02 Jun PR For Medical Jewellery
How Nadine Lewis of Ice Gems Does Her Own PR
Nadine Lewis previously ran IdentiKids and worked on this with Do Your Own PR. Her new businesses, with husband David, are www.icegems.co.uk, www.iceideas.co.uk and www.5teel.co.uk.
Tell me about what happened with Identikids and your subsequent change of direction. When we last worked together you had big orders from Boots, Asda and the like and had taken on a PR company…
In 2007 we had some enforced time out due to liquidation to re-evaluate the viability of supplying major accounts with children’s identification wristbands, given increasing manufacturing costs and the constant squeeze the major accounts put on margins. When we looked at the business as a whole we realised that what we had previously was not a viable business model as we very much had major peaks and troughs – the peaks being when we had an order from one of the national accounts. However, our fixed costs were high (offices, staff, PR, accounts, dispatch team, etc) and our variable costs (mainly manufacturing costs) would peak in line with the orders from the national accounts. We also had a lot of eggs in just a few baskets and therefore didn’t have a good spread of risk.
So I looked at the areas of the business that were viable and it became very obvious that the medical identification jewellery side of the business was an area that was under developed and that had the most potential for growth and profit.
Therefore we decided to set up IdentifyMe Limited concentrating on the medical jewellery side under the brands ICE Gems and ICE Wear. We do still have a small children’s ID range and sports ID range under the brand of ICE IDeas. Finally in November of last year we decided a natural extension was to offer personalised designer jewellery under the brand and website 5teel.
What did you do PR and marketing wise for Identkids that you’ve been able to do in your new ventures?
There hasn’t be a huge cross over as the focus of the IdentifyMe is completely different to IdentiKids and the vast majority of the work we did with the PR company was focussing on children’s ID.
In the last couple of years of IdentiKids we used one of the UKs top 10 PR companies. I had a fabulous time working with them, I positively thrived off their energy and the ideas quite literally bounced between us. We had some fabulous publicity, a highlight being the top news story on new years eve 2006/7 on all the major online news sites (including Yahoo, MSN, etc) about how binge drinking girls were using our medical bracelets as a means to communicate their contact information should they become intoxicated whilst on a night out.We also had some great coverage in most of the major newspapers and magazines for the children’s ID wristbands.
However, working with such a major company was very expensive, especially given the “peak and trough” nature of the business. I had some very good contacts through the work we did with IdentiKids whom I have continued to keep in touch with periodically.
Are there things that haven’t translated?
Most of the PR stories were for the children’s wristbands which was the main focus of the IdentiKids business but is a very minor element of IdentifyMe. Therefore much of the work we did we were unable to use again.
With IdentifyMe we have a much lower key approach to PR, with me once again doing the PR myself, although this tends to be more sporadic and not using a set plan as we once had.
Did you learn anything in your time working with a PR company?
Yes I did, we used to meet once a month and we used to discuss the strategy for the coming month. I realised that actually a lot of the ideas I had for PR translated very well into campaigns and many of my ideas were used. It is one thing having the idea, the great thing about using a big PR company is that they have the contacts and the know how to turn those initial ideas into a workable and successful campaign, this is something I wouldn’t have been able to do myself due to a lack of knowledge and confidence. I now feel more confident in my PR ideas and strategies.
What do you enjoy least about PR?
Writing articles, I have this horrible habit of writing 5000 words when 20 would say it just as well!
What’s been your highest point so far PR-wise?
Definitely getting my products recommended by Dr Chris on This Morning! It was always a huge ambition and every PR person and company were tasked with getting my products featured but none of them were successful. I was absolutely delighted therefore to get the lead product on a feature that was run in Christmas 2007, myself.
And your lowest?
A double page spread in the Times declaring me (personally) as some sort of scaremonger monster mother from hell type person because I wasn’t letting kids be kids and I was playing on parents fears and insecurities to sell children’s wristbands! Have to say I didn’t like that very much but was actually very relieved to find that we got a lot of support and the article was challenged by several readers who took the time to write in saying that their kids had been returned to them when lost because of them wearing the wristbands!
Another very low point was when our local newspapers decided to use IdentiKids going into liquidation as their lead news story and it was featured on all the front pages. The first I knew about it was when someone rang me up to say that they had seen the story on a sandwich board outside her newsagents. That was bad enough but they used a picture of me with my children on the front page. It must have been a very slow news day that day for that to have been the major news of the day!! At the time I felt terribly humiliated and hurt, now though I can look back and laugh – after all it isn’t many people who get their own sandwich boards outside all the newsagents in the area!
I guess though that realistically I used the press a lot to promote the business and had been given many pages of print over the previous few years that really I was easy prey – after all if you live by the sword, you die by the sword.
This has had a long term effect of me shunning any personal publicity for the business and focussing now on only product related features, in fact this is the first interview I’ve given in 2 years!
Since we’ve workedtogether social networking has become incredibly important for businesses…do you do this and how useful have you found it? (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc)
Yes, the vast majority of my time is concentrated on promoting the business using new media and social networking. Firstly it is very easy to do, although time consuming, secondly it takes a very small budget and thirdly the internet is definitely a growing medium and has a huge potential. We now sell worldwide and much of that has come from recommendations through social media.
What have you learnt about PR over the years?
That one good feature doesn’t mean immediate and continued success! However, getting your name into people’s subconscious is essential and that PR has to be a continuous activity and not just a one off.
Can you link a rise in turn over with PR?
Not really, there are “spikes” when we get a good publicity and we have found that after the spike we rarely drop to the same level as before but slightly higher. I don’t see PR as something that has an immediate effect on turnover but more that is a slow burn, all pieces of publicity adding to the general build of the business.
What advice do you have to give for anyone in a similar position?
Do something to promote your business every day. I won’t go to bed unless I’ve spent at least 15 minutes on PR each day. Whether that is sending out a press release or simply posting a special offer on a forum or spending some time twittering or blogging!
I am also a firm believer in “chunking”, I think writing and sending out a press release is a very big task and so I split it down into manageable chunks – I may write the bulk of it in one day, read over and amend the next, distribute the next and follow through a few days later. By splitting it down it stops it being so daunting.
What are you plans for the future?
We are about to enter another very exciting phase and plans are afoot for further major expansion this summer. We have new brands to launch and new opportunities to explore.