Here are some names you recognise.

Kim Kardashian, Enzio Ferrari, Ben and Jerry, Manolo Blahnick and Anita Roddick…

None of these names built their brands using advertising. They did it with PR. For my money – or yours – nothing can beat it.

Don’t believe me?

When the Miller Brewing Company measured their marketing, they found that every additional $1 spent on TV advertising brought a return of $1.06, while PR delivered $8.

Now there’s a new book called The PR Masterclass by Alex Singleton. Hard to believe, but it’s the first how-to PR guide from a former staff journalist on a national newspaper – in Britain, at least.

Maybe that’s one reason it’s the top PR book on Amazon UK as I write.

I was keen to read it – especially as my own youthful disasters include eight months spent running the PR unit of a Manchester ad agency.

Nobody told me what to do. I would have given my eye-teeth for this book then. I’m amazed I lasted that long.

But it’s no surprise that I failed. Up to 95% of press releases are ignored by the media. In 180 pages Alex – a journalist for 20 years – explains why and reveals how you can join the happy 5%.

His advice matches what I’ve found to be true of PR in the years since my time in Manchester.

Here’s one typical cock-up.

Citigroup issued a press release that tried to disguise job losses as a positive story about restructuring the company.

The result? The media went big on the layoffs. The headline in Forbes: “The Citigroup Bloodbath: New CEO Cuts 11,000 Jobs”.

The lesson? Don’t try to hide bad news; journalists aren’t stupid – they will find the real news and focus on that.

Other common mistakes include:

1. Writing short press releases when longer ones usually work better. (Sound familiar?)

2. Not having any real news in your press releases or pitches, so journalists have no reason to run them.

3. Emailing at the wrong time or too often.

4. Spamming constantly with irrelevant guff.

5. Not tailoring your release to the publications you send them to.

6. Not bothering to find out what publications want to publish.

7. Relying on inaccurate, ineffective contact lists instead of building your own.

8. Not building personal relationships with journalists.

9. Using too much jargon. (Does that sound familiar too?)

10. Relying on paid-for newswire services – a complete waste of money.

Alex explains why these are all wrong, and tells you how to do better – including how to build your own contact list using email, social media and the good old telephone.

He also explains:

1. Why you must measure the impact of your PR – and how.

2. How to structure press releases for maximum impact.

3. How to write like a journalist – guaranteed to improve your response.

4. The best times to contact journalists.

5. Why sending fewer, more targeted pitches and press releases almost always works better.

6. The best way to get product reviews.

7. How to re-use freely available public data to get coverage.

8. How to commission opinion polls in a way that’s sure to get picked up.

9. A once-popular, now little-used technique that can make your PR irresistible to journalists and the people you want to reach.

10. How to position yourself as an expert and have journalists call you – plus the best way to field those calls once you get them.

11. How to get interviewed as an expert on TV (Alex has appeared on several shows himself) and how to prepare for it.

Nor do these lessons just apply to big firms.

Alex tells how one small tea company got extensive TV coverage – and more sales – with a single PR stunt.

Before you ask: no, Alex is not a client of mine, nor am I being paid. I wish I were.

He did interview me once and came to one of my events, though. God knows what he learned, but I bet you will learn from this.

About the Author


In 2003, the Chartered Institute of Marketing named Drayton one of 50 living individuals who have shaped today’s marketing.

He has worked in 55 countries with many of the world’s greatest brands. These include American Express, Audi, Bentley, British Airways, Cisco, Columbia Business School, Deutsche Post, Ford, IBM, McKinsey, Mercedes, Microsoft, Nestle, Philips, Procter & Gamble, Toyota, Unilever, Visa and Volkswagen.

Drayton has helped sell everything from Airbus planes to Peppa Pig. His book, Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing, out in 17 languages, has been the UK’s best seller on the subject every year since 1982. He has also run his own businesses in the U.K., Portugal and Malaysia.

He was a main board member of the Ogilvy Group, a founding member of the Superbrands Organisation, one of the first eight Honorary Fellows of the Institute of Direct Marketing and one of the first three people named to the Hall of Fame of the Direct Marketing Association of India. He has also been given Lifetime Achievement Awards by the Caples Organisation in New York and Early To Rise in Florida.


  1. T C Ajit

    Hi Drayton,

    Your former colleague from O&M PR India – Ajit.

    I wonder if you still remember me – you’d come here for a training programme – in Goa, I think – and helped Sridhar set up his DR stuff way back in 1985-86 or thereabouts.

    Good to read all this – and I really love your marketing pitch! I am sure that you’re still the best in the DR biz.

    Iam not in Corporate Communication any more – managing my dad’s Gulf recruitment biz. Do mail me back, if inclined.

    Look forward to your mail.


    1. Drayton

      Hi, Ajit: Funnily enough I’m going to India in February, I believe. I still keep in touch with Sridhar and have the fondest memories of my trips there.

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