Interview with PR and marketing company owner Samantha Crowe

When PR and marketing expert Samantha Crowe was made redundant while pregnant, she used it as an opportunity to evaluate what she wanted to do. Today she runs her own successful PR and marketing consultancy.

What’s your career background?

When I left university all eyes were on the likes of as the dotcom boom reached its height. I’d completed a technology degree and it was a great time to join the PR agency world. But it wasn’t long before the tech sector took a dive.

Although a turbulent time, it brought opportunity for me and I moved on to work on corporate PR programmes with the likes of Whitbread, Halifax General Insurance and Raleigh International.

After a while I realised that there was more fun to be had by going in-house where you could influence the strategy you delivered. So I joined the UK’s biggest mobile operator and worked with some very creative people, who had a great work ethic and a huge sense of fun.

I learned loads. You name it, I launched it – from the first mobile broadband services to Blackberry’s first touchscreen phone! I loved it, it was such a buzzy place to be. Hard work, but very rewarding.

Five years later, I moved into marketing and became a go-to market manager, eventually working my way up to lead a team that launched all of the mobile phones and devices that were ranged – some 120 a year.

You were made redundant while you were on maternity leave. How did that feel?

I guess when you work for a big company its inevitable that change will happen, but there’s nothing quite like holding a baby to make the pit of your stomach turn when you start to really think about the consequences.

I took it as a chance to work out what I really wanted to do, and make sure that it would work with family life.

You fell into freelance by accident. How did it happen?

It was all thanks to the power of LinkedIn. I refreshed my profile as a first step to finding work. Not long after I was approached by a communications agency serving the tech sector. They needed PR expertise on a part-time basis. It was a good match and continues to be.

Did you enjoy freelancing?

Yes. It’s an ideal way to balance life, and it was great to know I could deliver results without a commute to London.

Through freelancing you spotted a gap in the market. What was it?

Business owners, myself included, like to have control of everything, until the time comes when they have to let go in order to grow.

They are all experts in what they do – interior designers, solicitors, travel agents, caterers – and they are highly passionate about their business and its success. Most of all they recognise that marketing fosters growth.

However, there was a common theme among the owners I was meeting: the desire to do the marketing themselves but with no real idea where to start. They were overwhelmed by lack of time and the plethora of information available, so invariably they did nothing (or did something badly). They needed help with the strategy – what to do, how much to do, when to do it and how.

How does Make it Be fill that gap?

Through my PR and marketing consultancy Make it Be I work with every client on an individual basis to get under the skin of the company and create a tailor-made plan to get them to where they want to be.

It acts as a brief for the agencies and professionals they might need to employ, provides an indicator of what they can do themselves with guidance, but above all they have control of a plan they are committed to.

What did you find most challenging about setting up your own business?

I think it was overcoming the personal battle of self-belief and finding a way to harness the doubt and turn it into something positive that I could make happen.

To help me, I joined the Athena network whose members are all female entrepreneurs and I’ve found it a great source of inspiration and support.

And what have you most enjoyed?

Meeting people with brilliant businesses. I’ve loved helping them crack marketing conundrums that have blighted them for a while. And of course, like any PR does, the thrill of seeing your client in print.

What does your average work day look like?

My job is so varied that days can look very different, but it’s always a balance of retained freelance PR, small business strategy and life.

Typically I start at 8:30 once I’ve dropped off my little boy, made dinner for the evening and done any other chore that can’t be put off.

Usually my week is a mix of meetings – new business meetings, or workshops and strategy reviews with clients, or I’ll be copywriting opinion pieces, selling in stories to the press, writing proposals or co-ordinating events.

I try to spend a part of the week doing my own PR and marketing, which can include anything from writing a blog and producing workshops and presentations to deliver at networking groups, to planning my social media activity and dipping into the latest news to keep on top of trends.

I work hard to get the essentials done by five pm before I collect from nursery, and then pick up loose ends in the evenings.

What’s your vision for Make it Be?

I’ve set my target to be the best at what I do, and to be a trusted partner for small companies in the region. The strength of my brand rests on the quality of success my clients achieve.

Over time I’d like to develop the business using a model of collaborations with complementary professionals.

What are your top three marketing and PR tips for small businesses?

Be clear about why you are different, and don’t just focus on the ‘what’ you do and ‘how’ you do it. Your story must include ‘why’ you do it – it’s a big differentiator that can be easily overlooked.

The best time to do any PR is when you launch; it’s probably the best story you have to tell. But whenever you decide to do it make sure you are ready. I see too many companies embark on PR without thinking through how well they deliver on the promise, nor how they will maintain the PR momentum. You don’t get a second chance with a customer or the press.

Write all your materials in jargon-free, plain English. That in itself can make you stand out and be noticed.

You can learn more about PR and marketing consultancy Make it Be on their website