Jules Brooke, founder of Handle Your Own PR, got her first PR job by accident, then taught herself the skills to pull it off – going on to found her own agency Handle Communications, and then Handle Your Own PR.
After starting a successful graphic design company in her twenties, Jules left her full-time job when her son was born. When her son was one year old, Jules was keen to find her next business endeavour. Bemoaning her struggle to get traction with her next business to a friend, Jules was introduced to actor and comedian Mark Mitchell, aka Con the Fruiterer.
Later that week after their first meeting, Mark rang Jules and asked if she would handle the PR for his new release DVD “Best of Con the Fruiterer”. With $160 in her bank account, Jules eagerly said yes! Then, says Jules, “I sat down hard and thought ‘how am I going to pull this off?’ as I had no idea how to do PR, but I really needed the money!”
After speaking with Mark again, he suggested that Jules simply call the producers for Bert Newton, Alan Jones and other TV and radio shows, so off she went. While barely knowing what she was doing, and with no one to show her how, Jules followed her instincts and got the interviews they were looking for.
Jules transitioned from DVD PR into the parenting space soon after her twins were born in 2006, and then worked with small business owners and entrepreneurs before realising she could teach people how to do their own PR in late 2008. Handle Your Own PR was first launched in 2009, but went through a series of website redesigns to create an easy to use platform that would save small business owners time and effort. Now, in 2017, the site is a world first. No other platform guides the user through the entire process, sends the release to the media and provides media contacts.
“I really want to take the pain and fear away from business owners approaching the media themselves”, says Jules. “It’s really not hard as long as you make sure that your story idea isn’t all about promoting your own business, it’s about helping other people with information or advice”.
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Now here is the transcript of the podcast:
Ingrid: Hello and here we are today with Jules Brooke. Good morning Jules.
Jules: Good morning Ingrid. Thank you very much for inviting me.
Ingrid: Thank you so much for being here. Jules, let’s just jump right in. What is your business? What business are you in?
Jules: Okay. I’m in the business of teaching small business owners, startups and entrepreneurs how to get free publicity for their business and so I teach people how to do PR and my business is called Handle Your Own PR.
Ingrid: Isn’t that fantastic! It’s what’s in the name. I just love a business that tells you what it is. When did you start this business?
Jules: Well, here we go. Here’s the beginning of the startup story. I actually came up with the idea in 2008 around the time of the GFC and the financial crisis was hitting – and then I launched in 2009 but it was a very, very different business then. I had a full-time PR agency that I was running and I … Anyhow, I had a full-time business that I was running, a PR agency called Handle Communications and I just saw this opportunity and got it all wrong at first. Started in an off-putting way … it was all so wordy. I think someone would have to sit down for about eight hours to work their way through my website and so then I redid the website and redid the website and the fifth one is the one that I currently have. I’ve turned it into a SaaS platform so ‘Software as a Service’ that people can actually use the platform to actually send out their media releases.
Ingrid: That’s right. Yeah. When we say what your business is, do you want to describe how that works, what the business actually does?
Jules: Sure, because it is a bit unusual. What the website now does … There’s two sides to the business I should say. One is that I do a lot of coaching and I do workshops and I run PR accelerators and the other side of the business is the PR platform that we’ve set up. But with a platform you can actually go on, create your own media contact list by just talking … you get filtered through whatever topics you want to cover and then once you build your media list, you can go on to a page that formats it … well, you start writing your media release but it’s all there as a template so upload your logo here and put your photo in here and headline here and whatever and then when the media release is done, you then hook your email into it and then you get to see all the journalists contacts and I’m talking about … There’s a lot of services out there where you can send out a media release to say business media and it’ll say, “We’ve got 144 contacts. Click this button and it will go out to all of them.” But you don’t know where it’s gone.
With mine you actually get the journalist’s name, their phone number, their email address, their title, what it is that they do and you just press a button to send it out to that journalist and it pops up with a little email template so that you can introduce yourself and attach your media release. Then it sends it out and then the website says what date you sent it out and then on the next page there’s a follow up page where you can make notes about the campaign, and you can resend a follow up email after the journalists. It’s pretty comprehensive and it’s designed to be really, really simple to use so the people who don’t know what they’re doing get guidance. Then there’s a whole lot of information there as well education, pages, and videos as to how you use it and what you might need.
Ingrid: That’s a terrific explanation and so it’s a bit like RSVP in the early days and the date matching … it’s the person looking for someone else, it’s like a job board where there’s two parties, each looking … the journalists are always looking for information to put in their journalism and there’s the people looking for their information to be put into publications, and yours is the matching site. Your site helps match people. Why did you … you said earlier that you had a PR business. You were doing PR for other people. Why did you set up this business?
Jules: That’s a great question because I set it up … the GFC hit and I was really focusing on working with mompreneurs, I had a lot of … that was sort of the beginning of the whole mompreneur surge. A lot of women like me, I was sort of 35 at the time, maybe I was a little bit older and I’d had a baby and I was working at that stage of agencies and I just knew that that wouldn’t work, so I set up the PR agency by accident. I met comedian Mark Mitchel who didn’t realise that I didn’t do PR and I wasn’t going to tell him – so I took on a video that promoted The Best of the Comedy Company and did quite a good job and so got more and more out of it.
I taught myself how to do PR and then with Handle Your Own PR, around the time of the financial crisis, all our clients peeled off because at three grand a month … for a small business three grand a month is a really big amount of money and normally with PR, you need to commit to at least three months so pretty much it’s a 10 grand spend.
I said to my business partner at the time, “These stories are amazing and these products are incredible that people are coming up with. I think that the journalists would really like to hear from them anyway. Why don’t we just teach people how to do it themselves so that they could do it themselves and it makes it so much cheaper.” I guess that’s sort of where it all began and we did have and we still have probably 75% women that use the website but yeah……….the idea came from the fact that I knew that journalists don’t really care where a story comes from. If it’s a good story, they’ll run it. And I could teach people how to reach out themselves if they couldn’t afford to pay us to do it – and teach them how to do it themselves. That’s really what started the whole thing going.
Ingrid: Isn’t that terrific? That’s what your clients were going to get from it but what do YOU want from your business from day one? What was … it sounds like it solved the problem of not having any clients because of … or having limited clients because of the GFC which …
Jules: It was a bit more lifestyle-ey than that to be honest. I am a bit of a serial entrepreneur so I’d already had a graphic design business for a few years in Melbourne then I had gone oversees and worked as a freelancer at all the big agencies in London and then I’d come and been working in agencies and it really … what was pivotal was my son being born… he was just a little baby and the agency I was working at were one of those ones who checked the watch and said, “What are you doing leaving at 6:00pm?” Of course my child was spending a lot of time in child care and I just suddenly thought I know I can do this. I’ve done it before and I’m going to give it a go and it just took off really quickly.
Ingrid: What you were looking for was some flexibility, was being able to use your skills. That’s what this business was … and of course solve a problem for your clients. Jules, it might be tricky to answer this question but this is one of my favourite questions is in this particular business, when did it feel like it really was a business? When did it become real?
Jules: Well, there’s two answers to that … I’ve had quite a few businesses because I’ve also had products that I’ve created, manufactured and put in the market and I always say that it’s … this is probably very Melbourne of me but I always say it’s kind of like you get into the groove, it’s like being on Tram tracks. There is a moment that just happens where you suddenly realise that you’re on a roll and it’s all working and I think for me with Handle Your Own PR, it was almost immediate because there was absolutely nobody else in the country, in fact nobody else online that we could find doing anything like that and we were working with a lot of mompreneurs as I said. We were on a lot of those forums for business forums and for small startups and for small businesses and straight away people were going, “Oh, my God! This is just what we’ve been looking for.” I felt like from day one it was perfect. Having said that, I never really made any money out of it because I didn’t focus on it for a very long time.
We set it up in 2009 and it was really 2016 that I decided that I would get rid of the agency and just focus on this and again, almost immediately, I just felt like it was the right thing to do and it just has grown and been an absolute delight for me because it’s something that I’m very passionate about and that I love doing.
Ingrid: It’s interesting because we’re talking about a 10 year time span and setting the business up then because to think back 10 years, there’s a lot of things that are in existence now that actually weren’t even in existence 10 years ago. To be doing what you were doing 10 years ago, it’s really only in the last few years that all of this has really come to fruition. This idea of being able to handle your own PR, being able to do your own websites, things are now so much easier because of platforms like SaaS (software as a service), because of being able to put the template together and just … Look at Canva, Canva is a terrific example of something that couldn’t have existed 10 years ago because the technology wasn’t even available – so who knows where we’re going?
Jules: Well, yeah. As I said it was a very, very different website when I started out.
Ingrid: Yeah. Indeed. Okay so my next question is about how do you know what your customers wanted and you’ve told us that, that it was around these mompreneurs. For people listening who maybe aren’t familiar with that expression, there’s a lot of people starting a business as moms and it’s kind of taken a life of its own now, hasn’t it? But even 10 years ago, that wouldn’t have really been that expression. It was people starting up their businesses.
How did you know that your business was viable? Because you’ve talked that about for so many years, it just existed. But when did you see the real viability financially from a time perspective, from a resources perspective that this was a business … was that what happened in 2016?
Jules: Well, I’d go back a year earlier. I think what really changed everything for me was that I met with a fabulous woman called Karina Ho who basically said to me, “You’re missing the whole point of your business. It’s not about providing people with media contact lists.” Which was a very big focus for us in the early days.
She said it’s about education and she helped me and we started setting up some online boot camps and I think that was the moment when I went, “Whoa! This is really … I can really see that this will be a huge business.” Because we ran these online webinars where it was … and I’m going to introduce them soon, but it was an hour a week for six weeks. Monday night I’d sit down and we’d have 10, 15 people on the other end and I’d talk them through all the different stages of how to do your own PR and set them homework so that by the end of it they were sending their own media releases out and I think that was the pivotal moment when I went, “Whoa, it’s actually all about education.”
I started doing a lot more talks, I started running in-person workshops and these webinars were just … I remember the first one I made $20 grand I think it was at a six week job when it was something that I loved doing and I could do it in the evenings and no one had to see me so I could be looking like a blob on the other end of the computer and it was … I think that was the real moment and then I had another moment which was in 2016 when I met this person who had said to me, “We should turn it into a SaaS platform.” I remember at the time saying to him, “Is that even possible?” I didn’t even know you could do that. He said, “Yes, absolutely.” And off we went. He was another catalyst I suppose for a big change in the business. Yeah, I guess those two things were key.
Ingrid: Helped you to understand the viability.
Jules: That’s right. That and the fact that I’ve always had from day one, even when I wasn’t making money, amazing testimonials from people because really the first few years of the website we made hardly any money but we gave away so much information and people would almost daily come back to us saying, “Oh, my God! I read your website. It’s amazing. It’s got …” But they weren’t actually buying the list and going and doing it. The pivotal moment of joining all that up together so that it all worked together was in 2016, but the viability I felt from the start, I just felt like I … it was just a case of I was going to have to keep changing and testing and doing things until I hit the right mark.
Ingrid: That’s such a terrific example Jules of that notion of minimum viable product, MVP is you keep putting out something and you keep putting out something and people take it up and they take it up and it’s getting that … as you just said there, it’s the combination of those factors. It’s the online programme, it’s the webinars every week, it’s the SaaS platform and that’s where it all comes together and looks like a really successful business and I think it’s such a terrific example of this notion that so many people have that thought that something can be an overnight success and in fact there is no such thing – but yours is a truly textbook example of all the years of putting it into place and then when it all comes together, boom! It just … Well, I never say that where did that come from? It all just comes together.
Jules: You’re right, it did.
Ingrid: It did. It just exploded, yeah. It sounds like … because my next question is about funding and how did you fund the business in the early days. Sounds like you probably didn’t need a lot to start with because … but how did you fund something like a SaaS platform? You don’t have to tell us in detail.
Jules: I’ll tell you because it got plastered all over the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age and everywhere else when I launched it last year which is that I sold my house. I’m a single mum and I had just been … it wasn’t taking off in the way that I wanted and I just ended up saying, “You know what, I’m going to sell the house and put the money into the business.” Which I did. Much to my regret in some ways because my business partner at the time and I ended up falling out and it’s been repercussions that haven’t been ideal but that’s how I funded it … and the other thing is that other than that, it was self funded. I never took money out of it. I just kept on reinvesting it. It always paid its own bills but it didn’t really give me an income to live off on top of that.
Ingrid: That’s often the early stage, isn’t it? It doesn’t really do that.
Jules: Yeah, and also just in terms … because this is also about startups, I seriously considered trying to get investors for a very long time but I have to say, it is very hard I think as a woman to do that and also it’s so rigorous the amount of paper work that you need to do that you almost need to take your eye off the business for three months to go and prepare yourself for an investor and I just didn’t have the time to do that but that was on my radar.
Ingrid: Well, I just want to say very brave to sell your house. There’s been a couple of people on this series, say you want to start a business podcast, who’ve talked about taking really drastic measures like that to fund their business or using the deposit for a house instead of buying a house to actually get the business off the ground. It’s a huge commitment to be able to do that and you’re right about the funding because all the data shows that the majority of funding goes to male founders and that’s … you’re a tech business and also the amount of time that … I’ve seen people say that they spend up to 90% of their time just chasing funding. So your time is spent in the business with the clients. Speaking of clients, how do you find new customers now? How do you know who they are and where are they and … Handle your own PR right now Jules! How do you find your own customers apart from coming on podcasts like these?
Jules: No, no. Well, I mean seriously, I do a lot of PR and I do a lot of podcast radio interviews, I write a lot of articles for magazines and newspapers that I think are targeting my target market. My target market is as I said, small business owners, probably with a slight skew towards women just because I’m part of a lot of women’s business networks and I don’t know, there’s something about women in business that I really enjoy. I really enjoy the lifting up of people. I do a lot of talks as well, I do talks for councils, I do talks for small business networks and also for incubators and for co-working spaces. I do a lot of those talks and that just builds up my name. I’m very active on both Facebook and LinkedIn. I’m shit (to use a more technical term) at Twitter and Insta and I know I probably should get on to them but I’ve found my favourite channels and I’m on them all the time.
Then the other thing that I do is I do a gazillion meetings with people and look at ways where we can partner with them so that they promote us as well. For instance, last week I had an event in Sydney with flaunter.com which is a website that helps people get their product PR out there and I also partner with people like Business in Heels which is a big networking group in Australia and those kind of things. I keep my eye out and my ear to the ground and approach any business that I think is a good fit with my customers. I guess that’s the main way that I get new customers and this has obviously been only in the last three or four months, we’ve gone pretty heavily on digital marketing and email marketing which is working very well for us as well.
Ingrid: You’re a really good example of handling your own PR.
Jules: Absolutely. I felt that I had to walk the talk.
Ingrid: If anybody is looking for inspiration, they ought to just check out your profile, your website, sign up for your newsletter and take you as a really good case study if they’re doing the same kind of … because you’re in a service industry and a technology so there’s lot of good examples there for people.
Jules: That’s right. Yeah.
Ingrid: Just at this particular point Jules, do you want to just tell us what exactly is your website called? Is it called …
Jules: Okay. It’s called handleyourownpr H-A-N-D-L-E-Y-O-U-R-O-W-N-P-R. Exactly as you would write it out, .com.au.
Ingrid: .com.au. Everybody who’s listening jump over there and check it out because there’s a whole lot of different products and services available, which leads me to my next question. What process, and you don’t necessarily talk about the actual prices of everything that you do, how do you decide a pricing strategy because Jules, this is one of the questions I get over and over with my clients. People say, how do I charge? What do I charge? How do I know how much to charge? How do you approach that pricing strategy?
Jules: Well, I have to say that …
Jules: There’s not a lot of science behind mine to be honest. Its happened through trial and error really. When I first started the website like I said, it was reams and reams of writing and reams and reams of media contact lists and I priced them all at about $1,500 because I thought people are going to be able to use them time and time again and they’re paying $3 grand for an agency so I’m sure they’d pay $1,500 for a media list. That didn’t work at all. I think we had absolute crickets to that one. Then I put a very vague science behind it and thought, “Well, we’ll start selling media contact lists and we’ll make it about 5 bucks a name.” I cut the media contact list into much smaller amounts then I started the training, we priced that really high then had to bring it down and bring it down with the website. Even now with my SaaS platform, I had started off thinking we’d charge $300 a month for unlimited use of the media contact database and $80 a month for 30 media contacts a month and you could choose them.
That hasn’t really gone anywhere and I’ve now made a big decision to make it super cheap and affordable so I did a promotion over Christmas that worked really, really well at the $399 mark. I have now changed the price of the website to only $397 a year and that’s starting to get to build us a bit of traction already. I wanted to make it … because I know what other options are out there and there’s only a couple and most of them are $500 or $600 a month. I priced it really, really cheaply and then with the training, same thing. I used to charge … I used to run two day events and it was $4,000 per head and I’ve just decided to make it $500 a month per person to come to four each year. I’m really just … it’s trial and error I have to say.
I actually in the early years did PR for a friend of mine who is a pricing specialist. He runs a business called Pricing Profits and his whole business, his whole life is all about … He goes and works for those big petrol companies and tells them how much to charge for petrol and things like that and even he didn’t quite get it right. I think it is to an extent trial and error. There will be a point when you will realise everyone’s starting to purchase and that’s when you know you’ve hit the right mark. Having said that when you’ve got products it’s much easier because there is actual … there’s a … I want to say a sum but that’s not the right … but there is a way that you can easily work out what your products should be if you’re in the product space because then you put on your margins for this and that and whatever but when you’re selling a service, it’s much much harder to come up with the right pricing I think.
Ingrid: Well, and also too, it’s dependent on … even with a product, I’m sure my Apple iPhone didn’t actually cost $1,000 to produce but it’s the technology behind it that helped to cost $1,000. You’re actually paying for more than the actual product. For $400, for a whole year of that platform, that’s less than $8 a week. You can’t even get a glass of wine for $8. That what I … I price my services when I’m buying something. I think about how much a glass of wine costs me. For less than a bottle, a glass a wine a week you can have this PR. Anyway, this isn’t a sales podcast, this is an education podcast but seriously when we’re looking at how much things cost, and whether we’re in a business or not, like $400, if you’re going to spend $400 to buy this service, then what do you have to sell in your business to be able to pay for that service? There’s always two sides to a pricing strategy.
Jules: Yeah, and I guess where I had started and why my prices were so high in the early days is the value that you get from an article. If you get an article in The Fin Review, say a quarter page article, that if you bought it as an ad, would cost $20 grand. If you managed to get yourself on TV because I’ve got TV producers and things on there. 30 seconds on TV can be $25,000. I was pricing it that way but I realised that a lot of people in the end, don’t think that way necessarily. Then I had to start thinking, “Okay, they’re comparing it to other services. What other services are out there? What are they charging people et cetera, et cetera.” Having been the only one who started in the DIY PR sector there’s now lot’s and lot’s of people doing their own PR which is very validating. I do like it. It also means that people as you say, now start to think, “Okay, I should do my own PR. If haven’t got a big budget. This is what I could do.”
Ingrid: And here’s a great platform for meeting people.
Jules: Yeah, but it used to be just a stab in the dark almost.
Ingrid: Well, and I think for a lot of people it still is a bit of a stab in the dark particularly … and it’s what the market will be so what the value is that you provide and how much people understand that value and therefore are prepared to pay it. Jules, you said you’ve had a few different businesses that you’ve started, and I always ask this question about an exit strategy, have you thought about an exit strategy for this one?
Ingrid: You don’t have to tell us what it is but yeah.
Jules: I go into business with the exit strategy in mind I have to say and … when I was in my early 20s, I had a graphic design business and we still created the partnership agreement with the exit clauses about this is what will happen and thank God we did because at the time, it was just really good that we’d had that in writing because it wasn’t the happiest of endings. I’m a big believer in exit strategies but I have intentionally built up ‘Handle Your Own PR’ ideally to be sold to a big PR agency or another big company that does media contacts or maybe someone in the media but yeah, I’m on a path where I’m hoping that I’ll be able to exit at least running the whole business in three years. That’s my plan.
Ingrid: Terrific. There is a plan. And it takes about that long to sell a business actually, from when you start thinking about it to actually … Okay, so let’s have some reflective questions about you. We’ve talked about your business quite a lot. What’s one thing that you really wish you had done differently in this particular business at the beginning?
Jules: I wish I’d worked full-time on it from the very beginning to be honest. I feel that by not focusing on it, I just treaded along aimlessly for seven or eight years. Really, the big thing I wish I’d done from the very beginning, which a lot of people told me to do was to focus on it but I was coming up with business ideas left, right and centre. I felt like … I had twins in 2006 and I felt like some switch went off in my head where I was just … I could see business opportunities everywhere and I was picking them up. I had parenting products on the market, I had a range of envelopes in Office Works. I had Australian rights to toothbrushes for heaven’s sake, I had the agency and I also had Handle Your Own PR and there is no way that any of those got the attention that they should have. Everyone … people said that from the beginning, focus, focus and if you do, that makes a massive difference.
Ingrid: For the people listening, that is … one of the things that often happens to people who want to start a business is that they are like you with lots of different ideas. That’s a really good lesson for people to hear that is something that perhaps that you wished you’d done. Anyway, you can’t but it’s just always good to look back and see that but focus is really what it needs. Anything to be successful really needs focus. This is now a slightly different question. What do you really wish you’d known from the start? Given you’d had other businesses, you probably came into this business with quite a lot of knowledge. Is there anything you wish you’d known?
Jules: I think it just comes back to focus again. I just wish I had realised that … out there in entrepreneur land, there are two schools of thought and of course I was around a lot of blokes in those days that would be … you’d go to these entrepreneur events and they’d be three women and 90 guys. It was amazing and the way that the guys all thought was … well, there’s two schools. One was have a whole lot of businesses and then that theory is one of them will float to the top and work and then if it doesn’t, you’ve got these other ones behind it. That is one and I’ve heard there’s a guy called Pete, I can’t remember what his surname is from Deloitte that did some talks along those lines and he was like, “Have three or four things on the go so that you can move from one to the other very quickly if one doesn’t work.” The flip side of it which … I was following that kind of methodology I guess in a very casual way.
The flip side of that is just find something, work on it, focus on it, make it your whole Raison D’etre and that will give you the traction that you’re looking for and I guess that’s what I have learned and that’s what I wish I’d known from the start.
Ingrid: Good. Okay, well we’ve reiterated that now so I’m totally with you on that because it’s made a big difference in my business too when I actually focused on just this, it’s really made a huge difference.
Jules: I think there’s a lot of people who … look it’s very scary to give up regular income, whether it’s your own business or you’re employed, to take that leap of faith and focus on your own business but I think it just makes a massive, massive difference.
Ingrid: It does. Now, feedback. Sorry. Feedback and assistance. The next question is about who has been of greatest assistance you. Who has been of greatest assistance to you?
Jules: Oh, my God! To be honest, it’s an army of people. It started off with my business partner at the time who was just so supportive. We were both running the agency and I said I really want to set up Handle Your Own PR and she said, “Let’s just do it and she was brilliant.” She stayed in it for the first two or three years and then decided that she’d had enough. Then I would say another one was this awesome woman Karina Ho, who’s a digital marketing expert who just loves Handle Your Own PR and was great about helping me with the webinars and then at Christmas, I finally took the advise that a lot of people have been giving me over the years and that of course I went along with but didn’t necessarily follow which is get yourself a business mentor and I found an amazing guy called Paul Lang who’s up in Sydney who was actually a co-judge with me at a pitch fest for a business group. I don’t know what it is but he and I, the chemistry has just worked so well.
It’s only very short term. It’s only been the last five months but boy oh, boy he’s made a dramatic, huge, enormous difference to my business. Having that business mentor. Somebody that is doing the journey with you and can advise you and ideally has done it before, has just made a massive difference. Then of course I can’t forget my boyfriend who is doing all my videos for me and recording sound and creating audio books and is just emotionally supportive as well as being a practical support. Then there’s my kids and then it goes on and on. It’s an army of people.
Ingrid: It’s an army of people.
Jules: It really is. It’s been … all along there’s always somebody that’s helping you at some stage in the business.
Ingrid: Indeed. It’s not something we can do on our own, is it?
Ingrid: Who gives you feedback Jules? Where do you get really good feedback?
Jules: Going back to partners, I would say partners, friends, customers. I know that there … probably the customers is the most real because friends and partners will tend to be very supportive most of the time and say, “You can do it and it’s going to be fine and keep your head up and you’re nearly there, and all that kind of thing. Your customers I think are your best gauge of feedback because every once in a while you’ll get someone who has a really bad experience or somebody who’s really disappointed because they haven’t managed to get publicity or they’ve tried and the journalist hasn’t written the story that they wanted them to write. That really helps me. That’s the kind of thing where I go, “Okay. I need to now create some education around that.” I remember a woman said to me years ago, “When you’re writing to the media, am I writing as if I’m the journalist or am I actually writing a letter to the journalist?”
That was just one of those moments where I went, “Whoa! You just assume when you are so close to something that everybody would know.” When I said, “No, you’ve got to pretend you’re the journalist.” They were like, “Oh, my God!” It’s that kind of feedback that helps me improve the business. Then just before Christmas, as I said, I did a big promotion which was to get foundation members which are kind of my inner circle. I’ve now got 100 of those that I can test all my ideas with and ask them for feedback and I get them … they’ve got a really fantastic deal to come and be part of the group and they get unlimited use of the website but the deal is I need them to give me the feedback of things that don’t work and things that frustrate them. That’s been really, really good as well.
Ingrid: Yeah. Users, customers, clients is key feedback for you really, isn’t it?
Jules: Yeah. Absolutely.
Ingrid: I just love that example of the question that we just get so close to things ourselves that we forget what it’s like. That’s that unconscious competence that we just forget how … what it’s like to be a newbie.
Jules: That’s right.
Ingrid: Okay. If someone comes to you, and obviously they do because of the nature of what you do and they’re either … they’re sort of at that early stage or thinking about starting a business, what would you say to them Jules?
Jules: I would say that they should do it. I have to say I’m appalling this way because I’m such a huge fan of being a business owner that I try and persuade everyone to do it. Anybody who comes to me and says, “I’m thinking about starting up a business.” I would be sitting there going, “Do it. You won’t have any regrets.” The worst thing that can happen is you’ll be back in the same position that you are now, needing to go and get a job or whatever it might be but I love being a business owner, I love helping people try and work out who their customers might be or how they could monetize their business but I … anyway, I could go on forever but my answer is I would tell everyone to do it.
Ingrid: Just tell everybody to do it. Okay. Thinking about yourself, what are the three characteristics that you think you have that make you successful in your business?
Jules: Okay. I think for any entrepreneur or startup, the most important thing that you have to have is the determination to keep going. I think tenaciousness is everything when it comes to starting up a business. A lot of give up at very early stages, a lot of people don’t try and think outside the box, how can I save it, they just go, it just doesn’t work. I think tenacity is just really, really important. I’m very lucky in that I have got the ability to do sales and I was a sales person for the first 10 years of my career in newspaper selling advertising. I think having that ability for me personally has been huge because I’m not afraid to approach people, I can think in a way where I go … If I approach a company, I’ll be thinking, “Okay, what would they get out of me? What can I make myself sound attractive to them for.” I have the ability to do that. I think I’m very lucky in that I’m quite gregarious and outgoing that way and I also think I am very creative.
I’m very creative with ideas, with products and I love design and all that sort of thing. I think that creativity helps when you are looking at a brick wall basically and going, “How the hell can I get over this because this bit doesn’t work.” I’m able to think sideways. I’m very right brained rather … is it right brained? Whatever the bit is that’s not Maths oriented.
Ingrid: I don’t know. Actually, I was just reading something recently that there’s somebody debunking the right brain, left brain kind of thinking. Apparently the brain is much more complex than that.
Jules: I’m sure it is.
Ingrid: I’m sure it is too.
Jules: I love coming up with the ideas. I don’t like implementing them and all the numbers.
Ingrid: You’re not an implementer. Yeah. There’s a terrific tool when I was working in a corporate, there’s a terrific tool for teams and I think there’s one on the market now for individuals in business. It’s to help people work out in a cycle around the creative and the putting it together and the planning and then the concluder produces and there’s this whole cycle of an idea and in teams, you need to have some of everybody in a team and in a business you need to have it and if you haven’t got it, if that’s the stuff a person can’t do, then it’s important that they find someone who can. You come up with the ideas and other people do the work for you. Jules, thanks so much. This has been such … and look honestly, listening to you, you talk about handling your own PR, I can hear how you handle your own PR just in how you do things. It’s been a terrific conversation. Is there anything else?
The people listening to this podcast are people thinking about starting a business or who are maybe in that early stage. Maybe it’s someone with a little quiet dream or maybe it’s someone who’s out there telling everybody but is there anything else that you would like to add for our listeners?
Jules: Look, it sounds corny but I really feel that everyone should be doing their own PR. I really feel like if you haven’t got much money, what people don’t realise is that getting articles in magazines and newspapers and getting interviewed is 100% free. When you are a startup, when you are very small, when you’re trying to create awareness, when you’re trying to be … trying to get those customers to you, I just don’t think there is anything more powerful than PR. I guess that is my thing that I’d like to add that everyone should consider it and if you don’t know what it is, go and find out because it could be a real life saver for your business and it’s not just do it with me, just do it.
Ingrid: No, just do it. Jules, can I just ask you. Just to clarify, your platform because there’s a lot of people listening to this. Actually, more than half my audience is actually not in Australia. Is there an equivalent of what you do offshore or is yours particularly for journalists and the media in Australia?
Jules: Handleyourownpr.com.au is only for people in Australia. Having said that, we’ve just launched in the US. I have a wonderful woman called Christa in California who is running handleyourownpr.com which has all the US media contact lists and my vision for the business is that we will be doing the UK and maybe … I’d really love to get into India and South Africa in the next 18 months. It will help people overseas as well and if there’s anyone listening that knows about PR that would like to set up Handle Your Own PR in their own country, then please contact me because that’s what I want to do.
Ingrid: There you go. Handling your own PR right to the end. Jules, thanks so much for your time. It’s been a terrific conversation.
Jules: My pleasure. Thank you so much Ingrid.