"It feels scarier than it actually is"

with Rosie Davies-Smith, founder of PR Dispatch

Show notes:

Wow. Rosie has one hell of a story! When Covid hit, Rosie Davies-Smith’s PR agency lost 90% of its revenue overnight. She redeployed all her staff to their ‘side-hustle business, PR Dispatch, which started growing exponentially. All with a newborn and a 2 year court case looming. ‘It was hard, but I really enjoyed those first few months’.

Let’s be clear here: Rosie is incredibly honest about how hard it was, the lasting impact so much pressure has had on her. But she made it work. And is transparent on ‘how she does it’. TLDR: She doesn’t.

This is one of my favourite conversations so far, we also spoke on:

  • Rosie’s one big recommendation for any business
  • How PR Dispatch moved to a 4 day working week
  • Why people respect boundaries
  • Why you need PR for your business
  • The difference between ego- and business-led PR
  • Whether your brand needs a face
  • 3 things you need if you want to start doing PR

Links:

Website
Instagram
LinkedIn

 

About Rosie Davies-Smith

Rosie is a Founder who built her business with a mission to prove PR agencies wrong.

PR agencies historically have led clients to believe they’re the only ones who can do what they do.

After running her own agency for over a decade called LFA, which supported high growth eCommerce & retail businesses to increase awareness through PR.

Rosie went on to found PR Dispatch, a platform which powers in-house teams to become the PR experts.

Since then, over 2,100 brands have been given the training, expertise and contacts they needed to take control of their PR in-house and secure their own coverage at just 3% the cost of a PR agency.

Both LFA & PR Dispatch have been recognised by StartUp100, BBC Apprentice, GBEA, Virgin Start Up, Women of the Future and many more.

Not only that but of course Rosie is doing this around her other job Motherhood.


Rosie Davis-Smith’s Links:

Website
LinkedIn (PR Dispatch)
LinkedIn (Rosie)
Instagram

Transcript:

Intro

Hello. I’m Caroline Marshall, and welcome to Bump to Business Owner the podcast speaking to mums in business. You. I’ll be in conversation with some of the most inspiring women and mothers in enterprise about their journey, how they created their successful businesses alongside raising their children and what that looks like in work and family life.

Caroline (00:05):
Hello and welcome again to another episode of Bump to Business Owner. Today I’m welcoming Rosie Davis Smith, the founder of PR Dispatch. Rosie is the founder who built her business with a mission to prove PR agencies wrong. PR agencies historically have let clients believe they’re the only ones who can do it. So after running her own agency for over a decade called LFA, which supported high growth e-commerce and retail businesses to increase awareness through PR, Rosie went on to found PR Dispatch, a platform which powers in-house teams to become the PR experts. Since then, over 2,100 brands have been given the training expertise and contacts they need to take control of their PR in-house and secure their own coverage at just 3% of the cost of a PR agency. Both LFA and PR Dispatch have been recognised by Startup 100, BBC Apprentice, GBEA, Virgin Startup, Women of the Future and many more. Not only that, but of course Rosie is doing this around her other job, motherhood. Rosie, welcome. Thank you so much for coming today.

Rosie (01:33):
Thank you for having me, Caroline.

Caroline (01:34):
What a CV! You’ve been doing businesses for so long.

Rosie (01:38):
That made me sound much better than I am that intro. Thank you.

Caroline (01:41):
Not true, not true. I fully believe in bigging each other up and I feel we do a better job doing it for each other, so that’s why I do that. So you can come in going Yes, that’s me. You’ve been running businesses for a while now, so I just know there’s going to be so much chat about, especially people business before PR Dispatch, you had more of an agency like mine and I love talking to other agency owners, but I love hearing about moms who’ve started their business, the career path that led to it. So tell us a little bit about your career path to launching LFA to start with.

Rosie (02:13):
Yeah, so I struggled through school. I was dyslexic and school wasn’t really my thing, so it was very creative and went on to do a creative degree after school in textile design. And after I finished that I started to intern, well, I interned all the way through, but really went into full-time, internships back to back, lots of different companies trying to gain as much experience as possible. And during one of these internships, I was given the task of PR and I was given a pile magazines told to call them up. This is back in the day when you used to call the press, call ’em up and email them product suggestions. It was a knitwear brand based in Southeast London. So I started to do, and over the few weeks that I was there, I started to get these responses from Elle and Vogue and the stylist on the Sunday Times, can we have some images?

(03:09):
Can we borrow some products? And I just was blown away that it was that easy to contact a magazine and then respond and want something from you. And then a few weeks after that we started to see coverage come through and I thought, this is absolutely incredible. I’d never even heard of PR before that. I didn’t have no clue that that is how magazines got their content. So I convinced the brand to pay me one day a week to do this thing for them PR and started to do a good job and she recommended me. She’s very well connected or is very well connected. She recommended me to lots of her friends that also owned businesses. So that kind of then in turn led me to start a PR agency. And I think looking back, because I’d had no PR training, I’d never worked in a PR agency, I had no idea how PR was done by other people.

(04:00):
I just knew what I was doing was working and we were very open with our clients, were very transparent and that snowballed into a much bigger agency. People liked the way they were doing it. They traditionally, and I didn’t know this at the time, but traditionally PR was quite secretive and it was who you knew and it was little black book and they wouldn’t share too much and it was very expensive. So people liked our approach, approach to it. So I started the agency called LFA in 2013 and we worked with some very good clients, very nice clients to work with.

Caroline (04:39):
I love that it especially shows the entrepreneurial spirit of like, I’m good at this, let’s do something more with it also. Yeah, lifting is the curtain, opening the curtain behind this PR door. I dunno if we grew up at the same time, but absolutely fabulous was in my childhood but still didn’t know what PR was. It was very intentionally. That’s time the joke behind it. But also you said you struggled in school and I can relate to that. I wasn’t dyslexic or anything, but I think I just struggled with the whole structure. I wasn’t very academic. And then it’s getting into the working world and realising the working world’s, nothing like that. And it doesn’t just because you weren’t very good at school, it’s like, oh, but I’m good at working and I’m good at this so I can make money.

Rosie (05:21):
And I liked the challenge of making money off my own, but my dad run his own business. So I always knew I wanted to run my own business. I had no idea what in. I thought I’d be a designer for some reason, but I wasn’t very good at design. So I dunno why I thought that.

Caroline (05:35):
I’m seeing a lot of similarities with me and singing, I was okay, but I dunno why I was convinced I was going to be a singer and I was like, no, it just didn’t happen. Obviously didn’t happen, that’s why I’m here. There you go. It’s that rebellious kind of I’m not going to be employed. And then you find your way somehow, isn’t it? What did your dad do?

Rosie (05:58):
He ran a company that made environmentally friendly cleaning products. He sold it two years ago now, and now he started another business, so he’s going for it again. And I think I’ll follow in the same footsteps If I ever get to the stage where I sell the business, I think I’ll be then starting something new but nothing related to PR.

Caroline (06:22):
So with LFA, was it originally you and clients and then did you start to grow to that agency model? What did that journey look like?

Rosie (06:30):
Yeah, so at first it was just me and I actually rented a desk off the first ever client I had the knitwear brand who I should say were a client till the very last day of LFA and now they are a PR Dispatch member.

(06:46):
She’s been with me 13, 14, maybe even 15 years now. And so yeah, I used to share, I used to rent a desk in Bronwyn’s office and then I took on freelance stuff at first. That first employee always feels very scary, so I kind of edged my way into it with some freelancers and actually after a few months I realised that we had the revenue to cover a salary and what the output I would get would be so valuable. So I hired my first employee, Cecilia, who’s still with me today. She’s been with me probably eight or nine years now, pivoted from one business to another business. She used to work LFA, she now works for PR Dispatch, the new company. Yeah, the team grew to about nine or 10. We went through, I think mean it was never glamorous, but we tried to go through the glamorous agency stage where we had a really nice office in London Bridge and we’d got up for drinks a lot and then Covid brought us back down to earth and that ended very simply.

Caroline (07:49):
At least you did it though.

Rosie (07:52):
Yeah, we definitely had, it was about two or three years when we were based right in the centre of London and we had, I’d say we were never other agencies. We didn’t really have that kind of culture, but we definitely had fun, we had loads of fun and we tried to make it a really nice working environment.

Caroline (08:09):
Oh, I love that. So tell me a little bit, I am an agency based on all freelancers right now and I know I’m going to have to employ at some point and I am kind of putting it off. How did you go about that? I just feel like there’s loads of processes and things. I have a lot of processes in face in a different way. But for employee, did it feel, how did you go about that?

Rosie (08:32):
Do you know what, and I spoke to someone else about this last week. I met someone for a coffee, I spoke about this. It always feels scarier than it actually is in reality. I’ve had the same accountant for 13 years now and they were really good at managing the payroll, the pension, they let me know all the costs involved. So they worked all that out for me ahead of me hiring her so I knew I could afford it. And actually as long as you’ve got the insurance in place, you’ve got employees insurance and you’ve got an accountant handling, if that’s kind of the, not your realm, the PAYE and the national insurance contributions and tax contributions, there’s actually not that much to do or think about if someone tells you what to pay to the government on behalf of your employees every month, it’s when you get more than one, the process becomes easier, but the costs become more because your first employee is always discounted up to a certain salary I think it is. And yeah, then the costs increase because you’ve got more people paying pension, so it can rack up quite quickly. And obviously people’s salaries increase long term salary increases, and development.

Caroline (09:40):
I think it’s that side I’m always thinking on and making sure they’re in the right role and where they want to go. I can imagine that’s a huge job, isn’t it?

Rosie (09:48):
And I try, especially because we’re all remote now, I try and make sure we have every six months an hour’s call booked in where we talk through goals and career goals and pay and all of that sort of stuff. So yeah, you are responsible for someone, but I think with the right people, it actually feels manageable and enjoyable. The team have been with me a long time and it’s nice to see them kind of, their roles evolve and then evolve as people.

Caroline (10:17):
I love that. And especially coming with you from LFA to PR dispatch. So let’s talk about that. So you went through your glamorous era and then COVID happened. And so what happened? Did I read that you lost 80% of your LFA revenue overnight?

Rosie (10:32):
Yeah, it was 90%.

Caroline (10:35):
Oh gosh, 90%.

Rosie (10:36):
So I’ll backtrack a few years. So started LFA in 2013 and then in 2017, 2016, 2017, we were getting so many inquiries for PR from amazing, amazing businesses. We only work with physical product, so e-comm or retail only physical product. And we were seeing so many brands coming through our inquiry form wanting pr. And I’ve always had this conscience thing where I won’t take on a brand if they’re not going to see the return on investment. And PRS expensive. Our costs were from 2000 pound a month, it’s expensive. And these businesses, although their products were fantastic, they weren’t at the scale to be securing PR and maximising that PR through ads or through content that they’re doing. They didn’t have the team in place or freelancers in place to do that. So we were turning away a lot of great product and I thought, what if we put all of this knowledge, everything that we know as a team of PR experts into a membership and we charge people to access it.

(11:46):
So we trialled it. I thought let’s just trial it, see if it works. We had about 20 people sign up in the first week, which I couldn’t believe and within the first three weeks a candle brand had secured press coverage in the metro and I thought we got, we’re onto something here. So I said, right, we’ll separate the businesses. So I launched PR dispatch in 2017 and it was a very subscription business. It’s nice revenue, it was easy to run because it didn’t require, wasn’t hours in output out, it was much easier to run. You were giving the same content to lots of different people. So we just had it as a side hustle for many years. It wasn’t my main focus, but we just kept it turning over and it was just growing very steadily. And then when Covid hit our agency clients all except two handed in their notice.

(12:40):
So we were left with two clients down from, I dunno, 20 or 30 clients or revenue, kind of different revenue coming in and PR DDispatch exploded. It was like everyone was at home, everyone that never had the time to think about PR or do PR before had the time to do it. People wanted to learn. We were all doing courses and different, trying to better ourselves. So PR became really, really relevant. People were reading more content, the press were producing more content, they were supporting independents and small businesses and PR dispatch just exploded. So in March, 2020 had to pivot the whole team from LFA into very random roles at PR Dispatch to keep their jobs. And they all did incredibly well.

Caroline (13:30):
Did they all come over?

Rosie (13:32):
They all came. They all came and I mean the roles were varied. We got on with it.

Caroline (13:40):
That’s amazing. What was the most random please?

Rosie (13:43):
Oh, it was everything from, because we are a tech platform, we are a tech platform, we now have our own custom built platform, but at the time we were kind of hosted on lots of different platforms. So automations like building, automate these. The girls at LFA had done PR, but I was doing videos at 3AM in the morning teaching them how to build an email flow automation so that they could do that during the day because I just had a baby.

Caroline (14:12):
And of course that little name thing that started was motherhood. So when did you become a mother?

Rosie (14:18):
February, 2020.

Caroline (14:20):
And what was your plan for that? Did you come up with a maternity plan?

Rosie (14:29):
Firstly, I was very lucky that I fell pregnant as a surprise and I hadn’t really kind of planned for kids during that time, but I think it’s one of those things that it was good that it happened to me that way. I always wanted to be in control of every situation. There never would’ve been a good time, especially when you run your own business. It was good for me that way. So I kind of decided that I’d take six to 12 weeks fully off and then just come back as and when there was a full maternity handover for both businesses, PR dispatch was handed over to the one employee that it had and LFA, there was a full contingency plan for every scenario, every situation apart from Covid.

Caroline (15:13):
You could not have a plan for that!

Rosie (15:16):
And by the time I had her, it was starting to kind of heat up in February the 15th. So I was thinking, oh, dunno how this is going to pan out. But people weren’t worried. And by the time March hit, I knew something was going to change, so I probably had two weeks of bliss and then I had to go straight back to it.

Caroline (15:39):
Wow. And what did that look like? In reality, because babies are very attached to you at that stage, they don’t move a lot, which is good, but your head can be all over the place. It’s the newborn stage, it can really go so many ways. What did it look like?

Rosie (15:55):
Well, we didn’t have the help that we thought we’d help because we were all locked down. So my husband’s mom was going to help us, especially with me just tapping into work some days, but that was not possible I guess my husband then was at home all the time, which was a plus. So we kind of tag, tag teamed it actually, when Amazon shows your photos on the TV past photos, a photo came up two days after she was born and I’m sitting on the bed with a laptop in front of me and she’s in my arm. So I must have been kind of working and on top of stuff, there were a lot of videos of how to do stuff, late night lists, sending stuff to the team during the night or at least typing it out and then sending it in the morning on their time.

(16:43):
The fact that I had the team massively helped. They were able to implement everything and it was just me delegating, doing the handover and the how to do it. And actually I actually really, I mean it was hard. It was definitely hard and I was worried about revenue, but I actually really enjoyed those first few months. I did a lot of online workshops and we just made it work. Either my husband would have her for an hour while I did it or she’d nap. She was quite a good baby. So that helped. I didn’t realise, I didn’t realise until I had my second how look I was with the first one.

Caroline (17:19):
Oh yeah, I hard relate to that hugely so much. So I was like, oh, what a dream. That early newborn time was for the first versus the second who goes like this. It’s interesting because that twofold thing, I say this about team you and you’re so lucky you’ve got people who can run things, deliver things, but ultimately they were all employed by you. So there must have been that pressure there in Covid with that initially.

Rosie (17:47):
Yeah, I had to fix it. I had to come up with the answers. We also had a bit of a legal battle, not absolutely no fault of our own from an aggressive LFA client and we’d performed our contract, but that was all going on in the back end that we had to get lawyers involved and be represented and we would dragged through the court so that on top of one business going under and the other business growing so quickly that I couldn’t keep control of it and a newborn baby I think. Yeah, it was quite a lot and it took me quite a few years to get over it. I think just the pressure of it all at that time. I then struggled a lot with postpartum insomnia after my second, but I think it was everything that had happened after coming

Caroline (18:36):
Back from that kind of, yeah. Yeah. And thank you for sharing. I mean it shows you weren’t superwoman, there was a price for that time and now you’re further out of it so you can see that and addressed it, which is hugely inspiring, but also thank you for sharing that legal battle. I think it’s going to be a given at some stage as a business. I think about it that maybe at some point that might happen to Upsource, hopefully not, but it will, as a business these things happen and I think if you talk about it, it’s like, okay, well if Rosie can get through this, I can.

Rosie (19:16):
Yeah, at the time my husband was like, it was an argument over the full retainer. They wanted back even though we performed the contract and at the time I just felt so vulnerable. But I had to defend myself. I knew we were in the right and we did win, but my husband was like, make it easy on yourself. You could just give the money back. And I thought, no, I’m being bullied. One thing I would recommend for anyone listening that does run a business, legal expenses, insurance is the best money you will ever spend in your business. It’s like some add-on for seven pound or something going on.

Caroline (19:47):
I’m off to check my insurance after this

Rosie (19:50):
Actually everyone go and check your insurance legal expenses cover. We racked up massive legal bills, but it was all covered by our insurance.

Caroline (19:59):
Amazing.

Rosie (19:59):
I really, really recommend.

Caroline (20:01):
And well done. It was nothing like that. But back last year I had to hold a client to contract for several reasons and he tried his best. He really tried and it felt really tough, but I had to do it for the team and I had to do it and I, I was doing it for the right reasons as well. When you are doing something for the right reasons and you feel really good after, you’re like, yes, I’m glad it pulled through.

Rosie (20:30):
Well done. It’s not easy. It’s not easy. And I think as boundary, we always take it really, really personally as well. It’s like a personal toll on your mental health and everything that you’re doing. So yeah, well done. It’s not an easy thing to do.

Caroline (20:42):
And I wonder if there’s something in that, like you said, you had just become a mom and I think it’s okay now to say, I think back when my parents might have become mothers in the eighties, nineties and we had to do it the male way, it’s okay to say now. Actually also I was vulnerable. I was in early years, early days of motherhood and that’s okay to say as well that you might’ve hugely taken it harder. Although you still did the right thing, did an amazing job. It does make it harder, doesn’t it?

Rosie (21:11):
Yeah. And when I went through therapy for insomnia after that, that came apparent that I did find it all hard. And it’s okay to say I did find it hard, everything that was going on,

Caroline (21:22):
No. And I had PTSD after my second and it took a long time to realise or get to the stage where I was ready for that help and it does that. And with the insomnia, was that down to children or was that also yourself?

Rosie (21:38):
It was me, sorry. I was waking up before she was crying was partly PTSD from her birth and then everything that had happened from the first Covid baby, my two are very close together, they’re 13 months apart. So I, it was just a lot at the same

Caroline (21:54):
Time. It’s a lot now when, because I got pregnant, I got pregnant 18 months after my first, but then with my second one I was two years out of the hormones, the birth, all of that. I was like, no, this is what I’m like as a person.

Rosie (22:08):
Lovely, isn’t it?

Caroline (22:11):
I think it takes two years where you’re like, oh, this is me. Not that wreck I’ve been while breastfeeding and pregnant.
Rosie (22:19):
It’s so true.

Caroline (22:20):
It’s so true. And then especially if you’ve done the work as well. So well done on that. I do feel then if you’ve not just got through all of that but then been like right, I need to address the insomnia of the PTSD and do that. And it’s great for on your team, it benefits your business as well.

Rosie (22:37):
Yeah, and it was very honest with the team about it because I suffered with insomnia for two years after having her. So I had to be honest in the end I was like, I can’t actually cope day to day,

Caroline (22:48):
Well done. I dunno how when I wasn’t sleeping because of the kids. And even obviously it still happens now at five and three sometimes and it’s a killer. You have to remember it’s a form of torture, not being able to sleep and we can’t start keep pretending it’s not. So yeah, well done on everything on top of that. And I do wonder with your change though, to PR dispatch, you did it out of necessity, but do you think it’s been absolutely the best thing for your business and family life?

Rosie (23:17):
A hundred percent. I’d already kind of thought before I got pregnant, do I want to continue this agency life? It was really fun. But clients, there’s a lot of demand on you events being in places and it’s not very flexible and I don’t like to be kind of tied to anything. That’s why I started my own business. So having be at events or in Central London and I found that really restrictive. So it was definitely the best thing. And I think my ego would’ve got in the way of me closing the agency. The agency was my first baby. I loved it so much and I loved what we had achieved from very little and I love how people looked at us and talked about us and it would’ve been very hard to make that decision to close it. The decision was made for me. Covid made the decision for me. So yeah, one good thing that came out of it.

Caroline (24:21):
I love that. Do you think otherwise you talk about your ego, do you think it would’ve felt like a failure? It wouldn’t have been a failure because people close businesses all the time and it’s part of it, or it might have been, but that’s okay. But do you think it might?

Rosie (24:33):
Yeah, I think it would’ve, yeah, I would’ve felt like more of a failure if I hadn’t have had PR Dispatch and that’s fine. I think I failed on many, many, many things. But having something to focus on and jump straight into something that was working, something that the market wanted, it really did soften the blow. I jumped from one thing that was working to something else that is working.

Caroline (24:58):
It is. I love that. And you’ve moved from London to the countryside, so that must be a huge benefit as well. When did you do that? Did you still have LFA when you did that?

Rosie (25:12):
We still had LFA, but only because of the legal battle. We couldn’t close the agency until we’d closed the case. So that actually took two years, although I lost all the business in 2020 being dragged through the courts. We were in that till January, 2022.
Caroline (25:29):
Did you actually physically have to go to court and things for that?

Rosie (25:32):
So the person that was suing us actually fell off the face of the earth six months into the case and didn’t pay his solicitors. But because the case was already in the court system, you then have to go through all the motions even though they’re not there or turning up or showing up or don’t even have representation. So we all have to provide statements and everything. And by this point I had my second child, so I asked my solicitors to request that I could do it online rather than go to London to turn up to court and that they’d kind of got missed. And then we had a court date, so I was about to get on a train and then I got an email saying that whole case had been overturned.

Caroline (26:12):
That’s a relief at least.

Rosie (26:13):
Yeah, I didn’t actually physically have to go to court, although I did have a hotel room booked in which I let one of my employees stay in for the night. So yeah, I didn’t have to physically go there. But yeah, it was a two year drawn up, very drawn up court case, especially when the other side weren’t even there anymore. So yeah, I moved here while that was all going on. We moved in late 2020 November, 2020. So yeah, just had my first and was heavily pregnant with my second and down to Devon. No regrets.

Caroline (26:46):
And had you made a choice, were your team in London had you made a choice to just all go remote, go all in?

Rosie (26:54):
We still had an office. We still had an office until kind of 2023. So I kept the office open for anyone that wants to go in and as the team started to move out, like Cecilia, who I said was my first of employee, she moved out to broad stairs and Kent. So as the team started to move out and go to the office less, I decided it was time to go fully remote. I do give them all a budget for co-working so they could go to a co-working space because I don’t think it’s healthy to be at home on your own all day every day.

Caroline (27:25):
And everyone has different circumstances if you live in a flat with flatmates, it’s just nice for you to be somewhere.

Rosie (27:31):
Exactly, exactly. So try and get them out of the house. I try and get out the house kind of every now and again. But yeah, just make it as flexible as possible. We’ve always been pretty chilled out as a business or we’ve done half day Fridays for years and now we’re actually a fully four day work week. So yeah, just try and make it enjoyable.

Caroline (27:51):
Everyone’s going to be like, I’m writing to you for work. Yeah, I saw that you moved four days a week. Flexibility for parents. Do you think, I mean it sounds like you are always flexible, which is great, but do you think before parenthood you kind of got why that might be needed or how key flexibility is for some people?

Rosie (28:13):
I definitely understand more now after having complete honesty. I definitely, it’s not even the hours, it’s the headspace. The headspace from running from school drop off to getting back to jumping straight on a laptop without even having time to make a cup of tea or go to the toilet is really, really difficult. And I don’t think I had an appreciation for that. We’ve always had quite a lot a young team previously. Obviously we’re all a bit older now because we’ve all been with for so long and don’t think we ever had anyone with kids until kind covid time. But yeah, it definitely gave me appreciation for the lack of headspace that you have as a parent and what the mornings look like. You’ll know before I’ve even sat down at my desk, I’ve done a full day’s work of trying to get toddlers trousers on.

Caroline (29:11):
Yeah, we normally do the school round with both kids, but my second is just so hard at the minute we just separated them and just thought, let’s just give this a go. I’m just tired of dealing with it.

Rosie (29:25):
Love that.

Caroline (29:25):
And it’s that adaptability and even I spoke to a school mom the other day, I kids are on the older side of bus, I think like six and eight now, and she’s still a four day week and she’s like Friday’s when I get everything done. There’s so much to do that you just can’t do.

Rosie (29:42):
Yeah, Fridays my, so I either use a Friday and I really encourage, we used to do half day Fridays from I think it was 2016 or 2017, and that’s when we were in the offices and a much bigger team and that was great. But what I was finding was we’d come in for half a day and people would then stay a little bit later every week. So it was very quickly creeping up to finishing at one o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock, four, and it just wasn’t working. So I was like, right, we’re actually going to reduce hours, we’re going to reduce all of our hours to, I think it was, we work 35 hours a week across four days and no one’s going to work a Friday. And actually that’s really, really worked and the team really tried to stick by it, which is good because then that makes me stick by it as well. And on a Friday I’ll go and have a, I’m still trying to start my sleep out having a holistic massage for my sleep or I’ll do half a day’s work, I’m all recording content. So I like that flexibility. I like the quiet on a Friday, it’s just nice to have breathing time.

Caroline (30:44):
Things are, I mean I’ve been running in the virtual assistant industry for ages now and I can see Fridays are quiet and that is the nature of it. I can see it across the board. Occasionally there’ll be something that kicks off, but mostly across the board. It’s like August and December, the quiet months, you see these trends happening and you’re like, why don’t we embrace that? Can I ask on a business perspective then say, what if you do have people, I dunno how it works with your sort of model, would people ever need something on a Friday that people jump into

Rosie (31:13):
Jump this scare? This was actually the most terrifying thing about it.

Caroline (31:18):
Okay, love it. Great question then.

Rosie (31:20):
Really great question. Although we’re a subscription model and it’s like two 3% of what you’d pay a PR agency are our subscription fees from £60 a month. It’s super affordable and I was worried that people weren’t going to think we were dedicated if we weren’t around on a Friday. What a ridiculous thing to think. We just literally lay it out. Now it is on the membership, it’s on our emails. We are a four day week, don’t bother us on a Friday. It’s on our community group questions will not be responded to on a Friday. These are our working hours. And because we’ve been so firm about it, people really respect it, our members really respect it. When I was a bit scared and a bit flaky about it, that’s when it wasn’t landing. I wasn’t strong enough. Now I’m like, please do not bother the team on a Friday because no one is around. We’ve got an automated email that goes out straight away. Anytime someone emails our customer service, this will not be responded to on a Friday. We are a four day work week. So yes, I say be straight about it if you’re going to do it.

Caroline (32:21):
I love that and I think it’s always good to share that, but share the fear behind it because the whole reason I grew an agency model is I thought no clients, I think I came back originally three days a week and as in formally, obviously it’s your own business, so you end up working other times. But I thought, what clients are going to work with me in less than five days a week? And I was so wrong. I’m always pitching VAs from the team to work different hours with clients and the clients are fine with it for the right person and I’m like, oh, I was so wrong.

Rosie (32:54):
I think it actually really makes me respect people more when they can set such clear boundaries like that. Our developer only works with us very certain days unless something massive blows up. But I love that. I love those boundaries. It really makes me respect people

Caroline (33:11):
And I feel like it’s sometimes you just know when they’re there as well kind of thing. I think that’s what the clients like about it. So I think that’s, no, thank you for sharing. I think the fear around it is what obviously on a large scale, what bigger businesses feel and it’s just easier to implement with smaller businesses, but you still have that fear there about it. Let’s talk about PR because I love your approach and your mission and there’ll be listeners who are scared of PR or don’t understand what it is, which was both of us we established. So can you break down why would someone need PR for their business?

Rosie (33:47):
So PR is your awareness strategy. It’s like your business visibility, founder visibility. So it works with your own channels, so the own content that you put out there, which is your social media, your emails, blog posts, and then also your advertising. So any paid content that you’re doing, your PR is the third part of that, which is your earned media. So it’s where a third party is writing about you, your business, your product, your service, and endorsing it hopefully in a positive way. Not all PR is positive, but majority in a positive way. And it’s really, really, really, really important because yes, obviously increases those touch points. Visibility makes people aware of you, your story, your journey, but it also increases trust and credibility. And in 2024 that is so important for a business owner or a product or a service to look credible because people want to buy from people that they can trust.

Caroline (34:52):
I love that it’s still about the people. Even you guys specialise in product-based businesses as well, but I think more and more do you think as a product business you need to have your face attached to it. For any product-based businesses listening there,

Rosie (35:08):
I think you have a much better chance of securing press coverage and increasing sales if people are buying from people. I think Grace Beverley is a really good example of this. She has three businesses for anyone that doesn’t know, two product, one app, and she’s done incredibly well through her personal brand. She sells the product, she’s selling million pound launches in an hour, she’s doing them over a million pound in an hour. It’s insane. But she’s really relied on her personal brand, her founder journey, her story, putting herself out there to sell the products. And these products have huge teams now, but it’s still very much focused on her. So I think she’s a really good example of how putting yourself at the front of the business as a face of the brand can lead to a very, very successful brand.

Caroline (35:59):
I love that. And that ties in nicely. I was going to talk about something I read from you was about ego-driven pr, but speaking about Grace Beverley, because I think sometimes when you’re growing a personal brand, putting yourself out there, that to me sometimes feels like, okay, am I just sort doing some ego drive here or is this really beneficial to Upsource, to the podcast, to my mission? And I get those confused sometimes. What are your thoughts on feeling like you are being ego-driven with your personal brand or what would you consider ego-driven pr? It’s probably two questions there.

Rosie (36:33):
Yeah, yeah. There’s two things here. So I used to say, I still do say it, if I had a pound for every time someone had come to me, a brand had come to me and said, we really want to be in vogue. I would honestly be a millionaire. The amount of people that are like, I just want to be in Vogue. And I’m like, well, why do you want to be in Vogue? Oh, because the best magazine out there that for me is ego-driven. You’re not thinking about your positioning, where your brand is, where your consumer is, what they want to read about you or where they want to see you. You are thinking about where you want to be. So that I think that is ego-driven po. And you’re thinking about the names of publications. Forbes is another one. I’m not saying Forbes isn’t great, it is great, but Forbes is another one for service businesses. Every service business. I want to be in Forbes.

Caroline (37:20):
How can you get me in Forbes, Rosie?

Rosie (37:24):
Oh, well I can try. No, I think Forbes is great. I think Forbes is great for something like a service-based business that’s got an opinion, you would actually be great for Forbes. Caroline like, oh thanks, you’ve got an opinion on an industry, you’ve got a thought leadership piece to put forward on the four day work week or something like that. That’s great for Forbes. But if you just want to be a founder with your name in Forbes, that’s ego driven pr. I can’t remember the other question now.

Caroline (37:52):
Me neither. That’s ego. Oh yeah, that’s ego driven PR and how if someone, yeah, I guess that does tie into, because I think sometimes personal brand, you can feel ego driven. So I guess it’s going back to that purpose, isn’t it?

Rosie (38:04):
So I think the personal brand only feels ego driven to you if you’re getting the ick, which you do as a founder, especially a founder doing pr. The PR ick is a real thing I would say for anyone listening that’s thinking about doing pr. If you can hire someone, a va, not just because you do it, but VAs are sometimes great, just sending emails for you to the press on behalf of your brand or business or an assistant, or you hire someone in-house to handle PR and marketing and maybe another area of your business. Getting someone else to do your personal brand PR is really good because it takes away the feeling of like it’s ego driven because actually personal brand PR is not ego driven. It’s the publications having just one top level publications that you want to be in and nothing else but personal brand PR is actually really, really important. Writing opinion pieces for B2B magazines or featuring on podcasts, talking about your journey, none of that is, that’s just good personal brand PR.

Caroline (39:09):
Amazing. And can I bring up, you mentioned something you did that was ego driven. I think it’d be lovely to share on here because I think it’s very timely as well. Was it The Apprentice? Yeah, you brought it up on Instagram, so I felt I could bring it up here. Is that okay?

Rosie (39:26):
No, you can’t. Yeah. Yeah. So that makes me cringe. That makes me cringe.

Caroline (39:31):
I mean, we’ve all done stuff, we cringe. I was in the Daily Mail once and it does make me cringe a little. The photos were nice though, so to make me cringe that hard. So what happened there? Did they approach you? Why did that feel cringe for all right, for your brand?

Rosie (39:50):
It feels cringe because they did approach me. Yeah, so it was the final of Apprentice 2018, they had Sian Gabbidon, her name was, she was a fashion designer, a swimwear designer. And for the final episode of The Apprentice, they bring in 10 experts from each industry. And the BBC research team found me through press online. So this is why PR is really important.

Caroline (40:17):
And personal brand as well, I guess.

Rosie (40:19):
Yeah, it was an Elle article actually. It was a top fashion entrepreneurs or something like that. So the research team found me through that article and contacted me and said, we’d like you to come and judge be one of the final 10 judges on the final of the Apprentice. Really, really flattering and a really great experience. I don’t regret doing it. It was a really, really great experience. It was the fact that it was so widely publicised and lots of people from school were watching it and I got a lot of messages after that just made me really, really, really cringe. But it was nice to do. Did it drive any business? Absolutely not because it was ego driven.

(40:58):
My audience, they’re not there. It was great for trust and credibility, but it didn’t drive any leads through, it wasn’t the right sort of PR for our brand or business, but nice to do.

Caroline (41:16):
I think well done on doing. I bet it is a great experience, all of those things. And I think like you said, it’s just that sudden realisation. You’ve put yourself out there and people you don’t want to know knowing what you do, maybe coming out the woodwork.

Rosie (41:33):
Ex-boyfriends and stuff…

Caroline (41:35):
Oh no, no.

Rosie (41:39):
I have a really good example of someone that didn’t do what I did. We had a member and she got featured on a podcast called I think it’s Make a Meaning. I think it’s very, very niche. And within the first four hours after the podcast went live, she’d had over 250 listens from a really niche, I mean make a meaning, very, very, very niche, the meaning behind making products. But it was so good because every single one of those listeners that was so jumped on it so quickly to listen within the first four hours was super interested and engaged with what she was saying and probably are much more likely to buy from her than if she was on some sort of big platform. So when you’re thinking about PR and you’re thinking about where you’re going to target, yes, obviously national publications are great and I’m not saying don’t do national publications, but you should also be thinking niche. Where are your audience? What are they engaging with? What are they listening to? And sometimes some very small platforms out there that specialise or really drill down to very niche content is much better than The Guardian, although The Guardian is great, but you know what I mean?

Caroline (42:48):
No, yeah, I can see that being so true. And yeah, that’s a really good takeaway from that. They heard her whole story on this podcast versus a second on the app. Wait, what’s the show called? The Apprentice. I love that. And just to come back to, because we’re kind of wrapping up now, but how do you feel then? Because I look at your journey is incredible over the past few years. I’m really excited to see what you achieve over the next couple of years. If you can do all of that in early motherhood, I’m sorry, people who say it doesn’t get easier, I really, really feel it does.

Rosie (43:24):
Oh thank you.

Caroline (43:26):
I may be having three major tensions right now, but at least I’m me versus me pregnant, breastfeeding, traumatised, all of that. So how do you feel about the term, how do you do it? When I bring this up, because when I’ve been asked, it’s literally by moms who are like, I barely able to breathe at the minute. How are you managed? How did you do that during lockdown? All of that stuff. Or it’s like a genuine question. They’re really invested in you and think you are inspiring. So how do you feel about that term?

Rosie (43:55):
I don’t do it. I think it’s the absolute honest term. It’s incredibly hard. We are desperate for help as in nanny au pair childminder, we’ve moved to the most remote part of Devon. So childcare down here is literally non-existent. The kids are in nursery, well, they’re now in the school nursery, which is the hours are like nine 15 to three. It’s impossible.

Caroline (44:27):
You have holidays as well

Rosie (44:29):
With holidays. My husband’s London every other week at least. So I’m doing three days on my own. I’m not doing it, I think is the honest answer. I’m kind of doing as much as I can within the hours that I have. I work, I try not to put too much pressure on myself. I try and work evenings, even if it’s with a glass of wine or two, just write

Caroline (44:52):
The edge off.

Rosie (44:53):
Take the edge off. Honestly, honestly, I think it’s really hard without help, I think we don’t have any grandparents down here and that it really does take its toll. So yeah, I think I would be able to do it with a bit more support, which we are desperately looking for. So anyone listening, maybe…

(45:24):
But yeah, it’s incredibly hard and I think women that are doing it all, you do have help. And whether that help is childcare help or it’s team help, that help could be team help as well. The business wouldn’t exist without the team. It just wouldn’t. I can send a task over and it’ll be done within a few hours. So that is incredibly supportive and just having as much help on the business side, even if I haven’t got it on the family side, is really important. But yeah, help and support I’d say.

Caroline (45:55):
I love that because it’s like you’re sharing your goal as well kind of thing. And I think it’s valuing those roles that support teams, nannies, your work team all play in this and helping mothers achieve their goals and build great things as well. So thank you. And yes, we’re definitely not all just doing it. Everything’s falling. Finally, thank you so much for throwing that you’ve been so honest about your journey and I know it’s going to help so many people. So let’s end on one more thing to help them. What three things can someone do is running a business and terrified at the thought of PR. Do to just start,

Rosie (46:32):
Number one, whether your service or product get some great images. So if your product, images of your product cut out images, white background, if you are a service business, some really good founder shots, shots of your workspace, shots of your team, whatever angle you’re going to be pitching in. But founder shots go a long way. Number two is just start PR is actually not scary. The press really, really like hearing from you as long as you’re sending a well-crafted email with something of interest. They actually really like hearing from you. They need your suggestions to do their features. So just start. And number three is use social media to your advantage. The beauty of PR these days, unlike when I first started on the phones, is that you can connect with anyone right this second. You can connect with the editor of The Times, The Guardian, Stylist, Grazia right this second, whether it be on Instagram or LinkedIn. Go and connect with them.

Caroline (47:36):
Love that. I’m going to go make some new follows on my Instagram account right now. Oh, amazing. And Rosie, where can people find you if they’re invested in your story now come

Rosie (47:45):
And connect with me on LinkedIn. I’m really doing a LinkedIn push this year, so I’m going to say LinkedIn. I normally, I’d say Instagram, but I’m going to say LinkedIn. I’m Rosie Davis Smith on LinkedIn, on Instagram, we are PR dispatch, D-I-S-P-A-T-C-H. And you can come and find out more about how we help e-com businesses through our website. You can sign up anytime for a tour and join and get started straight away if you’re an ecom brand wanting to take your PR in-house.

Caroline (48:09):
Amazing. Well thank you so much Rosie. I can’t wait to hear more speak to you again maybe in a couple of years about your next journey. And thank you so much for your time today.

Outro

Thank you so much for listening to Bump to Business Owner. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. Please do rate, review, follow or subscribe wherever you’re listening. It really helps us to connect with more mums and business owners. You can DM me at Bump to Business Owner on Instagram and I’ll be back next week.

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