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We sat down with Samantha Dybac, founder of the PR Hub regarding the challenges of building an innovative client roster, and what the past 18 years in the industry have taught her.
From spotting a business opportunity to building a successful PR client roster, can you tell us a bit about how you started The PR Hub and why?
Having spent 18 years working in marketing, brand management and sales, both client-side and for myself, I regularly crossed paths with PR professionals and often worked alongside them. The idea for my own public relations business came about when I was working in government relations with a well-respected former politician and managing their media interviews, speaking engagements and board appointments. At the same time, I was involved with a networking group for young female entrepreneurs and from this I saw the potential for an agency that worked specifically with business people and entrepreneurs, helping them build their own brands and be recognised as influencers in the media. We launched in 2013 and soon had a client roster of young entrepreneurs along with a digital publisher whose key talents we helped position in the media as commentators and experts. We have grown from there and now have a small team of PR, brand and content strategy specialists.
The PR Hub identifies and helps profile incredible Australian entrepreneurs and business leaders. How do you work to support the growth and personal branding of our local talent?
Many business leaders and entrepreneurs are exceptional at running and building their companies but don’t necessarily have the time, skills or comfort level to work on building their own brand and managing their media commitments. This is what we specialise in at The PR Hub. We work closely with our clients to identify their unique story and package this in a way that authentically represents them in the media and provides useful content for a variety of media channels. We are passionate about supporting the Australian start-up ecosystem and ensuring more of these great stories are receiving the coverage they deserve.
What are the core capabilities that clients can expect from The PR Hub?
Our clients’ success is our success and we work with a sense of urgency to get the job done, every time. We work specifically with entrepreneurs and business leaders who recognise the importance of building a personal brand that supports both their individual endeavours as well as the business objectives of their company. We are excellent storytellers who take the time to cultivate relationships with the media and understand what they need for a great story or segment.
We see ourselves as an extension of our clients’ team, taking the time to understand their business model, their area of expertise and where best to develop media opportunities.
Having been in public relations, branding and marketing for 18 years, you have established a reputation as a go-to person in PR and personal branding. Can you tell us why PR is still crucial for brands, despite them being able to publish themselves?
Public relations is the art of effective communications, across multiple channels, and it is a specialised role just like that of a Chief Financial Officer, General Manager or Head of Marketing. Having been a business owner since my early 20’s, I understand the challenges of being a start-up with limited financial resources and minimal time to invest in building a team to get your idea off the ground. As a business owner in those early stages you’re wearing so many hats and stretching your cash to go as far as possible and that’s a good thing. With platforms like LinkedIn, Medium, Instagram and even your own website, you have the tools to start building your own profile, and through trial and error can start to work out where your target audience is and what messages they might respond to.
But, there does come a point when you should start thinking about hiring a PR agency to help take you and your business to the next level. A great publicist will not only have excellent media contacts but will make an effort to understand you and your business and constantly be coming up with creative ways to present your story and make sure it is seen and heard by your target audience. Having a dedicated publicist can also provide you with a buffer between the media and yourself so you’re not having to answer tricky questions on the spot or negotiate appearance fees when it comes to speaking engagements or collaborations.
In an extremely competitive market, what is the biggest challenge in the world of Australian PR for entrepreneurs and how do you overcome this?
I quit my job as a Marketing Manager when I was 23 to start my first business. At the time the word entrepreneur wasn’t really used and I remember many occasions where people questioned why I would take such a risk with my career. The thinking has definitely shifted since then and with some amazing stories of success gaining great media exposure the concept of being an “entrepreneur” is now considered a dynamic and popular path.
The ones that continue to stand out will of course have a great product or service to offer, but they will also recognise the importance of storytelling and doing it in a way that is unique and compelling. They will also understand the value of building a brand to support the success of their long-term business objectives.
What do entrepreneurs and start-ups get wrong when it comes to PR?
Entrepreneurs are driven, motivated and focused on their success. They enjoy being in control and being across all facets of the business to ensure the very best decisions are being made. I know this, as I am one! In the early stages of business this is important, particularly with limited resources and development of concept. But I would say that when it is possible, look to delegate your PR to an expert who can help you define your unique story, coach you in your delivery and be responsible for sourcing and managing the opportunities to ensure you get the best possible coverage.
Don’t try and be all things to all people. Set your business focus and identify your core strengths early on and stick to them. It sounds harsh but if it’s a mismatch it won’t end well and your reputation could suffer.
One of the other issues I’ve come across is that many people think they’re ready for PR but when they get started it turns out they’re not. It might be that they are so busy building their business that they don’t have time to stop for interviews or that they have only budgeted for a few months of PR thinking that the short-term exposure will add long term value to their business. Both of these things can be really detrimental and end up being a waste of time and money. My advice to entrepreneurs is to view PR as part of your overall business mix, just as you would with marketing, sales or product development. If your plan is to build your profile as an industry expert or thought leader alongside the profile of your company, then you need to make sure you set aside time to get involved in PR activities and be available at short notice for those great media opportunities. Building a brand also never really stops so it’s important that when you engage a PR agency you find someone who you can build a long-term relationship with in line with your expectations and budget.
What is the biggest shift in trends for PR over the next 12 months?
I think we will see the rise of entrepreneurs making a name for themselves across mainstream media channels with their products or services becoming household names. While they usually only make the media once they become “successful”, the reality is building a business is tough work and so the story of how they made it and the challenges they overcame to get there is inspiring and powerful, and that’s what people are interested in.
I also believe that PR and thought leadership will extend beyond just the Founders or CEOs of companies. Companies are recognising the importance of investing in their people in order to remain competitive and be seen as an industry leader. With social media playing such a prominent role in everyday life, large companies are starting to invest time and money into their staff, educating them on personal brand and use of social, knowing that their staff are seen as representatives of their brand outside of the workplace.
What are your personal tips for making sure you stay on top of your business and facilitate its growth?
Managing your finances is key. It can be really easy to get carried away with building the best-looking website or create fancy business cards and an office fit out, but if you don’t have the capital then you will soon run into trouble and cause yourself a lot of extra stress.
Whether it’s in-house or outsourced, make sure you have a financial controller who is not only good with numbers but understands how your business works and can help you reign in spending when it’s needed.
Don’t try and be all things to all people. Set your business focus and identify your core strengths early on and stick to them. That’s not to say that your business can’t diversify over time, but just like a potential client will have a checklist of what they’re looking for, you also should know what an ideal client looks like for you and only agree to work with people if they fit that criteria. It sounds harsh but in the end if it’s a mismatch it won’t end well and your reputation could suffer.
As a mum running a business I am constantly working on my time management and learning to prioritise and say no. I am constantly working on finding that balance of work, family and me time. As hard as it is, I am learning to say no to the things which are outside of my core business, to ensure the success of my company and avoid burning out.