Dave Millett is the founder of Equinox Communication, an independent telecom brokers company established in 2009, which specialises in helping small to medium sized UK companies finding the best deal in communications technology.
“Equinox is the only real independent telecom brokerage in the UK; we advise our clients on the best telecoms deals for their situation and their business; whether they want to save money, want to use their telecoms to increase efficiency, or perhaps they are moving office and need new technology. Our service is free to them and we don’t take a percentage of the savings – unlike some cost management companies.”
Why did you hire a PR service?
“I think for small businesses like Equinox, in a competitive industry, it’s clear you can‘t spend lots of money on advertising. My past experience, working in a corporate environment, told me that. I think PR can be much more effective for small companies and I liked Panpathic’s proposition of “If you don‘t get coverage one month, you don’t have to pay for the next month,“ – which is a risk for them, but it’s risk-free for me. When Equinox started we had very little money available for marketing but as the company grew and became more successful we found we had more things to say; we wanted to get our message, and our advice, out to more businesses. We had already done some work on Twitter and other social media platforms, so we decided to give PR a try and see if that could give us broader exposure.”
What were you hoping to achieve by using a PR service?
“Basically we wanted more visibility; a higher profile. The over-arching aim was to generate more incoming business, but at the very least we knew it would help us if we were able to show potential clients that we‘d been featured in certain publications. If I am honest, I wanted us to look bigger than we really were!
“In my mind I thought, let‘s try it and see how it goes. I know from past experience that PR is not an overnight thing, so one has to be realistic. We decided to give it six months and see if there was interest in what we had to say and whether we’d actually get any meaningful coverage. We also hoped to see the coverage progress and for Equinox to get into higher profile publications.
Did Panpathic Communications reach that goal within six months?
“Well, we’re still with them, two and a half years later! We started getting attention very soon. Chantal also gives advice on how to write and how to make things interesting. This is really useful. And it certainly helps to have someone, who knows the media, look at what you‘re saying before it goes out. So yes, we were pleased with the results and that‘s why we have carried on with them – and will continue to do so.”
What has the process been like?
“The theme at Equinox has been exposing the dirty tricks of the industry and commenting on bad practices. We‘ve always seen ourselves as the Robin Hood of the telecoms industry, so our job is to point out how we think the industry should behave and should be operated. At the beginning, Chantal and I talked about topics that might be of interest to the media. She gave some guidance on things to write and as we progressed we‘ve worked together to refine that. Now we also anticipate news stories. For example, in the week when we knew that the EU was going to make its decision on the O2/Three merger, we had our comments on this all written up and ready – so once the decision was announced, Panpathic sent this out and got us in front of high profile journalists covering this story. As a result, we were interviewed on the radio and generated other online coverage – simply by planning ahead and being ready. As time has gone on, Chantal has positioned me to the media as a commentator, which has been pretty successful. We’ve had a lot of radio and TV appearances as a result.”
What have the results been?
“What we‘ve seen is evolution: we‘ve gone from, perhaps, mainly online publications when we started out, to then getting in the printed media. For example, large regional newspapers like the Western Daily Press covered our research on schools wasting money on their telecoms. This story got us into a very large number of local and regional newspapers and magazines and that led to our first radio interview at Sunderland FM.
But then we moved on to even bigger media outlets; we‘ve been in the Sunday Express and City AM. So it started to build and build and then there was a breakthrough with our first TV appearance on CNBC. Since then we‘ve been on BBC News, had four or five appearances on Five Live Radio and we seem to have become the de facto commentator for Share Radio, which is a national business radio station. This is always where I wanted us to get to; when the media needs someone to comment on a telecom story – we‘re one of the main people they call.”
What would you say were the main benefits of using a PR service?
“I think it‘s particularly good for small businesses, and we are a small business. For our company like ours to be on national TV is something you probably wouldn‘t achieve by any other means. The coverage we’ve had is equivalent to about half a million pounds’ worth of advertising, and there‘s no way we could have spent that amount. If we take those statistics at face value then the turn on the money we‘ve invested is very good. It also helps our credibility when talking to new clients, we can refer them to the magazine articles we‘ve been in and the BBC, which is still held in pretty high esteem by most people. So when we‘re talking to people and they ask “Why should we use you?” we can say that the media deems us to be independent, that‘s why they ask us to comment.”
What’s your advice to other businesses?
“I think the best thing about Panpathic is that if they don‘t get you coverage, you don‘t have to pay. There aren‘t many PR agencies that offer that. Which I take as a sign that Panpathic is confident in what it does. You can trust that you‘re going to get coverage if you get that sort of an offer. In terms of PR, I think sometimes you‘ve got to take a little bit of risk, sometimes you have to be a bit controversial, you‘ve got to make yourself stand out from everybody else. And you‘ve got to make yourself available, if the media contact you 2-3 times and you’re not available they won‘t bother with you in the future, whereas if you help the journalists and the media, they keep coming back. You have to work with the PR company and be guided by them, they‘re the experts and if they think a story is not interesting, take it at face value. Just because it‘s interesting to you it may not be interesting to everybody else. Chantal has been very good, hence I‘m still with her and we‘ve seen continual progress. The fact that the media is now contacting us direct, I think is great testimony to the work Chantal and Panpathic has been doing over the past two years.”
For more information about Equinox see: www.equinoxcomms.co.uk