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S02 EP02: Communications Consultant Vivienne Gleeson

Apr 6, 2022, by  - Category:

Fionnuala Malone of GS1 Ireland chats to communications consultant, Vivienne Gleeson about how to tell your business story and get noticed by journalists and media producers. 

Listen to the Episode

Quotes from the Episode

Everybody has a story, and the most ordinary people have the most extraordinary stories

Vivienne Gleeson on telling your business story

I am passionate about empowering business owners to do their own PR

Vivienne Gleeson on how she works with business owners on their communications

It's such a hard slog running a business, particularly in the last two years, I am in awe of business owners, they deserve a pat on the back, they got through it

Vivienne Gleeson on running a business during the pandemic

Where to find Vivienne

Links mentioned in this episode

Transcript of Episode

Fionnuala Malone 

Hello, and welcome to SCANtalk by GS1 Ireland, the stories, the people and the standards transforming our daily lives. My name is Fionnuala Malone, Digital Marketing Manager at GS1 Ireland and today on the programme, I'm joined by Vivienne Gleeson. So welcome to the show, Vivienne.

 

Vivienne Gleeson 

Hi Fionnuala, delighted to be here, thank you for inviting me.

 

Fionnuala Malone 

Thanks so much for coming on. Vivienne, you are a woman with many hats. You're a PR consultant, a business mentor, an event manager. Tell us a little bit more about what you do.

 

Vivienne Gleeson 

Yes, many hats. I come from, originally my background is my parents had a pub, in Dublin, in Irishtown and my sister now runs that. But, essentially I think that's where I learned everything in life was behind that bar. But also as a kid growing up in a family, where you know, it's a pub business so it's 24/7. So my dad, my parents always worked. So my mom did the books, dad physically worked behind the bar in the kitchen, everywhere. And as a kid, you have different roles. When you're younger, you're taking the glasses, you know, yeah, hearing seeing the life of bar in the 80s I'm gonna say when I was really, really, really young. And then, you know, the different trends that you see, you know, we did a refurbishment in the 90s and you could see, or early 2000 maybe, just the difference in what people, their drinking habits and you know, the days when you could just open the door and people come in to when you have to seek them to come in. Yes. Yeah.

 

Fionnuala Malone 

You kind of saw that. The trends and the ups and downs over time.

 

Vivienne Gleeson 

Yeah, bringing food into the pub you know, days where it was, you know, remember smoking around the counter, you know, ashtrays.

 

Fionnuala Malone 

I know God, it's so hard to even believe now isn't it that like it used to be that you would go into a pub and there would just be like a wall of smoke.

 

Vivienne Gleeson 

Yeah, imagine working though and you come home. Like oh my god my hair. I won’t say how old I was when I was allowed to work behind the bar, I think it’s illegal now but I loved, you always wanted to be able to be behind the bar serving the Guinness. But you know, obviously I was of the age where I was allowed. And I loved that, I loved serving the pints, especially on match days because we were, we're located near the Aviva Stadium.

 

Fionnuala Malone 

Okay, right.

Vivienne Gleeson 

You had your regulars that came in and then you know, if the French were playing or the Welsh, the Welsh would sing their lungs out, their hearts out and you know, the French would come in, and then you're all having banter with the locals. And it was just, I just loved that hospitality, that feeling that everyone was having a good time, you're serving really good points of Guinness, creamy Guinness. And then you know, they're off with the match, they watch the match and they come back after happy, elated or whatever. But everyone got on, you know, and it's just, I just love that community vibe, as well growing up in a local pub business. You get to know the community and you know, everyone helps each other and I just always loved it. And whether I was up in the office with my mom watching my mom do the books, you know, upstairs that in the little sitting room / office and you'd hear the murmur downstairs of people chatting over drink and the clinking of glasses. And then you'd hear the odd bursts of laughter I just I just loved it. I think for me when I go into somewhere like Keogh’s or Donoghue’s or you know, the old school pubs, that brings me back to that time. A little snug. Yeah. So I think that's where you learn everything about people and you meet so many different types of people, whether they're coming in as your friends, the locals that come in or someone off the street, they've, you know, heard about it. And they're new, they're visiting, and they stumbled across the pub. And you just learn about people, you never know what's happening in a person's day. So I suppose that's where my love, my grá for hospitality really started. And I didn't know I'd end up in PR or what I'm doing now. But I'd always wanted to kind of work in the hospitality. My dream job, as I got older was like Francis Brennan. I wanted to go in and help other businesses. Yeah, and other little tips that you could do, to bring in customers or revamp the premises a bit or, you know, I know my sister did a big overhaul of the kitchen at one time when my dad was, he was actually in hospital at the time. So it was an opportunity actually, to get change done. You know, within six months, the turnout, the food business had increased 50% you know, and it was just it's learning that development and how you talk about it and how you promote it, even though I wasn't in PR at that stage, it's just the savviness of you know, you have to listen to your customer. You have to know what they want their trends, what's happening.

 

Fionnuala Malone 

I mean, you couldn't get a better business education than growing up in a family pub, could you really? You’re seeing all sides of it.

 

Vivienne Gleeson 

Yeah. And I think I think it's something I'd love. You know, if everyone had the opportunity to work in service, you know, as a teenager or whichever, it just, it you learn a lot about the world you learn about different, different people and different ways to manage a situation. You know, there's so many situations, I won't go into them now that were so bizarre, so funny, so shocking, so sad. You know, often the pub is the place where someone comes in and something, you know, something monumental has happened in their life. The birth of the baby or the death of a friend or family member, they come in for a celebratory, drink or drink to just the shock, you know,

 

Fionnuala Malone 

Yeah, all walks of life.

 

Vivienne Gleeson 

 

Yeah. And you're meeting them at that, you're, you're the first port of call, you know, when they come in. And so, you know, it's important to establish the eye contact. Make sure whoever's coming into your premises, you know, they're welcomed, they’re shown to their seat, are they know, they're not ignored. You know, you just, they’re the basics. So I suppose yeah, I always had an interest. But then I think for me, I, you know, you get older you don't know what you want to do. You've grown up in a pub business, the family. I didn't really know what I want to do. I started marketing in college, like I didn't, I kind of liked law. And I like, I liked different aspects. So I went to France, actually, for a time out. And I stayed there for almost a year. And I worked in a bar actually over there in a campsite and it was so funny, because the French serve one person at a time or one drink at a time and one person at a time. And I was like, I’d be taking rounds you taking rains? How are you different?

 

Fionnuala Malone 

Totally different culture

 

Vivienne Gleeson 

Yeah so all the Irish people would come up to me and say, ‘come here Viv can I have whatever’. And I'd serve it all together and French, like, ‘oh, my gosh, you served all the drinks together’. So that kind of thing. It was just fun. And then I came back. I went no know, look, I have to figure out what I'm doing. So when I came back home, I went, there was a course in PR and that's when I said, look, I'll go for this. I was bit older, I was 25, 26, you know, you get a placement. And then when I got the placement after the three months and six months can't remember. I, that's how it started. That's where my PR all started. Yeah, all those years ago, 2005? I think it is. So maybe it's nearly 20 years now.

 

Fionnuala Malone 

So maybe you could explain because you know, some people find it difficult to kind of just differentiate between PR, advertising, marketing, digital. Yeah, maybe tell us a little bit about what exactly PR is and how it can maybe help small / medium businesses?

 

Vivienne Gleeson 

PR is often the one that people kind of don't really know what it is. I often get asked, ‘what is PR?’ - public relations. So even to say PR is public relations, so it’s the relations with your publics essentially. It's a two-way communication. So you're listening, you're hearing and you're responding, you're communicating, but you're also hearing and you're engaging. The difference, then often when I get asked, What's the difference between PR and advertising. So PR is all about how you spread the information about your business through third parties. So you know, whether that is the media, through, you know, by way of getting into a magazine, or maybe you do a TV interview, or a radio interview or print article in the newspaper, blog, even, PR helps you to shape the perception of your brand and talk about your brand right? And you're talking, it's kind of building the reputation, you know, it’s long term. And keeping consistent with that is all the better. So the longevity of PR as well, compared to advertising, which is a form of paid media, where you pay for, you know, your ad in front of newspaper, or on front page of the newspaper or in a magazine. It's great way to get in front of an audience. And obviously, when you're scrolling through your social media to get an ad placed there to your audience, but it can be costly. And you know, it is a one-way communication, you're not interacting with your audience, you're letting them know, here's an offer, here's on sale corner, you know, call now, that’s it whereas PR, it's, you're giving, you know, if it's a blog, you're giving them information about something, you're talking about an experience. And you're able to, you know, a PR tool would be a competition, running a competition, something about a food product or service that you want to talk about, to promote your business and your product and offering something to your audience as well. And they can attract and to make it more interactive, you ask a question maybe or you ask them to tag a friend that you you'd like to share this experience with, so that’s the power of PR, and I think you know, I always like to, you know, look at all the big guys what they're talking about. So like Richard Branson. You know, a good story, good PR story is definitely better than a front page ad. You know, you'll get more out of that, you’ll hear the story behind the maker of the product or the service, the person behind the service, you're more engaged, you're more likely to buy from that person because you know, their story, what it took to get them there and the work they put into it.

 

Fionnuala Malone 

And that's kind of your specialty area isn’t it, kind of teaching small businesses and medium businesses how to tell their own stories.

 

Vivienne Gleeson 

Yeah, and I spend a lot of time now, we did start with this, saying I have many hats. One of my hats is mentoring. So when I worked, I got into a PR agency. I started working with a lot of, you know, big, medium, small brands. So you know, the bigger ones globally, United Airlines. You know, I worked with eBay way back in the day. And you know, I did a package there. Remember, capital D was on Dublin RTÉ TV was about Dublin businesses and highlighting them. And so we got three, eBay, the top sellers in Dublin. And we did a feature and they took it. Yeah. So yeah, it was good because I wanted to find out who are the top eBay sellers in Dublin. It's interesting business story for Dublin, let's go to the producers, and they liked it. So you know, that was editorial coverage, not paid for, of the eBay sellers talking about their story, how they got there, why they're selling this, and how you can find them on eBay. So it was brilliant. So I've worked with all those bigger clients. And they all have you know, big budgets, you know, you have to be clever with it, though, right. So they will have paid thousands for advertising, but I also saw the smaller businesses I worked with. And you know, they wouldn't have the budgets like these big, gians. Yeah. That's an area that I thought, I'd really love to help them in a way to empower them, how to brief a PR agency to, to kind of make it more strategic for them, that they're not wasting money coming to a PR company not really knowing what they want. That's half the money goes on that then because they're trying to tease out their key messages with the PR person so I just saw a gap I just saw a gap there as like, how do I do this? How do I, how do I still do PR but you know, more helping the business owner do their own PR. And that's where the mentoring came in. So it's helping business owners everyone has a story, you’re right Fionnuala, everyone has a story. And the most ordinary people have extraordinary stories. And it's something that may not seem big to you as the producer or the person that's crafting the product or whatever, it is to other people. And there's a really good, if people out there want to listen to a really good interview on radio and listen back. Bobby Kerr interviewed Chupi Sweetman.

 

Fionnuala Malone 

 

Yeah, yeah. The jewellery designer.

 

Vivienne Gleeson 

Yeah, yes. Okay. Um, on his executive interview slot and his show. I think it was back a year or so though. It was really interesting to hear her talk about what the effects COVID had on her business. She was due to go to New York in 2020 in March 2020 to open the store on Fifth Avenue, I think it was, like incredible. Story dream.

 

Fionnuala Malone 

Amazing. Yeah.

 

Vivienne Gleeson 

But then COVID happens. So what happens, you know, you have to refigure. And that's this is where we saw digital marketing and social media really play a part and everyone got online and in fairness, the local enterprise offices set up trading online vouchers for businesses. If you have not heard about this, for all the businesses out there, do get in touch with your local enterprise office to find out about the funding available. So there was up to 50% back on the cost of your website.

 

Fionnuala Malone 

Yes, yeah.

 

Vivienne Gleeson 

Revamp your website for ecommerce. So Chupi spoke about, you know, her business, how they had to change, I’m not going to use the word pivot, but I just did. So how they had to change with the times. And I think she ended up staying so they focused on selling online. She has a great story. If you go and look at her story and how she tells it, it is brilliant. She talks from the heart, it's her journey. And she just said something that really stuck with me. And it's so right, so true. She said people don't buy what you do they buy why you do it. So she had created, you know, the whole story around her jewellery design, why she came up with the concept, why she was doing it. What jewellery means to her, you know, it's an heirloom, pass it on from generation to generation. So she had described, she had told that story so well. That's what people want to know. And more and more people, I'm hearing this from clients that I mentor now, that's what part of my job is, I do have some PR clients but I also mentor a lot of clients, packages where we sit down with the workshop and we go through. Sometimes they can be three hours, we sit down and talk about what are you trying to say, who are you? What's your story? We go through seven steps of how to develop an effective communications strategy. And it's a time to empower the business owner to think about the things that they need to know, in order to tell their story. What makes it really effective. You know, a lot of business owners say ‘I can't do that, I’m no good, I’m no good at social media, I’m no good at this…’. But the thing is, that's okay. Right. And sometimes you are really good at it, find someone who is, the important thing is to know what you're saying and who you're saying it to. And that's PR, the bottom line is, PR is all about getting your message to the right people, at the right, in the right, through the right channel at the right time, that’s it, and consistently. So when you can find that and get the people to help you that you need. So if you are lacking in digital or social media skills, find someone that is. But before you do, know what it is you're briefing them or asking them. So these are my key messages. That's what I'm about. This is my personality for my brand.

 

Fionnuala Malone 

The kind of vision or the values that your business has.

 

Vivienne Gleeson

Yeah. And you know, I go through them, tips, what they can do for PR ideas. So I mentioned when you know, you've different stakeholders, the publics, right, so PR, public relations, so your publics could be okay, you've got a number of stakeholders, your retailers, your customers. Well obviously your customers or retailers, your local, fellow local, your local community, local businesses, so let's say your product, you're making a product, who are the local hotels in your area, or the local retailers, or the you know, if you make an eco-product, wheres the local eco store, you know, are you talking to them? Are you going into hotel to say, ‘I do this service, I can help you with your staff, with this…’. I actually work with a company called TrainedIn and we, I do a lot of training with them. And they work with a lot of people in the for training for in hospitality, food drink, and hotels particularly, and help their, train their staff and customer service, PR and marketing.

 

Fionnuala Malone 

Yeah, great idea actually.

 

Vivienne Gleeson

Yeah, it's really good, especially for retention of staff. And we see today, you know, we see it in the news it is such an issue with getting staff in the hospitality sector. So all of these, so that’s your publics, you know, who you're speaking to. So it's very important to know who you're speaking to, and what you're saying to them. So it's all about, if you don't have those skills, find the person that is, but know what it is you're trying to say

 

Fionnuala Malone 

Yes, yeah. And do you find that maybe Irish people are kind of slightly reluctant to tell their stories or there’s a little bit of shyness there? There's a little bit of like, oh, ‘I don't want to be the, I don't want to be the face of the brand. I don't want to put myself out there.’ Kind of ‘I don't want to seem to have notions’ like I find that's kind of a thing in the Irish psyche, isn't it? It's like, ‘Oh, I'm not too sure about putting myself out there. I don't want to be the face of my brand.’ Like, do you find there's a little bit of a reluctance there among Irish businesses to do that?

 

Vivienne Gleeson

Do you know what? Yeah, some are, you know, that's something I tease that with the clients that I work with, ‘how do you feel about that’. Right? Like, ‘how are you, what's your personality type? Are you someone that doesn't mind having your photo taken? Do you like being in the public eye?’ So you've to kind of figure out, is your brand going to include pictures of you, your family? You've to kind of think about those things. If you have young kids, are they going to be in pictures or not? They're the kind of things you want to talk about. Yes, sometimes like, ‘Oh, I'd be terrible, but or nervous’. But then when they do a piece, you know, often when I get clients, and you know, I had a client once where they've never done a a media interview ever before to clients, and their first media interview was on The Late Late Show.

 

Fionnuala Malone 

Wow, oh my God, like, an Irish institution, everyone amd your granny and your mammy watching?

 

Vivienne Gleeson

Yeah, their pitch and I was like, but you know, we got we got what we did was we did media training, I got the right support for them. And I, the people went into the media train on the Friday evening to the Monday and Friday of the media training to the Monday morning when they had meetings, you know, to talk about their interview it was like two different people.

 

Fionnuala Malone 

Wow, isn’t that incredible?

 

Vivienne Gleeson

Yeah, and I work with the media, PR agency who do media training, Alice PR and I've known Martina, the MD there for years we worked together years ago. Um, I like her style, because she does three, she does different formats of interview techniques. So for PR and you've got media interviews, you know, you might have an interview with an interviewer that will let you do all the talking. So you'll, you either can get in all your messages, which is great or you won't stick to the messages that you want to say. So, you know, I would always encourage to try and get, tell your story, but at the end of the day name, day know what your objective is. So if you're going on a radio station, are you talking about a new product you've you've launched, are you talking about a new service you've launched? Are you talking about new benefits that you have available? Are you talking about the story of your business? Is it a business interview? Or is it a consumer style interview? So business style interview, you're going to need to know your facts and figures, you know, how did it all start your business, did you get investment? You know, have you had an, you know, what's your experience? Have you had staff issues? You know, how have you walked that tightrope you know, how have you walked the walk during COVID? How have you managed that? Yeah. Whereas if it was a softer one, let's say your food produce, Ray Darcy let’s say, see, let's say, or you're on something else, or just talking about your business, you have a fun story behind it, and he's talking about that, then you can be a little bit more, you've got more of your story to tell you memories, you know, often I say to, especially, let's say you've got a cake maker, or a baker, you know, often I'll say like, what got you into this? Like, why did you start your business? For some it’s like, ‘Oh, when I was younger, I just always liked baking’, but I try and go that little bit further and say, what, what was, what do you remember? What did you invoke? Just like, ‘oh, actually what my granny’ and you know, in the kitchen with my granny, and there's one particular client who said to me, you know, do you know what I really remember, it was making the little leaves on the pastry, for the apple tart.

 

Fionnuala Malone 

Aww yeah.

 

Vivienne Gleeson

Straight away, that's a much more, I can see it, rather than saying, Oh, I was just interested in it when I was younger.

 

Fionnuala Malone 

 

Of course, yeah.

 

Vivienne Gleeson

Now I'm picturing the young girl and kitchen with her granny passing down and helping her granny make the little leaves. And that's where it started. So it's just more interesting, it’s more yeah, like,

 

Fionnuala Malone 

And more relatable as well. Yes. You know, people people would relate to that kind of, that kind of memory. Yeah.

 

Vivienne Gleeson

So when I say to people, you know, it's funny, you talk to people that don't think they could do it, and I say, look, they’ll put you at ease, I know, I'll brief the producer, whatever is best possible with your key messages, you go on there and you say, you know, this, you know, this is my memory of when I was cooking, but then say, you know, so now I have developed the flavor. So it took me x y z months to get it there. And I've worked with this other food producer, we've collaborated, and you're able to say all this. So you talk about it, and then you say, it's available on our website, or anyone can get in touch with us or follow our story on Instagram. So you're able to get those key objectives in during the interview, you're not just telling a story, you're actually there for a purpose?

 

Fionnuala Malone 

Yes, yes, to get some use out of it.

 

Vivienne Gleeson

Yeah, and you know, if you can manage to get your website in, you can joke at the end of an interview go, ‘don't forget to log on to our website’. Because generally, they don't want you to do an ad, you know, so you’ve to be careful. You have to kind of dance with that when you're doing media interviews, so that you get all your key points in but you don't make it to ‘selly’. It's interesting to the reader. And that's what I love about my job and listening to everyone's story, because everyone does have a story. So my job is to put that in a way that you go, ‘do you know what, that would be really interesting for this journalist’, knowing what you're asked, I know who would like that story, or who would find it interesting, and some won't, and some will.

 

Fionnuala Malone 

And Vivienne say if if you know, obviously, GS1 Ireland, we have a whole range of businesses that would be members. And a huge proportion of them would be food, could be healthcare, construction, all kinds of businesses. If somebody was kind of contacting you and looking for a little bit of help around their PR or their communications, what way do you work with clients usually?

 

Vivienne Gleeson

There's a couple of things I do, will I just, actually I might mention my work. I work with other partners. So for example, I work with Blas na hEireann, first of all, the Irish Food Awards. You'd be familiar with them Fionnuala.