On the up · 13 July 2018

JournoLink: The no-frills PR firm giving a platform to small business

JournoLink co-founders, left to right, Peter Ibbetson, Gemma Guise and Tetteh Kofi.

For small businesses unable to compete with the powerful marketing budgets of larger rivals, effective press coverage might seem unattainable.

Since 2014, JournoLink has been bridging the gap between micro businesses and the media. Passionate about giving entrepreneurs a voice in the press, co-founder Peter Ibbetson helps provide them with the support and advice to build their profile.

Business Advice first met Ibbetson’s co-founder, Gemma Guise, back in 2016 and heard about two exciting years of growth. To see where the company went in the following two years, we sat down with Ibbetson to find out about investment, business heroes and their developing marketing strategy.

Where did the concept come from?

I spent several years representing SME banking in the media. It became clear that there were a huge number of small businesses with great news stories, and local success stories. Yet journalists were not hearing of them simply because the businesses had no affordable and easy way of linking with them. PR seemed to be available just to larger businesses with substantial marketing budgets enabling them to employ expensive PR Agencies.

The challenge we set ourselves was to create an affordable, easy online tool to provide small businesses with the same access to the media as the larger businesses.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when launching?

Financing any new venture is always the first challenge to overcome, but also finding the right people to commit to the journey. Willing to take a lower initial salary for the rewards that a successful startup can bring.

The personal challenge that many founders face is the ability to listen to others and trust their judgment. Having an idea, and delivering that idea are two very different things. A founder will never have all the skills needed to achieve the end game, but will frequently struggle to let others take charge.

What’s your biggest achievement to date?

The small things are often the most satisfying achievements. Receiving an email from a small business reporting that they had just been on Radio 5 with a large company who had paid a fortune to their PR agency, yet all they had done was to use JournoLink, and by doing so had achieved a brand profile that they could only have dreamed of, is hugely satisfying. That is exactly what we set out to do.

In terms of the biggest corporate achievement, the JournoLink achievement will have been no different to other businesses that have been able to attract external equity investment. In our case winning the confidence of a major investor willing to back the business at the three-year stage was a huge vote of confidence in what we had created.

What marketing strategies have you used?

The simple answer is ‘not enough’.  Like many businesses we underspent on marketing at the outset, prioritising budgets towards model build and development. The investment we have attracted will now help us get the JournoLink name out. Prior to this our focus has more been on working with partners, which has been relatively successful, but we are now moving towards active social and traditional media campaigns.

In five years’ time, I’ll be…

Physically five years older, mentally five years younger, a minority shareholder in a business I have been proud to be part of, the creator of healthy bank balances for those who have been a part of the journey, and hopefully still married to my long-suffering wife!

Who are your business heroes and why?

It is easy to cite business heroes as those who have developed great multinational global empires, but the reality for me is that there are five million business heroes in the UK. Those entrepreneurs who have taken on the challenge of creating their own future, and in many cases created employment opportunities for young people.

Creating a business is far from a safe nine to five environment, with the luxury of turning off at the weekend, and knowing that a salary will comfortably find its way into the bank account every month. It is a constant drive to beat competitors, win customers, fight to get paid and sweat over what seems pointless regulations and paperwork. Yet they perceiver and underpin the wealth for the UK.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Plan so that you have clarity about what you are about to create, who your competitors are and why you should succeed. Then get a mentor who will introduce some reality into the rose-tinted glasses, challenge unrealistic assumptions, and be there to help motivate when life seems lonely and uncertainty starts to creep in.

Last series you binge watched?

Escape to the Chateau

What three things can’t you live without?

Porridge, blueberries and the family

What app do you use the most?

NatWest Mobile App

What song is always on your playlist?

Singing in the Rain

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Carly Hacon is a reporter for Business Advice. She has a BA in journalism from Kingston University, and has previously worked as a features editor for a local newspaper.

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