11 Feb How Carolyn Pearson of Maiden-Voyage.com does her own PR
My next interview is with Carolyn Pearson, founder of Maiden-voyage.com which has garnered a fair bit of publicity since its inception, twelve years ago now. As well as coming up with a great business idea, Carolyn is naturally PR minded so I thought she would make a great subject for this column.
Carolyn, tell us about maiden-voyage.com
I started maiden-voyage.com as a social anti-dote to being stuck in a hotel room eating room service whilst away on business. Exclusively for female business travellers, women can connect up anywhere in the world with other members for dinner or to explore a new city in safety and company.
We recommend safe, female friendly hotels and partner with up-market spa, beauty and fashion brands to save our members valuable shopping time whilst they are away from home. Many of our travel partners provide exclusive offers and discounts for our members.
And what PR have you had so far?
Tons! We’ve been interviewed on CNN TV, BBC Radio and featured in lots of quality print and online publications including the New York Times, the Guardian, Management Today and lots of travel mags and blogs.
Tell us about what you’ve done to get that coverage?
I didn’t actually do anything to court the really high-profile media, I was just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and of course have a product that is unique and naturally newsworthy.
How much time have you been spending on promotional activities?
I probably spend more time on promotional activities than I should! I love it and find that I’m a natural and I’ve been (rightly) accused of doing PR at the cost of more challenging activities such as business development.
What PR activities have you found work for you?
• Building relationships with editors and journalist, responding quickly to any out of the blue requests.
• Networking – not targeted PR but lots of people kindly recommend me to editors as a ‘good story’.
• Conducting independent research and then writing articles about it, particularly when partnering with another company as you get the synergies and benefits of two PR lists.
• Writing articles for various publications
• Guest blogging
• Tweeting and helping disseminate journalist requests to others – I surf hashtag #journo request at least twice a week
• Speaking at events
And which ones don’t?
Sending out a cold press-release, the open rate is about 8% and response rate about 0.5%
What do you enjoy least about PR and promoting yourself?
Getting speaker slots at events where I don’t have connections.
What’s been your highest point so far Publicity-wise?
Definitely the CNN interview. It came out of the blue late the day before. I was staying at a hotel in London, I had to source an emergency blow-dry and manicure and didn’t get any details about the questions up-front, so I was totally unprepared and had to ‘wing-it’! It did wonders for maiden-voyage.com we had new members sign-up all around the world during that week and CNN kindly repeated the feature a year later with the same result.
And your lowest?
A journalist told me she was writing an upbeat piece about social business tools but actually the article wasn’t particularly complimentary. The result being I will be less likely to work with her again but having a positive outlook I shrugged my shoulders and beat the old mantra ‘No publicity is bad publicity’.
What have you learnt so far?
That if you are a social person, like people, are a natural networker, can spare the time and have a story worth telling, you don’t need to pay for PR.
I know you combine this with a full time position. Do you have any time management tips for other people who are doing this?
Yes be ruthless with what you spend your time on, cull anything that doesn’t directly impact your business goals. Learn to love twitter, it brings us members, partners and lots of exciting opportunities every week and you can do that in ‘dead time’ such as on a train, standing in a queue or dare I say, in bed!
What are your plans for the future?
To grow our ambassador network, 100 women in 100 cities around the world helping us to spread the word to other women and women’s networks, finding great hotels and cool places for our members to hang out.