Lucy Rouse had already had a busy career working as a journalist for 20 years writing for the media industry when, in 2012, she moved to Salisbury to join the team who organised the annual Salisbury International Arts Festival.
The move saw her diversify into marketing and communications and she spent the next five years there working on the event. She then took a role with the Salisbury Playhouse which co-incidentally merged with the Festival and so she came full circle. This time she worked as part of a bigger marketing team on the PR side of the operations, as the organisation became Wiltshire Creative, incorporating Salisbury Arts Centre into the portfolio.
Along with all other arts and entertainment venues, the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the Salisbury venues had to close and Lucy moved to working at home, before being furloughed for six months.
“It became a time to collect my thoughts,” said Lucy. “After a busy career I suddenly had time to think about work in a different light.” With the continuing lockdowns, she began to anticipate the possibility of redundancy and started to consider the option of freelancing on a more structured basis.
The Swindon & Wiltshire Growth Hub put Lucy into contact with the Outset team and she began to work with them in order to officially turn her freelancing into a proper business with long-term plans.
“I hadn’t previously thought of what I did as a freelance journalist as running my own business and the Outset team helped me to make that transition,”
As well as providing support for her new business, the team also put her in contact with Outset Finance who successfully secured her a Start Up Loan which put Lucy on a stronger footing. She enrolled on the Introduction to Enterprise workshop course which covered all the basics of running your own business. Lucy explained that the course helped her to get thinking about her business in terms of the finance and the marketing and she picked up some great tips on time management.
“It provided me with the strategic focus I needed to develop a strong business plan and when I was finally made redundant in September 2020, I was a in a good position to move forward with my company.”
Lucy also engaged in 1:1 sessions and, having decided on a brand – Lucecannon PR – (based on her name and existing Twitter handle), she created her website and set up her business account in order to start trading.
Lucy used her network of contacts to start promoting her services and she was successful in attracting work with some of her contacts in the arts sector. However, the cessation of performances and entertainment in January 2021 meant that she had to look to different industries to attract work such as local SME businesses. “My background in the media has been a factor in locating new jobs – I’ve written a speech for someone doing some TV work and am working with a coach in the creative industries, which has been great,” Lucy said.
Lucy is convinced that a positive approach is a key part of running your own business and she is very optimistic about the arts sector particularly – “It will bounce back at some point and there will be pent-up demand for entertainment and watching arts performances, so I need to be ready for when this happens with my business.”
She emphasises the importance of building a good network of contacts and seeking out support where it is available, stating that, “I believe that the changed working practices and increased use of digital tools has been positive and that in the future, there will be a hybrid approach to working.”
Lucy is enthusiastic about the benefits of PR for all companies as long as it is integrated with other marketing and communications activities. “I love working in the media and PR and there is no greater thrill than seeing your PR work. Getting your copy in print or online is exciting and I have a great respect for journalists, despite the negative reputation that some may have.”
She highlights a favourite moment in her PR career, working for the Salisbury International Arts Festival, on a promotional campaign for a contemporary opera, where the team turned a multi-storey car park into six crime scenes and invited people to call a crime hotline (which in fact turned out to be a ticket booking line). “We turned what could have been considered to be a hard sell into a fantastic PR opportunity which captured the interest of just the right target audience.”
In terms of PR, she advises companies to ensure that they focus on the basics and think about what you set out to do with your business, who your target audience are and the best channels to communicate with them. “Define who you want to reach and then build your communications plan around that, not forgetting media relations. If you are not confident with the media yourself, then employ someone to do this for you to get the best results.”