A magical first year for Chit Chat PR & Digital

Marc and Claire celebrate with Peter Logie (centre) from CLIC Sargent.
Marc and Claire celebrate with Peter Logie (centre) from CLIC Sargent.

We are delighted to have just celebrated our first year in business and at our Chit Chat: A Year of Magic birthday party on Friday, we marked this milestone by announcing our support for a children’s cancer charity.

Chit Chat has teamed up with CLIC Sargent Scotland to become its media partner for the Highlands and Moray.

CLIC Sargent provide help and support to children and young people battling cancer.

We made the announcement at a networking party at The Stables at Brodie Castle and we are over the moon with the collaboration.

CLIC Sargent is a fantastic charity to be involved with.

Peter Logie, the fundraising manager for the area approached us at the tail end of last year to see if we wanted to get involved and we jumped at the offer.

Having known Peter since our days at the Highland News, we know he is an old hand at writing great press releases and getting coverage for them, but what we intend to do is help with the targeted social media advertising. We have already helped with one fundraising event, and the charity saw entries increase as a result.

Peter Logie, fundraising manager for Moray and Highland said: “I am delighted and excited to have the support of this innovative, creative and friendly publicity and marketing company to help CLIC Sargent increase its general profile and that of its various events in Moray and the Highlands. Claire and Marc have had a great first year and we are lucky to have such a talented duo on our side.”

Chit Chat PR & Digital held their first birthday party at The Stables, Brodie Castle. More then 60 businesspeople joined directors Marc Hindley and Claire Doughty for networking, entertainment and a buffet meal. Picture: Marc Hindley, Chit Chat PR & Digital
More then 60 businesspeople joined us for networking, entertainment and a buffet meal.

As well as the announcement, the party itself went off with a bang, with over 60 people attending the event.

Marc Hindley who runs the company with Claire and specialises in the digital side of the company said: “The business has hit the ground running and what better way to mark our first year in business than a collaboration with such a worthwhile cause. We are over the moon to be working with Peter at CLIC and we hope we can help make all the events the charity runs even bigger and better than they already are.”

Marc added: “We now have several clients ranging from those in hospitality, sport, cosmetics, renewables and retail sectors to name but a few. It really has been a successful year and we wanted to host the party to celebrate. We had over 60 businesses attend the event and the feedback is that it was a huge success with some great networking going on.”




Deadlines – the greatest PR tool we have

keep-calm-it-s-not-meant-to-go-viralAlthough most of our work involves getting our clients into the public eye, there are also times when we try to keep them out of it. It’s the nature of the beast that publicity has two sides, good and bad, and sometimes it’s our responsibility to our clients to get less coverage for them rather than more.

Chit Chat PR & Digital came under fire recently on Facebook of all things from a group of people who seemed to think we couldn’t do our jobs well.

They were criticising us for the lack of coverage we received on a press release we sent out to local and national media.

It was an unfortunate story for a client who operates in a controversial industry.

What had happened wasn’t what the client wanted to happen, but because their situation had been highlighted in the media several times over the last two years, we took the decision to issue a press release on this chapter of the whole story. It was very much in the public interest.

However, we also didn’t want the media to “go big” on the story, so how the press release was written and when it was released was crucial.

And this is where the criticism we received was unwarranted and here’s a little explanation of why we are actually extremely good at what we do.

Getting press coverage can be for many different reasons, in our line of work, I would say 95 per cent of the time, we want maximum coverage. We are usually issuing positive press releases, on positive issues. A client has a quirky product, a member of staff has done something above and beyond, they have won an award, they are expanding beyond belief. It could be anything. But as I say, it’s thankfully, the majority of the time, it’s the good stuff we work on.

Maximum coverage doesn’t always mean the most, it can sometimes mean targeting the story to the right publication for the audience you are trying to reach.

And even for the “good stuff”, the timing can be critical.

However, sometimes we have to issue press release on situations that have not been ideal for our clients. It’s often a damned if we do, damned if we don’t situation, but in PR if it’s inevitable a story will be leaked some other way, we usually advocate being first with the news, that way, you can have some level of control.

And this is what happened last week.

We had a not so good story to tell. It was of interest in the first instance to local media and we knew the nationals would pick up the story from there. It was also policy for the company to run the statement on their own website, so it was being put out there for all to see.

We issued to three local newspapers. Remember, we didn’t want to be telling this story, but equally we knew we had to.

So we timed it for late in the afternoon on a Thursday. This completely missed the deadline of the weekly we targeted as it had just hit the streets that day. They could have run it online, but didn’t. I probably would have had I still been running that particular desk, but hey, I’m not.

And we knew the other two papers would have been approaching deadline and would have been pushed for space to run something big on what we had to say. It also gave them limited time to get reaction from said group who have taken it upon themselves to have a pop at us.

However, we also know the importance papers place on getting the exclusive or at the very least getting it first, we knew they would run something – even if it was small.

And because it has been small – so far – our critics seem to think we have done a bad job. Do they not realise that actually this is exactly what we wanted to happen? Clearly not.

On their own social media sites our critics say we have “no one of note to chit chat to”. Ha! Nice play with our name.

But it’s on the contrary. We have fantastic contacts in all the local and national papers.

But we also know the deadlines of all of these papers, we know how to target a story to an individual journalist and probably most important of all, we know the timings and how these can work in our favour.

And this time, we did just that.

A J Engineering buys Lochaber company

AJ Engineering take over Fort Willian firm
AJ Engineering managing director Alan James (centre) has signed a deal to take over Fort William company NEWCO. He is pictured here with owners Ron and Denise MacLennan. Picture: Marc Hindley, Chit Chat PR

A MORAY engineering and construction company has expanded its business operation by taking over a Lochaber firm.

A J Engineering and Construction Services Limited is celebrating after buying out Fort William-based Northern Engineering & Welding Co (NEWCo).

Alan James, managing director of AJ Engineering said he was delighted with the acquisition which took place on October 1: “This was an important move for us as a company and I know that my existing firm and NEWCo will complement each other very well.

“Structure wise nothing is going to change. The NEWCo name will stay, the staff will remain as they are and apart from one of our Forres team going to Fort William to run things down there alongside NEWCo’s production manager, it’s business as usual.”

Alan James set up the fabrication company in 1999 and it has grown steadily to become a respected provider of specialist fabrication and engineering services to the construction, railway, renewable energy and water treatment industries through Scotland and the Islands.

In 2012 the company which has 62 staff carried out a £600,000 expansion of its premises giving it the capability of competing for larger contracts.

Two of its most public projects include the steel fabrication work for the Firth of Forth replacement and gantry work for the Kessock Bridge.

Alan James has bought NEWCo which has 13 staff members from husband and wife team, Ron and Denise MacLennan who have been leading the company since 2000.

Alan said: “Ron and Denise have been very active in the company and to smooth the transition they are still going to be on hand to help. They have a great business and with AJ Engineering behind it, we will be able to develop it further.”

He added: “NEWCo have a great client base, in fact we share some of the same clients. However some of their customers need more engineering support which until now they have been unable to offer. We have bigger facilities in Forres to help with the manufacturing. I have no doubt that this new set up will work well, we have the same ethos and philosophy. The acquisition can only work well for both locations and of course the clients.”

Ron and Denise took over NEWCO in 2000 in management buyout although the company was established in 1985.

The production facility in Fort William encompasses welding, rolling, shearing, punching, bending, plasma profiling facilities and machining. They are suppliers to a wide range of engineering based industries in both the large scale industrial sector and private sector.

Ron said: “We took over in 2000 as we saw prospects in the company. We were sure that we could go places with it and that it would have a bright future. However, we both feel that we have taken it as far as we can.

“However, we are not simply walking away, we will be on hand to help with the transition and as Alan says, it will be business as usual.”

Denise added: “We really feel that NEWCo will go further being under a bigger entity. The industry is changing so much and as smaller business, we are struggling to keep up and be able to fulfil certain criteria. AJ Engineering has all of these requirements in place already. It seems a perfect fit and we have no doubt that Alan will be able to take NEWCo even further.”

Making the most of the ‘two-way street’

I previously wrote about how engaging with a PR firm is a two-way street.

two-way streetPR won’t work unless we form a good relationship with the companies we work with. We also need our clients to engage with us and tell us their news, updates and developments and equally we need to be shimmying them along to make sure we are teasing as much info out of them as possible.

But how best is this done? Here are a few tips to get you started.

Communication is vital

Whether it be by email, face-to-face meeting, phone, text, carrier pigeon or Morse code, you have to be communicating with your client and them with you. Nine times out of 10 it will be the PR exec who initiates the contact, as they are the ones that have the time – that’s their job after all – but as long as you are speaking in some way, you will get the information you need to make the best PR decisions for and with your client.

As a client, be prepared to do some work. Your PR rep cannot be a guru in every topic on the planet, so guide them with your expertise. For example, if you want a blog post on brain surgery because you happen to be a brain surgeon, but you are no Harper Lee or George Orwell, hand it over to your PR person but expect to give some bullet points.

It’s a marathon not a sprint

Don’t expect your business to boom the minute you send the first cheque to your PR firm.

PR can be instant depending on what your story is, but more often than not, it’s a slow burner with your PR firm chip, chip, chipping away in the background to make sure that all the different PR cogs there are, are turning simultaneously together ensuring your brand has longevity. Don’t tell us how to do our jobs and we won’t tell you how to do yours. You are spending your money for our advice – listen to us – we know what we are talking about.

Set a budget. There is a PR strategy for every budget – it’s helpful from the off to know how much money you want to spend as we can give you a bespoke PR package tailored to your needs.

If you use these basic guidelines you can’t wrong.

Highland Spotlight

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It has to be a two way street

one_wayPublic Relations can be many things for a client. It can be sourcing a sponsorship deal, identifying a news story, supporting a client with their digital needs or writing fabulous awards submissions which can be a great way of generating their own publicity. It can be all of the above and so much more.

What is cannot be is a one way street.

Good PR will only work, when the client and the PR executive are working harmoniously together.

Sometimes this is easier said than done.

Often when we first meet with clients – usually those that have opted for one of our retainer packages – there is a great vibe and lots of buzz and excitement. They have chosen us to work on their brand and they are trusting us to help raise their profile, get them more business and generally make their companies or brands more successful than they have ever been.

They often have a list of things they want us to work on, but to their surprise, quite often so do we. What sometimes people don’t realise, that certainly at the start whilst our relationship is tentatively growing, they will have to work just as hard on the PR as we do.

You see the thing is our clients vary from hotels, sportsmen, cosmetic producers, B&Bs, festivals, windfarms, and micro renewables.

And as much as we research a topic or field of expertise, with the best will in the world, we cannot be an expert in every topic and we certainly would never pretend to be as clued up as our clients about their own firms.

Sometimes working in PR is a learning curve for both us and client. We have to learn very fast about a subject which is totally new to us. They have to catch on pretty quick as to what might help boost their brand.

It can be a juggling act. We know the ways to get our clients the publicity, but it will only work if they are giving us the ammunition to use. We have to become experts in teasing out the information we need to turn something into a story, or give us a hook for an advertising campaign or blog idea. Our journalism skills come in to their own here, but I sometimes wonder if a degree in psychology or even counselling wouldn’t go a miss too.

PR will only work if we know what’s going on and it’s up to us as the PR firm to keep those lines of communication open. Just by chance today, I was speaking to one client about a particular avenue we are going down, when they happened to mention something else, which unknown to them would make a perfect little blog post.

Our clients are not daft. They are all highly intelligent people, running their own businesses, but that’s sometimes the problem, they are so darn busy securing their own clients, dealing with their own accounts or staff, or any one of a million other things that having your own business means, that the PR aspect sometimes gets left on the bottom of the to do list.

We have the same problem at Chit Chat, except it’s our own PR that keeps getting bumped to the bottom of the pile. We are so busy doing PR for everyone else that we barely have time to do our own. Numerous times now, Marc and I have scheduled a meeting to work on our own brand only to have to cancel so we can help one of our clients. We are not moaning – that’s what we are here for – the advantage is, we get it. We know how busy business owners are, because we are business owners ourselves

Making the switch

Claire and Marc at the door of Chit Chat PR
Me and Marc at our new branded office

IT’S funny as I never went looking for work in the world of public relations, it just kind of happened.

And I certainly never expected to be launching my own PR firm but here we are – almost five months later.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted to be one of the co-founders of Chit Chat PR. However, moving into this new role was a double whammy for me.

Firstly I never thought I would want to be in public relations at all and secondly I never thought of myself as being a businesswoman – I am not sure that I do yet – even now when I hand out a business card, or have to do something official for the business I have a wry smile at the thought of me running a business.

My background is journalism – specialising in local print. I spent over a decade working at one local newspaper, dealing with several PR people on a daily basis. I remember numerous times uttering: “I could never work in PR,” or, “I never want to be a media relations manager.” In fact, I was as strong as to say: “I will NEVER work in PR.” It was just never on my radar.

Switching ‘sides’

Yet here I am on the ‘dark side’ as many journalists refer to PR work.

When I was a hack I was always about finding the story and getting it out there. I was never a digger, I worked hard to cultivate good contacts who would dish the dirt, but I still held a naïve opinion that most of the PR folk I was in touch with had something to hide. I never wanted to be the one hiding, I was always the seeker.

Now a number of years on, my naïve opinion about what being in PR means has been somewhat changed and now at the start of something big and exciting, I realise being a PR consultant is more than about hiding the truth – much more.

So how did I end up here?

As I said, I was a journalist – it’s all I ever wanted to be since I was 14 years old.

From trainee to editor’s seat

I did work experience at my local paper, I went on to do a degree in journalism and then got my first job working for a local newspaper. I loved every minute of it. I moved up the ranks from trainee to chief reporter and also deputised for the editor when he was off.

It was rubbish money, but I loved the rush of getting a story, or trying to get people onside to be pictured and quoted and believe it or not there is something very exhilarating about working to a tight deadline. I loved and still do love the excitement of getting a front page exclusive.

But how did I get from the newsdesk to running my own business? Like many women, it was a decision based on family – I was working 9-5 Monday to Friday with two wee boys who I missed like crazy. There was no flexibility and I would have to battle to get a day off to make a school play or sports day. Leaving journalism behind for me was hard – it was my first true love, but it was not as hard as having to tell my sons that I wouldn’t make this event or that. Eventually something had to give, and my need to be a mum won.

However, whilst I am a good mum, I am not a yummy mummy who bakes, looks pristine all the time and has the patience of the saint. What makes me a good mum is having something that keeps my brain ticking over and gives me some satisfaction – which what brought me into PR.

Leap of faith

I freelanced for a while and eventually picked up a reasonably big client of my own – this was the drive and confidence I needed to make the leap from freelance to PR business owner.

I contacted Marc a former colleague of mine who has his own web marketing firm who I had done some freelance work for and together we set up Chit Chat PR.

It was scary for me, but I can safely say that all these months on, it was the best decision I have made and I won’t look back.

And the best thing about it – I’m not on the dark side at all. All these things that drove me in my journalism all exist in my PR work, it’s just now I am driven by the client.

The rush now is getting somebody through your door, who has a story to tell but isn’t quite sure how to get it out there. I love the look on people’s faces when I can easily tell them that yes, I can fulfil their needs and make sure they get the coverage they desire. I still get the buzz from chatting with people, I still get the fix of writing the story and we still get that high feeling when I can tell my client that we have succeeded in getting their story out there.


Sponsorship – brands team up for great rewards

Forres Area Soccer 7sChit Chat PR is now the proud sponsor of the Forres Area Soccer 7s and it was a move that was a no brainer for us.

We are a new business and our PR is just as important to us as our clients’ is and sponsoring an event, team, business, even a person can be a great, economical way of getting your brand out there. It’s tried and tested – believe us, it works as a PR and marketing strategy.

Sponsorship deals can be worth millions

For example at the peak of his career, David Beckham signed an endorsement deal with Adidas that saw the sportswear company pay him $160 million, with half of that sum paid up front.

But becoming a sponsor is not just for the big players with loads of cash to splash. Getting involved in a local event of some kind can be worth its weight in gold and it doesn’t have to cost the earth.

Here are Chit Chat’s reasons for why sponsorship in the right place can make sense and be good PR and how your business or brand could reap the benefits by investing.

  • Gets you in the limelight: Being the sponsor of an event gives you a noticeable edge over your competition. It gets your brand out there and adds to your credibility. Just becoming a sponsor in itself can lead to media coverage which alone could be worth more than the equivalent advertising value, and has so much more impact than an ad.
  • Audience: You have to make sure you are sponsoring the right event, group, person etc. We are lucky in PR as we are so versatile in who we can help with our services. Our sponsorship deal puts us in front of hundreds of parents of the young players week-in week-out during the soccer season. Most of these people will work for companies or have their own businesses who may one day need our PR or marketing services. Or they may know people who do and our name sticks in their mind. They are all potential clients, customers and influencers.
  • Cheap as chips: Well it’s not quite as cheap as chips, but in our view it’s a better and more efficient way to spend money than say traditional means of advertising which can be pricey. There have been loads of events going on in and around Moray and the Highlands where sponsorship deals can start from as little as £50 right up to £10,000. The options are endless and there really is something for everyone’s budgets if you know where to look
  • That fuzzy feeling: The type of event we have chosen to sponsor is maybe not traditional for our line of work. You could argue that we would have been better sponsoring a one-off corporate conference where we would have had the spotlight on us in front of hundreds of businesses. However, whilst there may be some weight in that, it would not have left us with a smile on our faces. Between us, the Chit Chat directors have five kids. We live in a small community and we like to think we are heavily involved in that community. This was another way for us to support our local area and do something positive for some young people, and a club who in our eyes are doing something positive too. Ahhhh!

Green energy superheroes take to the streets to raise cash for kids

Directors and staff from Green Moray Renewables in Forres don superhero suits to raise money for MFR Cash fo Kids
Directors and staff from Green Moray Renewables in Forres don superhero suits to raise money for MFR Cash fo Kids

A MICRO renewable company has used its superpowers to raise money and awareness for a children’s charity.

Green Moray Renewables came to the rescue of Cash For Kids and donned Teenage Mutant Ninja Hero outfits to take part in the cause’s Superhero Day on Friday (May 15).

Graham Meacher owner of the firm based at the Greshop Industrial Estate in Forres explained why they wanted to take part in the event: “We have been in business for almost two years now and we have been looking at opportunities to do some work with the community. We thought as a starting point this is a great charity but also good fun. We are a small family-run business and Cash For Kids struck a chord as I have children, so could easily identify with what the charity does and who it is aimed at.”

He added: “We like that the money raised from the event will also stay within this region.”

Cash For Kids provides a helping hand to disabled and disadvantaged children around the Highlands, Moray and Aberdeenshire.

On Friday morning, the team from Green Moray Renewables worked from their base and were visited by MFR’s breakfast host Ginno Conti and Allana Mackay, Cash For Kids charity executive.

In the afternoon they hot footed it round to the Forres branch of Tesco and Costa to entertain shoppers.

Graham in true Ninja style said: “Kowabunga baby, we don’t yet know what we have raised as MFR Cash for Kids will do the counting, but it was a great afternoon. The shoppers were digging deep and seemed amused by our superhero presence. Thanks to Tesco and Costa for letting us use their premises.”

Sponsors sought for Grantown’s big birthday party

Bill Sadler, Grantown 250
Bill Sadler hopes local businesses will help sponsor Grantown 250.
Picture: Marc Hindley/Chit Chat PR

Businesses are being offered the chance to sponsor an eight-day event which will bring music, dance, history, sport and culture to a local town.

Grantown 250 – The Strathspey Seven is seven festivals rolled into one and will take place in June.

And the organisers are offering the opportunity for businesses to get involved to support the celebration which is being held to mark the 250th birthday of Grantown-On-Spey.

Bill Sadler who is heading up the organisational team explained: “This is a great opportunity for a company to get involved in something which is going to be big for Grantown and Strathspey and which is going to draw in crowds from across the region and hopefully the country.

“We need sponsors to be able to put on the best festival we can and without a doubt, anyone taking up this chance will get great coverage but can also go away knowing they have helped stage something which is very important for our historical town.”

Big birthday party

Grantown 250 – The Strathspey Seven is tipped to be the Highlands’ biggest birthday party. It will focus on seven themes – Food and Drink, Heritage, Environment, Tourism, Trade, Music and Sport.

Bill added: “We are delighted that Seafield Estates are our headline sponsor but there are still many other ways to get involved. For example, you can sponsor one of the days or one of the themes, or even become and event partner. We are also delighted to take donations and we have been lucky enough that a few people have already taken up this opportunity.”

The festival begins on June 21 and over the eight days will showcase over 100 events from interactive displays, historical pub crawls, music evenings, and a traditional market.

The whole community

The idea for the event has been in the planning for well over a year and Bill explained why it is taking place: “Grantown has such a rich history and there are few towns where you can trace back the history so clearly. This eight day festival will involve the whole community. It’s a celebration for local people and visitors from home and abroad. It will showcase the history and attractions of our unique community. The project is the brainchild of several local people who wish the special qualities of Grantown to be celebrated and become more widely known, thus creating a lasting legacy.”

The festival will finish on June 28 with a host of events which will climax in a celebration dinner and organisers hope that attendees will dress in full period costume.

To find out more about the event and how to get involved visit www.grantown250.org or find Grantown 250 on Facebook and Twitter.