Advice for Equestrian Pros: Why You Need to Become Your Own PR Machine

Want sponsors? Rhea Freeman has written about the dos and don’ts of sponsorship a number of times for her own blog (www.rheafreemanpr.co.uk/blog) and also advises businesses on how to pick riders to work with. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

We know that good riders become great through hours and hours of honing their skills, pushing themselves, undergoing intense training and finding the perfect equine partners. But in order to achieve success and then maintain it, finances often play a part. Whether you’re looking to attract new owners or brands to help support your dreams, you need to become your own Public Relations machine.

The whole idea of being your own PR machine might sound like a step too far, and I can almost hear you say, “I don’t have time for that,” and that’s fine. But if you don’t have time to promote what you’re doing, to work with your sponsors, to become a brand in your own right, then please don’t expect brands to want to work with you. Because if you’re not doing anything to promote yourself and generate interest that could lead to revenue for your business, for your livelihood, what chance do they really have of you promoting them?

If you don’t need owners and you don’t need brands to support you on your journey, you don’t need to become your own PR machine. I mean, it’ll help you attract more horses and owners and brands and opportunities, but that’s down to you.

If you’re in the boat with the vast majority that do need owners or sponsors, you’re going to need to get on board. But don’t think you can’t do it. PR isn’t witchcraft. And neither is social media. So you’re going to be completely fine. It is very, very achievable, and you might even be able to get some of your team members involved, too.

PR is the way that people see your brand and you; it’s how the public relates to you. And your job is to give people information to help them get to know you. With social media nowadays, so much content is put out on these platforms that really this can form a lot of your PR strategy. There are other bits too that you can do easily, but one step at a time.

I bet you use social media yourself. I really REALLY believe the best way to learn any social media platform is through actually doing the grunt work and putting the hours in. A tweak in an algorithm can make a book all about it redundant, but there are some great videos, podcasts and online resources that can help you too. If you’re on social media already as you, then you’re halfway there. You might decide to convert your Instagram account and Twitter to more businessy content, but with Facebook I’d opt for a page as well as your personal profile. And here you have really good platforms to start your PR offensive.

If PR is helping the public perception of you and improving your overall brand, step one would be putting in the effort to update these platforms, and update them regularly. Tag brands you work with and use, to give them content to share and repost. Take pictures of the kit in action that your sponsors can use. Ask grooms to take pictures of you in action — little videos, behind the scenes snaps — and start using this as key content. Tag people so that people that need to see you do — you don’t need to also send an email (I mean, it’s nice to, but this is immediate content that people can use as soon as they see it!), and you can create this content for different platforms, too.

You might wonder why this matters. If you’re looking to woo sponsors and you have zero social media presence, you never update or it’s just plain rubbish, you’ll fall to the bottom of the pile, even if you’re performing really well. Because very few people will actually know how well you’re doing. And more than this, you’re training, riding, working with the horses a LOT more than the moments you compete. And it’s also exclusive content that helps people feel close to you.

The kind of content you create will also encourage your audience to care about what you’re doing. It’ll show that you actually care about your horses. They’ll see how well cared for your horses are. And does this matter? Hell yes. Because for a brand, it’s not just about how well you perform, it’s about how your values align with theirs and their customers. Are you a trusted source Would your horse wearing their rug help them or hinder them? Do you actually use the products you’re talking about? And do you engage with your followers at all?

That’s the next point. You post a lovely picture of your horse having a roll in the field after winning a competition. You get loads of comments, and you do nothing. Now, if you have loads of followers who hang on your every word, this isn’t a must, but if you’re building a following please engage with your fans. They’ll love it. From a brand point of view, they’ll love it too. Fans will ask advice that you can give. And you know what?That person who asked about your horse’s routine post competition might actually be an owner who has a lovely young event horse they’re looking to put with someone. I look at people on social media before I make a move. Don’t you?

Our star Bobby working with the media! :-)) #halebob #eventing #fourstar #MMBHT

A post shared by Ingrid Klimke (@ingridklimke) on

The other side of becoming a PR machine is the additional opportunities it can present. Magazines, websites and blogs will be more interested in you because they can see you. This could lead to interviews, features, video series and lots more. This increases your visibility. It gives you content for your social media. It builds your brand … it all feeds in together!

And one last thing, for now at least, is your website. If you’re set on becoming a PR machine (you’re with me on this now, aren’t you?!) then please get yourself a website. These can cost you next to nothing now, and with something like WordPress, they take just moments to update. You can blog about your events and what you’ve been up to, you can talk about your horses and your lovely owners, you have somewhere to drive people from your social media platforms. And it’s yours. Always have a bit of owned space online. We don’t own any of the social media platforms and while I strongly advise you to use them, don’t put all your eggs in a Facebook shaped basket.

So, that’s my take on why you need to become a PR machine, for your business, for your sponsors and for your owners. It doesn’t need to consume your life, but it should be factored into your business if you’re looking for it and you as a brand to expand.

Rhea Freeman is an equestrian PR, marketing and social media consultant and equestrian and country business coach.

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