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EE085 – Alex Moscow

Alex Moscow supports business leaders to showcase their value, enhance their message and attract ideal clients.

He’s worked in Public Relations for many years, is also a very creative person and has great ability to help his customers gain clarity on what they do and so is able to offer clients a unique set of skills.

Some topics discussed:

  • People believe that to stand out they have to have something differentiating. That’s not the case. It’s also really difficult to achieve. What they need is to communicate differently to their market. That’s what he helps them do.
  • They are too focused on what they do, which means they end up looking like everyone else. They need to focus on who they serve and the problems they are expert at solving for them.
  • The Challenger Sale

Favourite quote:

  • “Instead of focusing on the competition, focus on the customer.” Scott Cook, Co-Founder of Intuit, Director at eBay
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Transcript:

(Transcriptions are done using www.otter.ai through a system of artificial intelligence; so every episode contains a few mistakes as AI is not yet perfect for transcribing the human voice. However, it is a very time-consuming process to go through each transcript and correct all the errors. So please accept my apologies for the number of errors, but I hope that these transcripts are useful to you.)

Tony Winyard 0:00
Exceeding expectations Episode 85

Alex Moscow 0:05
When you’re dealing with clients you must always think two steps ahead. You must think about what it is that they are expecting and make sure you meet that expectation before they have to ask for it. Now that’s not about necessarily going out there and doing work than they’re not expecting to do. But it’s about making sure that you’re in constant contact, that they understand where you are at a certain process, that they see how long it’s going to take, make them feel comfortable that things are being done, that there’s constant reporting so that they never feel like things aren’t happening. And you help them to understand exactly what has happened, why it’s happened and what the impact of that has been.

Tony Winyard 0:46
That was the voice of Alex Moscow, today’s guest who talks about exceeding expectations from the world of PR. This is the podcast where we aim to give you ideas how you can get better referrals, better testimonials, by giving your customers such a fantastic experience they tell the world about how fantastic you are. If you do like this episode, please do share it with someone who may get particular value from some of the great suggestions that Alex gives. And why not subscribe and leave a review? Give us some critique, tell us how this could be improved. What elements do you like? Maybe what elements do you dislike? Are there any particular people you would like to hear being interviewed on this podcast? All of those things really help. You can do that on the Facebook group, which is called “Exceeding expectations”. Or you can just email me at Tony@Exceedingexpectations.me Hope you enjoy this week’s show with Alex Moscow. Exceeding expectations My guest today Alex Moscow. How are you Alex?

Alex Moscow 1:51
I’m very well Tony,

Tony Winyard 1:53
I’m pretty good and you’re in sunny, Boreham Wood?

Alex Moscow 1:56
I am and it is indeed sunny today. It’s been a lovely week so far.

Tony Winyard 2:02
Is thatwhere you’re from?

Alex Moscow 2:05
No, I’m we’re from just around the corner from Whetstone, in North London and my family and I moved out here about six, seven years ago. So nice sunny little suburb just outside of London. Lots of parks and green spaces. And it’s where I have my office so I work from home and from town. So it’s really cool. Cos Boreham Wood is basically 20 minutes outside of Kings Cross as long as the Thames link is working.

Tony Winyard 2:36
Well, when things are normal,

Alex Moscow 2:39
when things are normal, which they most certainly aren’t at the moment, but you know, it’s interesting for me, because, you know, I do work. I probably worked from home, half a week. So I’m kind of used to it, that routine. You know how to being on conference calls, working virtual teams, it’s all part of what I do. So that part of it is has been more straight forward. But I think the social aspects are the hardest bit of this and not being, you know, not being able to see grandparents. There’ll be had to pop out for recovery with your mates and just that general downtime that you normally have. That I think that’s that’s probably the hardest thing about this whole lockdown business.

Tony Winyard 3:25
How about business wise, how’s that affecting you?

Alex Moscow 3:27
Well, I mean, it’s, it’s tough, isn’t it? You know, we were we’re doing everything we can do to to maintain business as usual. But this is far from business as usual. So, you know, I thought this was interesting about times like this. And I was I was writing a piece for clients today, actually, where they’re doing a huge amount of innovation. There’s a huge amount of innovation going on within the business anyway, but and they’re very technical business and during this time, they’ve had to innovate even more, right because they can’t uphold business as usual, there’s usually say 1000 1500 development, people working in the business at any one time. And suddenly more of these people are having to work from home and so that there’s a huge amount of innovation going on in and out of the business, especially right now. And I was writing a piece for them. And it occurred to me that a phrase occurred to me which is Necessity is the mother of all invention, right? And, and these are necessitous times right in terms of we there’s nothing we can do to control what’s happening. We are being forced to adopt different ways of working and different ways of living. And because of that necessity, actually, there’s a lot of innovation that’s happening because you know, when when the when you’ve got business as usual. Typically, things don’t change a great deal because you are just operating as you always have. Now as soon as business as usual, is not possible, then you find yourself in a situation where you have to innovate, you’re absolutely forced to. And you’ll see we’re seeing a lot of innovation happening. And I’m seeing a lot of innovation happening with my own work. Because what you tend to do is, this will probably come up as we talk further, is, you know, in order to really operate well in this world, you need to focus on what you’re good at, and where you offer the most value, and where you generate the greatest results. So if you know where that is, you can look at that and say, well, is that still relevant? And if it’s not relevant, you can tweak it and tailor it for the new kind of normal if you like it, I love that phrase, but for the new way that the world works, or you can say, Well, if it is working, well, you know, there’s going to be a period where people are less engaged, and we’re clearly not going to be Attica out there and do as much sales marketing. But actually, if something that was valuable, was always remain valuable and it’s just a case of reinventing yourself. Be innovating, tweaking tailoring at the edges and making sure that you’re always demonstrating. Does that make sense?

Tony Winyard 6:08
Absolutely. And for people who may now will be thinking what is it that you do? So let us let us know what exactly is it?

Alex Moscow 6:16
That’s a good point. Right. So, I have been in corporate communications and b2b public relations for about 20 years. When I started, I was the chap who was always paired with the senior teams, the CEOs, the MDS of the current businesses, and my job was to raise their media profile. And what that typically means is that I would sit down with them, we’d have really interesting conversations and then I and I’d always so so understanding the way that the media works, I’d always have my ear for the things that I felt would be most interesting to journalists, right. So we’d have these conversations from it. job was to package up the insights that were generated from those conversations and then sell them into the into the media to generate coverage. So not really news as people would kind of classically think about public relations, but more along this kind of idea of thought leadership and opinion and insight sharing. And what I found was that with a very large clients who large brands that I was working, so I was working on Samsung and Toshiba and McAfee and large technology companies like that. What I find is, you know, you phone up the FDA and say, Would you like to have lunch with the CEO of the UK, Samsung business? And of course, they say yes, because, you know, these are the leaders of industry. So I found myself having some very nice lunches with journalists over a couple of hours and bottles of wine and it was wonderful, but you know, at the end of the day, we generate some good coverage, and there was always consistency. But for smaller clients, it was much much harder because Because they don’t have that cache, you know, so the media is quite focused on the the the biggest brands in the world. And although certainly today, there’s a lot more opportunity to generate coverage at the time, it wasn’t so easy. There was only a very specific set of media that you could go to. And they they tended towards the larger, larger businesses. But what I found was that actually, no matter what size of business you were, in, if you’ve been doing what you’re doing for a long time, typically had learned lessons had experience had expertise, that when shared offer huge value. So it was just a case of being able to understand how to tap that value. So how do I have a good conversation with my client? How do I generate that insight? So what do I need to ask them to gather the information I need? And then how do I package that stuff up so that we create credibility? We kind of kind of make them sound like something Who the media would want to speak to and then offer that insight so that the mid the journalist is like, yeah, that sounds really interesting. We should really talk to this guy. Right. Wow. And that was massively successful. And so, you know, found myself consistently generating great coverage for for my clients. But what obviously, things have changed quite considerably over the last few years where, you know, the the dawn of the Internet has created numerous platforms from which people can communicate and and given that given us ownership of those platforms, right. So we can, we’re in control of what we say when we say it, who we say it to. And we can we can put a quality control on that. So my job has kind of expanded somewhat. So it’s starting from that kind of much more focused idea of generating insight that can then be sold into the media to generate coverage. It’s now about who’s the audience Where are they? What do we need to say, to engage them attract that audience to our business. And that is the work that I do these days.

Tony Winyard 10:12
You mentioned there about how PR has changed. I actually did a diploma in PR in the mid 90s. It’s unrecognisable now from what I learned in the 90s. You mentioned obviously, the internet, social media, what are the biggest changes you’ve found?

Alex Moscow 10:30
There’s probably two things right. So there’s the 24/7 nature of news. Right? So and what that’s done is it’s created a huge amount of opportunity. So whereas as I say before, when thing and you know, when I started in this, think about it, it wasn’t that long ago, right. So when I probably started proper in b2b pr, so do this fits in consumer around the millennium. So I probably started in b2b within the variable earliest of the naughties. And if I remember joining a b2b agency, and I was put into the internet team, as it was called at the time, which actually didn’t last very long, because the bubble pretty much popped as I joined. And so, but that, so to kind of give you context, it was around the beginning of the millennium. And it was a time where the internet was only just kind of coming to the fore, the bubble burst, right? So Amazon had kind of gone out and done its initial public offering. And everybody realised that, you know, all of the share price was completely blown with this kind of stuff. But so we were kind of working in a media landscape where there were where newspapers were still very prominent, where trade magazines were still very prominent, and they certainly are still today. I’m not saying they’re not but that was probably the only place to generate coverage realistically, right as well as live events. So so so you No, it was a very, it was a very limited opportunity, a field of opportunity, right there was there was only certain amount of space and, you know, chances to get coverage. Whereas the name that’s completely the opposite, right? It’s completely different thing with 24. Seven media coverage, you’ve essentially got a huge amount that the media is demands, and the audience wants it demand huge amounts of content, which means that the media is always out there looking for experts. They’re always looking for people who can credibly speak on specific subjects. And there are a huge number of slots within which people can talk about the things that they that they know. And so there’s so there’s huge amounts of opportunity within the media sphere itself, but then you look outside of the media sphere and if you like into this kind of Destroy landscapes and the social landscape of the built up. And again, you’ve got a huge amount of options for communicating to audience, you’ve got a huge, like so much more control over the message and over what you say and how you say it, and the timing of it. And, you know, I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn and also working from my own website, and and it’s really, you know, the opportunity to demonstrate the value that you can offer. Your market is absolutely huge.

Tony Winyard 13:42
And what sort of clients is typically are you working with?

Alex Moscow 13:46
So I’ve got two kinds of clients that I work with mostly, I work with quite large corporations. And that’s where we do a lot of our kind of The media work that we do, but also do, you know, we do mixed kind of communications where there’s a lot of media work there. And there’s and there’s a fair amount of social media as well. But it’s very much because the media work is kind of the the mainstay of what we do. And there’s a lot of execution, whereas with that, and then, on the other side of things, I work with smaller mid sized businesses, and for them, and with some solopreneurs, as well, so a lot of consultants, so overall business consultants as well. And for them, it’s around kind of generating the strategy of how they communicate, so really understanding who their what I call their sales. sweetspot is right. So what is it that they know? And what is it that they’re able to do and what is it that the approach that they take, who are the people that are most relevant to that? So who has a problem that you are absolutely experts at fixing And who are those people? What are the problems that they suffer from? What is the value that you can generate for them. And it’s about understanding that sweet spot and building a communication framework around it. And also sales collateral, and a sales approach and a marketing approach. So that, you know, when you go out into the market, they see you as a perfect partner for them. Right. So a lot of people think that the way you differentiate is through the products and services that you offer, but actually, that’s very difficult to do. Right? It costs such huge amounts of money. If you look at something like apple, even they, if you look at their mobile phone, find it very, very difficult to really differentiate in the in the function of the phone, right? So you know, it’s very incremental, the change, so it’s a better screen or a better camera, but really, and they’re still spending millions of pounds, if not billions of pounds a year on r&d, right? But really where they differentiate themselves is through The way they communicate. And again, there’s millions, if not billions of pounds being smelt on spent on their marketing. So the way that a company can suitably and actually very effectively differentiate themselves in the market is not through what they sell, because that looks pretty similar to everybody else, although a lot of the time it isn’t because of the approach they took. But the way they can do it is through how they communicate, and the the power and have of being able to demonstrate empathy and, and and show you the cultural values that you have to demonstrate the impact and the results that you can get because again, this is what people are looking for. They don’t really want to spend days and days and months and months looking for the right partner. They want to very quickly look at somebody and judge whether they’re right for them. And so that’s what I’m helping them to do. It’s all about how do I present myself to the market so that very quickly, they can look at me and say yeah, you are the person

Tony Winyard 17:02
We did some work together and you helped me in my business and one of your strengths seems to be really giving people clarity.

Unknown Speaker 17:09
And yes, so thank you for that. And I really enjoyed the work that we did together because actually exemplifies a lot of what I find in the work that I do. And so just to speak to that clarity, first of all, I don’t give clarity by giving people the answer, right. My job has always been about asking good questions that gets good answers, right? And what I find certainly in the more consultative work that I do, is that you have all the answers you need, right? But because you’re so close to what you’ve done, who you do for the work that you do, it’s very difficult to see the word for the tree sometimes of the direction you should be taking. And therefore, you know, my job is to ask you good questions so that you actually come to the answers and the Understanding what you need to do yourself. What I do is I ask you the question, I record the answer, I play it back, think about what I what I believe to be the the keys, and then I send them back to you. And I say, this is what what I found. What do you think? And you kind of look at it. Remember what you’ve said, you think, and as you’re saying, you know, you’re coming up with with these are not moments and stuff. Yeah. But what I also find is that people, so downplay their achievements, and the value that they that they prefer present, right, they offer because they’ve never measured it, and they’ve never asked, either. And so when I find yourself, speak to somebody, and we’ll talk and, you know, we’ll throw loads of stuff up onto the wall. So based on the conversation, we’re having them look at them. They’ll go wow, I never realised that nearly never truly appreciated, just what my career looks like. I never appreciate just how much work that I’ve done. And who I’ve done it for, and I never really understood just what value I’ve delivered, right? So it’s not necessarily about the results that you achieve, we’re going to talk about this a lot more, because it’s kind of central to what you do. Because it’s not necessarily just about the result, it’s about the impact of that result as well. Right. And so, you know, so as a PR, man, you know, a lot of results was always around what how much coverage Did you generate, right? But coverage in and of itself isn’t valuable. It’s kind of like the it’s not the waste product, but it’s kind of the thing that falls out. Bottom Right. So if you do the process, right, you get coverage. But the real value is, well, what did that coverage do for you? Right? So what is the long term impact and what was the meaningful result of that coverage? To the business? We know because there was more awareness because people understood what you did better because people understood what you’re capable of. What did it change you and that’s the essence of value is not the result but the actual impact of.

Tony Winyard 20:02
I know you’ve got a good story about how; well, the theme of the show is about exceeding expectations. You’ve got an example from a retail design agency you worked with?

Alex Moscow 20:11
Yes. So and then we should talk about this idea of exceeding expectations in a minute. Because, you know, it’s through as, through my career have been, I’ve learned lessons and I’ve been, you know, by managers who have taught me ways of seeking inspiration. So we should definitely look at that in a minute. But, yeah, so in terms of I was working with this retail design consultancy, and we so we started off by doing pure PR, right. So generating content, we could then get into the media and I think that in that process in itself exceeded expectations. Right. So they had spoken to a number of different PR companies and PR people and all those people. People have tried to take them down the news route, right? And the news route is well what’s happening in your business that we can write a press release about and generate coverage off the back off. Right. And and news is very important. We do a lot of press release writing. And, you know, if you write them do, right, the right kind of press release, and not only gives you coverage, but it tells the market something important about you as well. But what what you know, certainly with smaller companies, the challenges they have is that they don’t have as much news as your larger business or press. So what I had with a focus that I had, so I’m working with this is the owner of this business, and he has the most in most stellar career. There’s a lot of work they do is in in beauty, and his work for some of the largest beauty brands and actually, you know, he calls himself when the head of drawing, but that’s, you know, he was basically he ran retail design for the businesses. And so he had this huge amount of work. experience. by sitting down with him having decent chats, I was able to draw out the stories of these experiences and the lessons learned and converted it into into opinion pieces which we consistently sold into the, into the retail trade press. And so rather than taking a column in a, in a page of a magazine, that kind of said, x company has just launched wide product, you get a whole page or even a double page spread, which was just spent talking about an industry issue. So, so that that was kind of fun. And that was quite mind blowing for them because it wasn’t quite what they expected. right because they expected expected coverage and they expected a bit of new generation. Well, they didn’t see coming was kind of them being able to share, share their insight, and I remember, you know, insane to me, we worked together for about five, six years. We try to load a conference and then finally police work together. The coverage has been great. And we’ve really, you know, benefited from it as a company. But what was been amazing is that because of the work that we’ve done together, and we did a lot of live stuff as well, so and then that’s another story in itself for that, but, but we didn’t load the live stuff. And and it went down extremely well. And we generated huge amounts of business from from live events. And, and he was like, you know, it says the coverage has been brilliant, and then kind of getting in front of all of the markets are fantastic as well. But what’s been great for me is that it’s given me that confidence, right? So you know, because a lot of us we have all this stuff that we know, but we don’t know how valuable it is. We worry that if we go out into the market and start talking about it that people will have heard it all before, or they’ll think I can’t believe you just said that. Well, you know what a load of rubbish, but actually when when when you package it right and you take it out the right Wait, you know, you really elevate you as an expert. And so he was like, you know, I can walk into a room A lot of my peers or a roomful of my market feel really confident that what I have to say is the value. And for me, that was just like, you know, we’re talking about meaning and impact. For me, that was just the best compliment I’ve ever had. I thought, and that’s what I want to be able to do for people, I want to give them that confidence so they can go out there and really smash it when we’ve been talking to their market.

Tony Winyard 24:22
Something you touched upon in what you were saying just then about expectation, and when people come to you with, with PR. They want you to do some PR for them, and what typically are their expectations and what do they misunderstand about what you do?

Alex Moscow 24:38
So that I mean, that’s an excellent question, because there is a misunderstanding as some only because things have changed quite a lot. Right. So there’s a missed understanding in terms of what it is that P RS does. And that’s out to us to explain, right because we can’t expect a market to to keep up with what the changes are. But to say The for them, this has a couple of things. The first thing is that people come and their expectation. They don’t necessarily expect this, but this kind of what they want and what they think they’re asking for. So what they think they’re asking for is coverage in the ft. Right. So here, that’s why do you want to do PR when I want to get coverage in here? Okay. And then why do you want that? Well, because I want to get out CEOs and lots of CEOs read their tea, though. Right? So it’s kind of like, Well, yeah, they do. But what have you got that the FDA is gonna want? Right? So I think there’s a misunderstanding of what it’s going to take to generate that level of coverage, and also whether you actually need to, because there are multiple routes now, which where you could influence CEOs. And actually, the most important thing is not the coverage itself, but what you’re saying right, and so Really what the the starting point is not the magazine or newspaper to be seen. The starting point is what who is it that you want to attract? And what is it that you know that they will find the value? And then what is the best platform or most effective platform for communicating that stuff to your audience a lot of the time, you know, like, I’m not, I’m not gonna say to you that getting an EFT is a bad thing. Because obviously, it’s a fantastic thing to achieve. But it takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of effort, and it takes a lot of money to do it. And there are actually far better ways of communicating your message. And that’s necessarily getting a call away from half a page in half a painting the ft. So really, I think the the misconception is that PR is all about press and getting into say the broadcast media. And actually, you know, that’s still relevant, it’s still worthwhile doing and if it’s the right thing for you that we would certainly do. But it’s not the only thing. And actually, what you need to think about is always who is it that you want to engage and attract? Or who do you want to influence? What do you want them to do? And what is it that you know, that will enable you to convince them to take that action?

Tony Winyard 27:23
Do you prefer any type of clients you work with? What kind of jobs do you really love doing?

Alex Moscow 27:33
So, it’s a really good question. For me, so I like working with businesses who are awesome at what they do, but are either looking to grow, but aren’t sure what they need to do to grow, right. So there’s a number there’s a there’s frustration there, because they are they know that they’re good or they do or they know that Feeling interposes? Right? So it’s where the winds are, they’d actually go out there and say it to people I don’t know. And a lot of time they don’t. We’re British are very modest as a nation anyway. But but so yes, these guys who are out there doing phenomenal work, they’ve got great clouds who love what they do, but they’re not able to leverage what they’ve done and generate a lot, you know, the business that they should be getting from it. So I love working with so that’s kind of the company that I love working with and I hadn’t typically beat or beat to beat I do a lot of it’s in tech, but I love business consultancy, right? And professional service organisations because they have a huge amount of insight in the business that they’re not using, and a huge amount of credibility that they’re not leveraging. And it’s interesting, so I was working with an international pitch coach and her clientele is actually quite similar. So she helped scientific based companies who are doing some incredible work in incredible areas. So in like, areas of disease and water shortage and environment, these incredibly clever people, so incredibly clever things that will actually eventually solve a lot of these problems. But then she’s helping them to generate investment. We call her the comment what it is, I think it’s the 10 billion euro lady because that’s how much she’s raised right 10 billion euros because, you know, the level of work that she’s of her clients that do. And for the challenge that they have is very similar, that they put together these pitch decks and they’re tough, because they’re very technical people. They’re typically filled with very technical think, jargon, this language and that that’s no good for the investment community because they’re just interested in Well, what’s the story? What’s the problem? How much money And so her job is to kind of create a narrative and help these people look at what they have that’s, you know, demonstrates their credibility, who’s on the team who’s on the board? How big is the problem? What’s the story behind the problem? You know, very little about how you solve problems, but what’s the kind of upsides that are going to happen once you get out there, and you put your solution into, into place. And so and that’s the kind of business guy like working for huge amounts of insight, typically quite technical, quite complex in terms of what they do, and struggling to sell because what they’re doing is they’re leaning into that complexity. And the markets going down one step, or the markets like well, you just kind of look very similar to everybody else operating out there. Right. And I’ve done a bit of work with that with accountants. Now on the surface. Most accountants look the same, right? They do better tax. They do all day.

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