Brangelina: The PR Breakdown of a Break-Up

The story of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie is one of a carefully constructed image. Since day dot, their public relations machine has been churning out stories to present a snapshot of their performances and their personal lives with the widest public appeal.

This is the same for every celebrity. Charlie Sheen is a Hollywood bad boy; Beyonce is “Queen Bee”; Jennifer Lawrence is the dorky girl next door, and Kim Kardashian (no matter what you think of her) is America’s sex tape celebrity-turned marketing genius.

However, when Brad and Angelina first ‘came out’ to the world, their respective images went from Hollywood’s leading man and woman to homewrecker, cheats and liars. You know the story – Brad was married to Jennifer Aniston, and met Jolie while filming Mr and Mrs Smith. Both denied any romance between them, yet it was a matter of days between Brad and Jen announcing their divorce and Brangelina being snapped on the beach together. Our favourite Friend was painted as the sweet, innocent victim while Angelina was the sexy-but-evil ‘other woman’.

(Brad, as the man in this equation, mostly got off scot-free while the media pitted (lol)  #TeamAng and #TeamJen against each other. But that gender narrative is a whole other blog.)

The point is, there is so much that can be learned about creating, managing and framing your public presence from celebrities – especially now that Brangelina is no more. Yep, Angelina filed for divorce on September 15, citing “irreconcilable differences”.  

So let’s take a stroll through the history of their relationship, and follow the PR powerhouse of Brangelina for a few insights into taking control of your own story.

Control your narrative

As celebrities, people are always going to talk about you. In fact, that’s the point (and the job description.) The only problem is that it can be difficult to manage your own story when everyone is in on it – but it’s a great lesson to the rest of us about front-footing any news where and when you can.

As soon as Brad and Ang were photographed together for the first time, their PR machine was quick to turn things around. It didn’t take long for the stories to change from “Homewrecker Angelina!” to “Angelina Jolie – The New Mother Theresa”. A global humanitarian outreach strategy was the perfect antidote to the backlash the Tomb Raider star was facing, placing both her and Brad in strong positions as they helped with relief efforts and won humanitarian awards.

brad pitt, angelina jolie, brangelina, divorce, public relations

The photo that started it all (Credit: US Weekly)

Beyond this, they were experts at linking their growing, global family to the ‘do-good’ narrative they had going. They were healers, humanitarians, adoptive parents of children from third world countries, and were using their power to heal the world. Even Brad’s image benefitted from the strength of the Jolie narrative. He went from being Jolie’s ‘victim’ (or the main villain, depending on which way it was spun) to a “great dad” and humble sidekick to her global humanitarian efforts.

Their story flipped from sex and scandal to one of family and fundraising. Talk about a 180-degree campaign.

Stronger together: A PR portmanteau

It probably took less than a year for Ang and Brad to shed the negativity and become a brand united. They weren’t individual celebrities anymore – they were Brangelina.

brad pitt, angeline jolie, brangelina, face mash up, public relations

The United States of Brangelina (Source: gesichtermix)

Many other celebrities have tried to ride the same mashed-up name train, and failed. It wasn’t that Brangelina had a better ring to it than Bennifer or TomKat – it was that their joint story was stronger, more believable, and unique. Apart, they probably would have done alright for themselves (okay, who are we kidding, they’re millionaires and on-screen royalty – they would have been fine) but together…. they became unstoppable.

Indeed, any story about Ang also became about Brad, and vice versa. When Angelina announced her double mastectomy via an op-ed in the New York Times, Brad also released a statement to say how “heroic” his wife was, cementing their partnership and joint brand. See? Alone? Okay. Together? Better.  

From a PR perspective, two is so often better than one: An entrepreneur who launches a successful business is a great story, but a ‘philanthropreneur’ who also gives millions to solve the world’s problems is an even better one. If your business has a founder with an interesting story, that’s great, but two founders with incredible backstories is front page material.

Staying on-brand, for better or for worse

Even when things go south, it’s important that a brand’s messaging stays on track and all parties involved aren’t thrown to the wolves. Even though Ang and Brad have split up, the news and announcement of their divorce would have likely been no accident. Just because the main players have split doesn’t mean the game stops being played.

It would have been a calculated decision to ‘leak’ the divorce papers at the same time his new film trailer for Allied dropped. In fact, it works in Angelina’s favour, too, as their joint production company, Plan B, depends on the film doing well. At the same time, she gets to be the public front-footer of the divorce news, as the one who filed the papers in the first place.

Plus, Angelina has her lawyer in her corner being on brand by saying that she filed for divorce “for the health of the family”.

Perfect messaging from a well-oiled PR machine – something everyone can learn from.

Looking for strategic help to create, manage and pitch your brand? Get in touch with us at [email protected] 

I’ve launched an entire company on my own, I can do my own PR, right?

The email addresses of the reporters are online, I have friends of friends who can introduce me to some reporters at Channel NewsAsia. I can save some money and do my own PR, right?

Well you could. Then again, you could also buy your own property without an agent and represent yourself in court. The question is then, would that really be the best way forward?

The most important thing about PR is not the media contacts, it’s the narrative. What an agency can provide is a seasoned ear that can counsel you on what exactly are the really juicy stuff that would be interesting to press and then find a way to package it.

You know that saying: “When you are too close to a situation (in this case your business) you can’t see the big picture”? This is exactly that.

If we had donated a dollar to charity for every time a client wanted to release to media the outcome of an “internal meeting” or “upcoming revolutionary product upgrade”, the world would be a better place.

So back to packaging, how do we do it exactly? Here’s the secret. We take a magical blend of the following:

  • Your objective for the PR effort (e.g. get more users to your product, build buzz before an upcoming IPO?)
  • Your key messages (e.g. what makes your business special in the market? Reliability? Cost-effectiveness? Proven R&D?)
  • Your initiative / announcement (e.g. Doubling your headcount in Singapore? Tie-up/partnership with another firm for an initiative? Received a round of funding?)

We will use all this information to provide journalists and influencers with a comprehensive narrative that will articulate your brand in the best way possible.

Without the narrative, you may still get the coverage, but trust us, it won’t have the same impact on the readers. There’s nothing worse than securing a big interview but losing the story because the message was lost. It won’t leave a lasting impression.

Need help kickstarting your next PR campaign? Get in touch with us at [email protected].

Why you need to hire a cross-functional PR and content agency

As PR and content professionals, we’re no longer just writing releases and making calls, we’re producing videos, directing photoshoots, filming vines, writing literature, overseeing design work, and some of us need to breakdance. Okay one of us.

Public relations is one of the fastest moving industries, and that’s mainly due to how much digital has changed the way audiences perceive brands. Likewise, content marketing has been the advertising industry’s hot new potato for the past few years and we have to learn a new skill every quarter.

In order for agencies to keep up with the demands of our clients, we need to be agile and perform roles outside of our departmental silos. At Mutant we have a small team, but we are also flexible ninjas at adapting to new roles. Three of the skill requirements for working with us is 1) flexible 2) digitally savvy 3) parkour.

When hearing pitches from agencies, pay attention to how big their team is. Is it a huge agency where they’re passing clients to juniors down the line? Do you know your main point of contact and content producers? Get to know the roles of each member you’re working with and their skillset.

If you’re not hiring an agency, but want to have a cross functional team, it’s not easy. But it is achievable with some guidelines. It takes a lot of planning, structure, patience, and snacks to get everyone on the same page. Here are some tips on how to build your own cross-functional team.

  • Clearly defined roles: To avoid the “that’s not my job” culture, make sure everyone in the team has a clearly defined job description with expectations of crossover duties. This can avoid any work left incomplete, or tasks ignored. With explicit roles, team members will know exactly what is expected of them, and they’re just not dropping in and out of the conversation and getting involved as they please. I.e. “The content manager is responsible for all video strategy, but contributes 3x weekly social posts.”
  • Set standards: Learning on-the-go is fun, but you can save hours if you spend one day training a newbie on what “done” actually looks like. When everyone has more than one role, there can be some heavy inconsistencies.
  • Creative brainstorms: Getting stuck in your own silo means you’re recycling the same ideas over and over. Once a week, sit down to share some creative ideas across the entire team to see them through (in our case, everyone does PR and content ideas).

This means getting ideas from all departments, because nowadays, data teams could be offering PR teams some killer insight, likewise content professionals might know all the buzzwords that the sales team need to close those deals.

  • Set limits: One of the biggest downfalls of cross-functional teams is work being put on one person. Deadlines for specific deliverables should be set. To set realistic deadlines that get done, don’t overload work on to one person.
  • Be resourceful: We don’t mean re-using post-it notes. Be resourceful with your staff. Not everyone is hired to do the job that they’re meant to do. One benefit of having a cross-functional team is to be able to allocate resources properly. If you see a flailing staff member, give them the option to move onto another project that they might be better at.
  • Have several accountable leaders: With some staff members grinding out the details, it’s hard to see the project as a whole. The trend towards cross-functional teams means we’re losing that old-school hierarchy mentality that inhibits pro-active and creative staff. That being said it’s important to share leadership functions and make sure each project has a different team leader that’s accountable for seeing the project end to end.
  • Training sessions Not everyone will walk into a role knowing how to do multiple jobs. Team training sessions are valuable for staff members to step in if someone is sick or away. A monthly training session on photoshop, content, press releases, pitching to the entire team is essential.

If you can’t change your team or hire staff to be agile, hire an agency that’s able to adapt to new changes in the media landscape.

To find out more about one of the quickest moving teams in the industry write to us at [email protected].

 

What a legendary Hollywood talent agent can teach you about PR

We’re in the business of shining the spotlight on other businesses. So to do a little research,  I watched a documentary on sixties Hollywood talent agent, Shep Gordon and learned a thing or two about what it takes to make other people famous.

It’s alright if you haven’t heard of him, that’s his job – to make other people famous.

In the documentary Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon you see the talent manager’s chain of life events unravel, and along the way, I picked up tips on about how he successfully managed the world’s most famous personalities at the time. If iPhones existed in the sixties, Jimi Hendrix, Dalai Lama, Janis Joplin and Alice Cooper would be WhatsApping him on the regular.

Here are the qualities that separate a novice from a true PR professional:

Mr Nice Guy wins

Professionals who work in public relations have a clear swagger to them. They have the magical ability to smooth over gaffes as if they were all part of the act. But PR agents don’t need to be overly polished snobs like Samantha from Sex and the City. PR is one of the few jobs where being nice actually gets you everywhere.

Shep’s was the king of normcore style. He was low-key, if not a little Terry Richardson-esque (sorry) in the wardrobe department.  But he was known for his amazingly warm demeanour and was super easy to get along with. This is what matters in PR. Keeping it real gives you an edge.

The sky’s the limit.

Shep had the most out-of-the-box ideas for PR stunts. He invented the concept of ‘celebrity chef’. He was the first to introduce top chefs to the entertainment industry – inviting them to appear on shows and act as ambassadors for cooking products. There are many avenues that go beyond traditional media to achieve brand awareness – he went against the tried and tested method and achieved one of the best strategies to reach out to the crowd.

Take risks – it’s okay in PR!

When getting truly creative, you always have to take a risk – it is a make or break situation that can get people talking. For Shep, any PR was good PR.

The American agent came up with a PR stunt in London, staging a breakdown of a huge truck in Piccadilly Circus, displaying a risqué photograph of a nearly naked Alice Cooper, his modesty preserved by a strategically placed snake. The streets went wild, it literally stopped traffic. Everyone wanted to know who Alice Cooper was.

 Get social (offline)

You need to be a social person to be in PR. You need to be comfortable around people and have confidence. If you’re not a social butterfly, it’s time to practice.

Every chance you get, sign up for gallery openings, networking events, after parties. Being around new people makes you more aware of how to manage different personalities, and make new friends.

Be genuine

You’ve heard it so many times – but you hardly find sincerity and genuine people, especially in the PR industry. We get flak for always wanting something in return – a piece of coverage, or a pitch. Stop this stereotype and try meeting people without a motive – have a genuine interest in the other person and always make sure to ask them about themselves before blabbing about the client you want to promote.

In a Forbes article about him, Shep was quoted, “What’s really important for me is to do compassionate business.” We need some love and compassion – and it can start with PR. It is a tough job, but Shep reminds me about how amazing it can be when done right.

#PR4EVA

For help on making your business shine, get in touch with us at [email protected]

Go small or go home: Why boutique PR agencies are crushing big firms

At the speed of digital trends, do you want a PR agency that’s agile like a fox or sturdy like a buffalo?

Big PR firms have the manpower, resources, and contacts to execute campaigns quickly, but advances in technology means brands need the flexibility to pivot to suit the mood of today’s on-demand audience.

Here are a couple reasons why you should hire a boutique agency over a big firm:

Skilled Staff

More manpower doesn’t mean a higher quality of work. At some larger agencies, smaller accounts may be handed down to junior members or even interns.

At a boutique agency, there is a specialist for everything. By nature, these smaller companies follow lean organisational structures stripped of multiple management levels and stringent systems and constant revision. This makes the team more nimble, enough to weave past unnecessary approval processes that eat up your billable hours.

They’re part of the ‘hacker generation’

Smaller companies tend to have a startup mentality: Fearless, resourceful, unorthodox problem solvers.

They are known to approach barriers from the outside and sometimes, through the backdoor instead of waiting for the higher-ups to approve a solution. On top of that, staff at leaner agencies enjoy taking the unconventional routes that keeps them on track with or sometimes even ahead of the consumers.

They thrive on change

Change is the constant of boutique PR firms, and they are well-equipped to move along with key industry trends and developments. Rather than fearing new technology, smaller agencies race to be the first to use a new platform or tackle a new social media trend.

With fewer people, revisions are also easier for boutique agencies. If an internal structure is holding back results, managers at small agencies will not hesitate to remove or reform them, to power your business and theirs forward.

Skilled Staff

With the internet bubbling over with too much information, brands need more creativity, quicker.

It’s become clear that advertising is no longer just the business of selling your product or services. Instead, it is now all about making their brand a part of the customer’s everyday life. In order to be there with the customer every step of the way, brands need to be able to tailor strategy at the very last minute.

This is typically where the big players have struggled to keep up, given their internal business reglementations put in place to ensure consistent organisational structures.

What I feel is imperative for businesses today, is to steer themselves away from the traditional view of how bigger or more is better. This can be done through re-evaluating business goals and looking further into what the boutiques can bring to their table, helping business owners get the best bang for their buck.

Need more advice on choosing the right agency for your business? Contact us at [email protected]

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5 reasons Millennials and PR agencies are the perfect match

The Millennial generation are making their mark on the professional workforce, gradually climbing the corporate ladder and bagging leadership roles, with many taking an entrepreneurial path and running their own successful business.

There are a lot of opinions out there about this (large) group of individuals, who make up a huge percentage of today’s workforce. Some say they’re entitled, narcissistic and lazy – but if you can harness their potential in the right ways, you might see the magic that makes this chosen generation a special one.

Speaking from first-hand experience as a Millennial myself, we can break away from the archaic and stiff stereotype office environment, and are fiercely creative. We thrive on collaborating and brainstorming, but can also be independent workers who enjoy the alternative, less beaten path and the thrill of a challenge.

We can help push the envelope for your brand, forcing and enabling your team to come up with better and more challenging ideas that stray away from cookie cutter corporations. We’re not perfect – and there are always going to be challenges for companies managing multi-generational employees – but we can give that edge and bite you might need.

If you’re on a bit of a hiring spree for your business or agency, keep in mind the following reasons Millennials can help with your overall workflow and success.

  1.     We multitask like we were born juggling

I’ve got my headphones plugged into Mixcloud, both Whatsapp, Facebook and my email open on my browser, and I’m Skyping colleagues while writing this blog.

Millennials are natural multitaskers, having grown up in a distracting world full of screens, bright lights and loud noises. Yes, for some it can be distracting – I mean, it’s not like we’re all the same – but a rather natural ability to multitask forces us to practice discipline and time management to get top priority tasks done.

  1.     Creativity and brainstorming is our bread and butter

We thrive on collaboration and forming ideas. We enjoy the social aspect of work, throwing ideas around and drawing on others’ expertise and knowledge to shape our own thoughts and opinions. We like strategy, and we like to feel part of something bigger. We want the big picture to feature our faces (perhaps this is where we get someone narcissistic…), meaning we’re willing to put in the creative work needed to execute big campaigns and manage dynamic clients.

  1.     We’re outspoken

Millennials aren’t afraid to speak their minds. Because we want to be heard, we are confident in our abilities and won’t hesitate to share our ideas, thoughts and displeasure equally. However, this doesn’t always work in our favour – it’s easy to come across as unreasonable or defensive, but with the right management and support in place, we can very much harness our strong opinions in the right way for your business.

  1.     We’re hyper-aware

We are in tuned with current affairs, trends and understand how social media works. We scroll through our feed in the morning like reading the papers. We’re present on multiple platforms, taking in bite-sized pieces of information about what is happening around the world around us, making sure we don’t miss anything. Sure, sometimes our knowledge isn’t in-depth, but you can’t argue that most of us don’t have an awareness of the latest news and trends. This can only help with building ideas for campaigns and story ideas for journalists that are timely and interesting.

  1.     We are egalitarian – and we expect our employers to be, too

Our generation is a diverse one. We have progressed to become more understanding and accepting of cultures, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientation and much more, and we are therefore generally empathetic to differences. This is especially helpful when it comes to client management in a social setting; we’re more aware of different cultural practices such as bowing, saying “cheers” in different languages, and so on.

At the end of the day, Millennials aren’t really all that different from the generations before them in terms of what they want to get out of their lives. They simply come from a different, more modern, background – and depending on the individual and the company they work for, this could work for or against them.

Intuition, skill, capabilities, attitude and a smidgen of luck all play a part in achieving your ideal hire. All the best!

Interested in boosting your employer branding through a strong PR or content campaign to attract the best talent? We can help! Get in touch at [email protected] 

A musician’s guide to public relations

Like any young boy, I went through phases about what I was convinced I was going to do with my life. When I was 10, I was sure I wanted to repair cars for a living. When I was 12, I wanted to be a musician after I first picked up the guitar, and by the time I was 22 I had been introduced to the wonderful world of public relations.

The car thing fell by the wayside, but the music has always been a constant – I’ve been playing at local shows with a band since I was 14. Of course, times have changed and the advent of YouTube and other online platforms have made things a lot more convenient for musicians to get themselves out there.

Along the way, I’ve met a lot of people and picked up a thing or two, be it about making music or the art of connecting with people and audiences. Thanks to my chosen career in PR, I’ve been able to apply a lot of what I’ve learned into my music and managing the profile of my band, and vice versa.

1. Messaging

Messaging in this context refers to what your audience takes away from listening to you, which happens to be a very big component in PR. How do I explain my music to an individual in a way that is most appealing to them? I came up with a formula and translated it into the context of PR:

  • Relevance

How do I convince the organiser I am relevant to their event? What relevance does my music have to the audience?

Similarly in PR, how do I craft my message in a way that’s most relevant to the audience or media? Would this media be interested in the business aspect of my client or the R&D done for my client’s product or service?

  • Tone

Part of the beauty of playing music in a small community is having the chance to meet people of different ages and backgrounds. In order to better relay my key messages, I use different analogies and references to get them across.

Just like in PR, depending on who you are talking to, your choice of words have to be picked carefully and need to be tailored to engage various individuals.

  • Engagement

What makes some music more popular than others? I’ve always believed that it’s a result of how that music subconsciously relates to a person one way or another.

When it comes to PR, I translate that principle and take a step back before engaging with people, by researching about them before speaking to them. That way, it allows me to better relate my messages to their interest and seamlessly advocate the mutual benefits.

2. Always be ready

As the great Ronda Rousey said, “I don’t train to get ready, I train to stay ready”.

It’s not uncommon for musicians to be booked at the very last moment as a replacement. The challenge lies in getting the band ready in time to put up nothing short of a spectacular show, because that’s all that matters.

Similarly in PR, it’s not unheard of for clients to request for a press release to be done and blasted the next day. Just like the audience at a music festival, all that matters is getting the job done. This is where I realised that systems and processes in are important to get things done in the most accurate and time efficient way. Who will write the release? Who will collate a media list? Who will pitch?

3. Sincerity

Last but not least, being sincere goes a long way and usually has a big part to play in the art of convincing. Everyone can tell when someone is not sincere, and faking it ‘til you make it will never work when you’re in it for the long haul. By being genuine in your cause, you will find yourself adopting the right tone whilst relating well to your audience.

In PR, we meet different people all the time and first impressions are somewhat of a big deal. One way to combat the potential problem of being misconstrued is to be sincere – that alone subconsciously sets the mind on the right path.

If you’re interested in exploring what a PR strategy can do for your business, get in touch with us at [email protected]

4 media pitching mistakes to avoid

Media pitching is one of the key components making up public relations, but the act of pitching is often easier said than done.

To many people it sounds simple enough: “I’ll just write a press release about my client’s business or event, find some media contacts, and send it to them! They’ll definitely run a story because it’s so interesting.”

Unfortunately, there’s a lot more to it than writing and sending emails.

Pitching typically involves a PR professional working with a business to identify key messages, interesting story angles, writing one (or multiple) targeted releases for specific media, and utilising their strong personal connections with media to ensure your story gets the coverage you feel it deserves.

Journalists receive a phenomenal number of press releases every day. The chances they won’t even open an email from you are high. The ball is in your court to do everything possible to ensure your press release reaches the right journalist and media, with the right message that is likely to get the attention of their target audience and readers. That’s what they care about – so that’s what you have to focus on.

And yet, mistakes are so often made during this process, and sometimes the smallest blunders have the biggest consequences. Being aware of the following potential mistakes can make all the difference between a story getting published… or sent to the trash.

Pitching the right story to the wrong media

Imagine you are a journalist, and you cover technology-related news, for example. You receive on average about 20 press releases a day and suddenly, you’re pitched something that has nothing to do with what you write about.

Why should you feel the need to respond to that person if they clearly don’t know what your publication covers?

huge-mistake

It sounds simple, but the mistake of pitching non-relevant content to media is probably the largest error seen in the industry. Under pressure to deliver results for client, PR professionals wrongly assume that blasting out a press release to the maximum number of journalists will result in the most coverage.

Not doing enough research before a pitch reflects very poorly on you as a PR pro and annoys journalists who don’t have time to waste as their deadlines loom.

When pitches land in the wrong inboxes, don’t expect journalists to help forward it on to the relevant parties. It is our job to ensure our pitches land in the right hands, not theirs.

Not looking into your email bounce-backs

If you’re pitching via an email blast, you’re bound to come across email bounce-backs. This could be because journalists have gone on vacation or medical leave, or because they’ve left the publication. Perhaps their overflowing inbox is finally just full.

Your job is to ensure they see your news, so you need to determine why they bounced and do something about it Journalists will usually include alternative email addresses in their automated replies to inform you of fellow journalists to get in touch with for your press releases.

Seize this chance to know someone new from the particular media, re-pitch your story and update your media database!

If that fails – PICK UP THE PHONE. It’s amazing how few PR professionals can be bothered to make a call to follow up (more on that later.)

Losing touch

Public relations is all about connections, networking and relationships. Without this, you’re just a person behind a computer hitting ‘send’ over and over again.

Staying in touch with media is what sets you apart from mediocre PR people. Make an effort to touch base with them regularly, catch up for coffees and lunches, and get into the habit of picking up the phone to say hi. Ask them what they’re working on, and whether you might be able to help. The more you stay in touch, the more likely they are to remember you when they do need something from one of your clients.

conversing

As well as staying in touch, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and time zones. When pitching a story that transcends the region, international pitching comes into play. This also means we need to be more mindful of some aspects that can affect pitching efforts.

Always make it known which time zone you are working from. This saves you from leaving the impression that you are difficult to contact (if, you know, they decide to ring you at 4am). Journalists have pressing deadlines to deal with and with you being out of contact when they will require additional information may result in them forgoing the story altogether.

If you’ll be away from the office for a period of time, ensure your colleagues have been properly briefed on what to expect should they come across any media requests. The last thing you want is to lose the chance of a great story placement from a lack of communication.

 Not following up with media

Like I said, journalists’ inboxes are flooded with press releases – meaning yours probably isn’t all that important to them. If you haven’t heard back from a journalist, it is imperative that you follow up on your pitch with a phone call.

By doing this, you will learn whether the journalist has even seen your pitch or received it at all. This gives you a second chance to bring attention to your story, and pitch over the phone in real time. Usually, this is a much better way to get a straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’. If they say no, you can immediately ask why, and try to see whether there’s any way your story can work better for their publication by focusing on a different aspect or angle.

It’s possible a tweak is all it needed – but you might not have known that if you didn’t pick up the phone.

To discuss how Mutant can work with your business to push your story into the media spotlight, please get in touch with us at [email protected]