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From Grumpy Graduate to Rural Entrepreneur

 

This article was originally published in Behind The Spin, an online magazine for public relations students and young PR practitioners.

When I graduated in 2010, the news was full of stories about the bleak economic environment and gloomy statistics related to university graduates and employment, so I was afraid that my happy university bubble was about to burst.

I soon discovered that despite my glowing CV and first class degree, the recruitment process for many PR agencies did not allow me to shine. In my view some of the hoops I was made to jump through were patronising and often silly, making me the grumpiest graduate in the room. Plus I’m more of a do-er than a talker.

That’s why after two months of fruitless job searching I decided to go for a month-long unpaid internship. I slept on a different sofa every week and lived off credit cards, but it was worth it in the end as they offered me a job on my last day.

London life

The only reason I left London was because I missed the countryside and did not enjoy the lifestyle that goes with living in London, but I absolutely loved working at Ketchum. It was truly international and I felt inspired by every single person I worked with.

I loved what I was doing on a daily basis and enjoyed the fact that I was learning all the time. There would be regular extra-curricular workshops and activities for you to join to expand your internal network and learn new skills, and I went to as many as possible!

One of the Account Directors even set up a ‘university’ session once a week so that we could all study recent articles together and become experts in the industry for that client. If Ketchum were in Dorset, I think I would still be working there.

Country life

When I returned to Dorset I got a full time marketing job, but found that friends and connections started to ask me for advice and help.

I found myself doing more and more extra bits of work at evenings and weekends and I even volunteered to help a local charity manage its social media presence. It wasn’t about extra money – I was just helping people because they asked me to and I could.

I remember occasionally getting up early to send press releases at 6am before starting work at 8am. I continued like this whilst working as a full time group marketing manager when, in August 2013, I was asked to reduce the hours in my contract by around half. After a bit of soul searching, I saw this as an opportunity to launch my own business part-time whilst still receiving a regular income.

At that point it was an experiment more than anything else and as I was sharing rent with my partner I could afford to give it a go.

Several months later I handed in my notice and I have been working on my own business full time since May 2014. Mostly I enjoy the creative freedom and independence, as well as being in control of my own future.

Rural economy

I have found the local business community to be incredibly supportive of new startups, particularly everyone Poole WIBN (a networking group of which I’m a member). There is also a lot of guidance available for new businesses in Dorset from local councils and independent organisations such as WSX Enterprise and Dormen.

Bobby the Huskita at Durdle DoorI have met so many amazing people who own thriving businesses in Dorset with great stories to tell, and I probably never would have met them if I didn’t do what I do. I will never forget walking into a warehouse to meet a new client and seeing a grand piano in the middle of the room, which sparked a conversation about music. Apparently the warehouse acoustics are good, and in a follow-up email from the client he attached an mp3 of him singing and playing the piano, which made my week!

Why Dorset? From a lifestyle perspective, type ‘Durdle Door’ into Google. I live three miles away from there. I don’t feel I need to add anything further, but I will anyway. For me, Dorset is home. It’s about family, friends, the countryside and fresh air.

I rent an old stone cottage with a thatched roof and a south-facing garden, where I live with my partner, dog and two cats. I regularly go for walks across the fields with the dog, visit local pubs with friends (especially when my brother’s band Vanilla Radio is playing) and I’m never short of exciting events to attend or places to visit.

Lemon Squeezy Marketing

When I worked as a marketing manager, I was approached by digital agencies all the time asking me if I needed help with social media.

Obviously I didn’t, but I would listen anyway. I thought that they made things really complicated, and imagined that if I knew nothing about social media I would probably be really confused. I also attended several training workshops on social media run by digital agencies, only to find that no one was offering practical or realistic solutions for business owners.

Because these digital agencies wanted you to hand control over to them, they would lure you in with the promise of training and make it so advanced that any business owner with a million other things to think about would go running for the hills.

I wanted to do the opposite with my business, making it easy for business owners to learn about marketing and take control of their own messaging and promotion. I don’t want my clients to give me work because they are afraid of it, I want them to give me work because they know how to do it but just don’t want to and to choose me out of confidence not fear. Hence, I wanted to include the word ‘easy’ in my business title and the colour yellow just makes me happy. The name ‘Lemon Squeezy Marketing’ came to be in a sort of ‘eureka’ moment after spending several days thinking about and rejecting other names.

Ideally in the future I would like to build a team of resourceful creatives who want to work with me to achieve the same goals.

I believe that a positive helpful attitude is important, and so I want this to be a big part of the brand identity and at the core of everything we do. Future plans will rest on client wants and needs, as the online environment is rapidly evolving and I think many agencies forget that they serve the client and not the other way around.

Therefore what Lemon Squeezy offers will always stem from whatever is genuinely helpful and useful for clients and I intend to keep asking, watching and learning. Many clients find and contact me through social media – they know how to use it but just don’t have the time, energy or motivation to manage it.

I also go to networking events and get a lot of referrals from existing clients. There are plenty more ideas I am working on, and I am building a 12-month plan at the moment so watch this space…

PR is misunderstood

In my experience PR is usually misunderstood in the business world. I think a lot of people think it stands for press relations, which of course it doesn’t!

However I have also found that some people think marketing is a dirty word and equate it to spamming, so there is a lot of educational work to be done on both counts!

Marketing theory tends to slot PR in the ‘promotion’ category within the 7 p’s of the marketing mix, but if we’re taking that view then personally I think it sits more comfortably in the ‘positioning’ category.

“The truth is that PR doesn’t really fit within marketing at all. It’s a separate yet interwoven discipline responsible for communications, messaging and listening right across your brand.”

On the other hand, marketing is about satisfying customer needs to make profits, but many business owners think it’s just about promotion. This is why it’s so important to continually educate clients on what we do and I think we are generally quite good at this as an industry.

I don’t believe that the rise of digital means marketing and public relations will be mashed together in the future – they will continue to be separate and interwoven at the same time. In my view people are too keen to either separate or merge PR and marketing as if they are physical objects than need to be categorised.

Whilst the digital age continues to change the tactics we use to converse and sell, the rest remains the same. We are communicating with human beings who are still human beings regardless of whether they are surfing the internet or reading a newspaper. Of course there are many areas in which PR and marketing overlap and the two disciplines often work together in the digital space – content marketing is a great example of this – but we still need them both!

Advice to PR graduates

Don’t give up! It’s very easy to think that if you aren’t successful this time then you won’t ever be, but the truth is you can’t learn to do well until you’ve had a few knockbacks.

In every situation there is usually opportunity, so work hard simply for the pleasure of working hard because you never know how close you are. In my case it was the final day of my internship when I was called into the managing director’s office and offered a full time job – there was no way I could have seen that coming!

We don’t always realise when we are learning something really valuable, so you might think you’re getting nowhere after a few failed interviews when actually a part of you is storing up vital information that may just get you the chance you need a few interviews down the line. If something clearly isn’t working for you, try a new angle, review your strategy or explore new tactics.

Just don’t give up.

Bethany Carter,  July 15, 2014

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