should be adept at capturing a concept in, well, tell me how it works in practice and the answer to that is, well, yes, I’ll tell you about the guy who did this…
Alison Jones: Give me a human, give me a human I can pin this on and I care about, yes absolutely.
Louise Third: And that’s precisely why I opened the book with a story.
Alison Jones: And you’ve got so many different entrepreneurs sort of woven all the way through it, with their stories as well, just to illustrate the points, which is really powerful.
Let’s talk about books in PR. You know, you’ve written a book, is there a PR function for a business book?
Louise Third: There certainly is. Because I chose to write this because my own plan to promote myself, is around using the book to be able to attract more training opportunities, workshop opportunities, speaking opportunities, raising my own profile.
So by writing the book, I’ve put into practice what I’ve been telling so many of my clients. PR is not just about media coverage. There are so many different facets. Of course, I cover that in the book. So there is a function for the PR, for the book in anybody’s business. If you’re a business owner, you have a unique story to tell. So therefore, if you want to capture it between the pages, that’s a wonderful way to do it, but don’t expect to make a lot of money from it.
It is very much part of your marketing collateral, your PR collateral, go in with that approach and you won’t feel so stressed about it. You’ll enjoy the process because you’ll see it as part of a much bigger picture.
Alison Jones: And the return isn’t particularly on the sales that you get from the book, actually it’s you give the book away to get the return on the investment in the business, right?
Louise Third: Well I’m not giving my book away because there’s a very good underpinning reason for the sales of the book, which I’d love to cover now, I think. That is that I do quite a lot of work, as you said before, I’m a campaigner. I do some work in Uganda for a Christian charity called the Teso Development Trust. And they’re a development and relief charity in Northeast Uganda, which is an impoverished farming, you know, self-sufficient part.
And I wanted to use the book to give one pound of every sale to sink a fresh water borehole in Northeast Uganda in the villages I know well. So you can see how I feel there’s lots of layers of reasons why I’ve written my book and why others do the same. And I’ve noticed this in some of my colleagues, who’ve written books, they’ve done it for other reasons as well.
They want to raise money for charity. They want to campaign for a cause. A friend of mine has just written a book on rugby aimed at 11 to 15 year olds, which tackles bullying and it’s a fictional book. But yes, you can say that I think people might go, oh actually, yes, maybe this is another reason for me to do that.
So I’m truly hoping that I sell 5,000 copies of the book because it’s 5,000 pounds to sink a fresh water borehole.
Alison Jones: Perfect. And you’re right, layering on those reasons to write is really powerful, isn’t it? Love that.
The writing of the book, was it harder than you expected, easier than you expected? What surprised you about it?
Louise Third: I started thinking that I’d just be able to expand the ebook from 2007, but when I re-read it, I realized it was horribly out of date because if you remember 2007-8 was just the beginning of social media take-off. So you’ve got Twitter, I think we had LinkedIn. But all of a sudden there was a whole new area of what we call owned and shared PR possible through social media.
Also, I looked at the entrepreneurs that I used in that book. And I mean, sadly one had died, one had gone abroad and I thought, no, Louise, you’re going to have to start from scratch. Don’t try to build on and bolt on something that’s old and tired and worn. Because I started to do that and it was stressful.
I found myself getting concerned that actually it just wasn’t going to work. And I took myself back to first principles again myself and thinking, we’re now in 20… well it was 2019- 20, what’s the world like now? What do our, what do my readers need now? And it just created a whole new book. And I felt less stressed about that.
Alison Jones: It’s interesting, isn’t it? Because it feels like it should be easier to start from something and rework it. But if it’s, if it’s old, if it’s not fit for purpose, you’re better just to kind of accept the learning from it and start again.
Louise Third: Yes. Yes. I’d like to think that over, you know, having had 30 to 30 to 35 years in business and certainly 25 in public relations, I’m still learning. And I’m a member of a professional body that encourages us to do that. And therefore I wanted to learn more myself or remind myself and reflect on what I should know as a professional, but what more do I need to know as I wrote the book.
So there’s an interesting process of my own relearning, reaffirming, reestablishing the right kind of content, but you may have seen, having seen the book, I did actually enlist the support of two young digital marketing, digital PR, experts
Alison Jones: Yes, tell us about Hallam agency. Yes.
Louise Third: I did, I could understand that those in their twenties who are handling digital PR all the time would be very valuable. One to write some content for me, but to sort of pressure check my own thinking around digital marketing. So there is a whole chapter on being digitally savvy.
It doesn’t pretend to tell you everything, but it just raises the awareness of the reader that they perhaps should be really taken quite seriously how they come across and how they use a whole new raft of online digital tools.
Alison Jones: It really struck me actually, that the book is very collaboratively written. I mean, it’s very much your book, but you’ve taken that concept and run with it with the blessing of Mike and Chris. And you’ve used the Hallam Agency and you’ve brought people on board and you’ve got your entrepreneurs whose stories you’re using.
Was that a kind of natural extension of who you are and how you work or was it a conscious decision in terms of how to help you write the book?
Louise Third: It is actually reflective of my company values. My view is that I’m a tiny cog in a big wheel and others play a big part in what we’re doing in business generally, and certainly in public relations. And so I like to see that I’m, one of my visions is to contribute to a thriving economy.
Now, if you take that word contribute, that implies straight away that I’m just a partner with many into a thriving economy. And then I just want to see my clients thrive as well. So, you know, through the use of PR and then applying wisdom to that, and you cannot go into PR without building relationships.
You have a relationship with your client. And we all have relationships with suppliers and customers and so on, but I have a very, very, very important relationship with journalists and within the book as well. I draw on four journalists one from The Times, one from The Express, one from The Daily Mail and one from The Nottingham Post, so to look at sort of local.
And I also draw from a former ITV presenter, journalists that talk about crisis interviews, crisis handling, and a videographer. So the book is a conversation between myself and those other experts on paper to the reader.
And that is the way I wanted to write it, as if, as you and I are chatting now I wanted to write it so that is that many multiple voices as if you’ve gathered them in a training room and your audience are the small business owner managers who this book is aimed at. The freelancer, the small business owner, the entrepreneur, and even the business adviser.
You’re sitting in a room with me and my chums and, you know, we are just chatting about what works well, what could go wrong and what does go wrong. And if, yes, it’s all about gathering as many nuggets as I could into about 140, 150 pages.
Alison Jones: And I mean, it may just be the way you naturally work, but actually there’s some really interesting sort of reasons why that’s a really good idea, not least because it’s great for keeping you going, but when other people are involved in this project it’s harder for you to sort of just lose the energy of sitting in a room on your own.
It keeps the spark alive, doesn’t it, when you’re kind of sparking off other people as well.
Louise Third: Yes, well in terms of process that is a very good reminder that actually we had regular phone ins on Zoom. I did write this during lockdown. So this is my lockdown baby which meant that all my meetings and conversations were on Zoom or Teams. And we had a shared document on Google Drive hosted, Hallam looked after it.
And I found that Tom and Becca who joined with me, we just had regular meetings scheduled into the diary, which said How you doing? Check in? How’s it going? How does the latest iteration of that chapter look like? This chapter look like? And that certainly kept me going as you say, working on your own can be a bit lonely.
So use the opportunity to use online meetings as often as you can.
Alison Jones: Yes, brilliant and collaborative documents and workspaces, yes.
Let’s talk about the publishing Louise, because you decided, well, tell me about it. What did you decide and how did you go about it?
Louise Third: I know that the beermat books that Mike and Chris have published, variously been published by Pearson and by others. I wasn’t wanting to, to be honest, I haven’t got a massive budget to be able to pay a publisher on top of everything else. So I just decided to investigate the Amazon route, the self publishing route. And I spoke to quite a few people who had gone on that route.
And I decided that that would be the way I would go. And it has been brilliant. I’ve really, really enjoyed it. I have not never, ever spoken to anyone at Amazon. You speak to the algorithm, they have an amazing robot or whatever it is, you know, Amazon use to allow you to upload your document, check it, double check it.
All credit to them, they’ve created a platform which obviously enables anyone who wants to publish which may or may not be a great thing. But certainly from where I sat, I thought let’s be sensible about this. I don’t think a publisher is necessarily going to take this on board. I don’t know why. I just, maybe it’s that little voice on my shoulder saying you’re not worthy, but I decided to go Amazon.
I therefore realized that the actual returns to me would be fewer because Amazon do take 60% of the sales price, which is still fine, because I knew that each book, I’d probably have five pounds and then I’d be able to give a pound to the Uganda work.
And I’m happy with that, absolutely happy with that.
It’s also been easy for people to buy the book and for me to monitor sales as well. Yes I found it a good route.
Alison Jones: Yes, they have done a huge amount of work on those reporting algorithms. And the control that you have as an author, it’s really interesting. Yes, it’s a whole new world. Isn’t it?
Louise Third: Yes.
Alison Jones: So I always ask guests Louise for their top tip, and I know you’re not a first-time writer exactly because you’ve done your ebook. But if you imagine yourself as a nervous first time business book writer, what would your best advice be?
Louise Third: It has to be something we’ve covered already to be quite honest. It’s know your reader, know the target audience that you’re writing for. There’s no doubt about that.
Alison Jones: PR and Books, right?
Louise Third: Yes Yes
Yes, well, it’s all about communication. So the perfect communication is that overlap, well, I’m back to Venn diagrams here, overlaps and imagine two circles this time. One is what you’d like to say, what you really want to say. And when I do, I do speech writing as well and speaker coaching as well as PR.
So you often have people go, this is what I really feel I want to say, and I’ve got to say, and I will say. That’s their circle. The other circle is the audience, the recipients of that. And what do they need? What are they expecting? What’s on their agenda. Now, if those two circles don’t overlap, you can imagine what happens.
You’ve got a total disconnect.
And of course, we go to conferences don’t we, where we see that disconnect, as speaker is standing there going what, and the audience that are going well, I’m in the wrong room, this person really hasn’t thought about me. Overlap those two circles and the bit of the middle is called ‘playing to the overlap’. And that’s what we use in speech writing and in speaker coaching.
So you can imagine it’s exactly the same for your book, play to the overlap. So it makes you, makes you think every word has got to work. Every chapter, the structure, drive the reader through from start to finish.
So that actually you achieve your aim by the end of the book. And they also have achieved what they wanted from picking up the book. So remember that playing to the overlap. Does that help? Alison.
Alison Jones: I think it’s a great tip and it’s one of those things, you think when you’re writing a book, it feels like a monologue. It’s not, it’s a dialogue because when the reader is reading it, they’re going to be co-creating it. The reading experience is a creative piece where you bring everything as a reader. I think quite often writers forget that because the reader isn’t in the room with them at the time.
Yes, great tip. Brilliant.
And I also always ask people to recommend a business book. So Louise, what would you recommend that people listening to the podcast should read?
Louise Third: It’s a book I bought recently actually, and it follows on quite nicely from what we’ve just been talking about. And it’s by Paul Smith and I’m going to hold it up now, but it’s The 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell by Paul Smith. Because, I love the book because it is like my own, chunked into sections that are open and use quite quickly.
Leaders are busy people, they haven’t got time to plough through 3, 4, 500 words of a heavy business school tome book. They simply need something quick to get their head into because they’re bright. Business leaders are bright, they just need a reminder. But it’s also a reminder that the only way to persuade your staff, your suppliers or whoever to persuade them to do something is through a story.
And that’s how persuasive dialogue runs. It’s telling me, you can tell me the facts, but actually speak to my heart. Emotion. Emotion leads to action. Well, as we can see, that sometimes speeches that are in the wrong hands and you can get the wrong kind of reaction, but, you know, anyway, that’s the one it’s Paul Smith’s book and I found it very, very helpful when I’ve been working with clients.
Alison Jones: Fantastic. I’ve seen it, but I haven’t read it. So that’s a great recommendation. Thank you. I shall scurry away and find it for myself. Brilliant and Louise, if people want to find out more about you more about Beermat PR, where should they go?
Louise Third: Well, certainly for the book first of all, just search Amazon PR on a Beermat and it’ll pop straight up. You can’t miss it because the green cover is quite dramatic. Thank you, if you do buy a copy because one pound of your sale will go towards the Uganda borehole and which will be called the Beermat Borehole which I’m not quite sure whether that’s appropriate, but anyway and then also pop a comment, quote, you know, testimonial if you would on there.
For myself well, link with me on LinkedIn. I tend to use that a lot @LouiseThird and the same as Twitter @ louisethird.
If you wanted to see more of my background and my philosophy and where I come from, my website is louisethird.com.
Alison Jones: Brilliant. I’ll put all those links up on the show notes at extraordinarybusinessbooks.com.
And it’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you, Louise. Thank you so much. And I kind of knew intellectually that PR and book writing had a lot in common, but we’ve really, really drawn that out today. And it’s been really fascinating, thank you.
Louise Third: Well, I would encourage your listeners, your community, to have a go at using perhaps the written word, a book, a story, your story, into your public relations and your publicity, because it will make a massive difference.
Alison Jones: Yes, brilliant. Thank you.