Having worked as a journalist in news rooms across the south west since 2007, Paul Burton was a first hand witness, and champion of the transformation of the media landscape from print to digital. digital media landscape and the significant impact this had, not only on media business models, but the businesses that advertised with them. Combining his journalistic and marketing knowledge Paul created PB Media in 2018, with the mission of creating better digital marketing for businesses, in the belief that all organisations have the power to be publishers with platforms that produce great content & design that people want to consume.
BIPC Devon chats to Paul about his small business journey….
How would you describe Paul Burton Media to someone who doesn’t know what you do?
We are a content focused marketing agency. That means that we’re really good at content. And we’re really, really good at designing. But we don’t do one way or the other. So whereas you get, maybe a creative agency that might design you really nice website, and then ask you to add the words afterwards. We do the two disciplines together at the same time. We basically do that to make websites, social media, email marketing and video production.
What was your background before you started up and what drove you to make the leap into being an entrepreneur?
My background is in journalism. I was a print journalist, first off, and then trained in digital. I was working with newsrooms around the country, and at the same time working with advertisers that went on those websites. I helped lead the digital transformation of different issues, mainly in southwest.
I always felt like, I could do a really good job, working with businesses and helping them understand their digital story and what they needed to do to get more customers to their websites, how they could craft their story in journalistic way. Using sing all of the technical and storytelling skills that I learnt in journalism and applying it to marketing.
It was that desire to use my skillset to support businesses, in combination to create something of my own something of my own, I suppose. At first I had some really great early clients, whose business made sure I didn’t go without food! And then after eighteen months, I made my first hire and kind of basically being a freelancer to fully fledged business. And now we have a team of six!”
How did you manage that early period of growth?
“When you’re trying to grow a business independently you quickly realise that you can’t do it yourself! I did a lot of networking in my first couple of years. I had one client for the first six months, but then I did a blitz of networking and pulled in three or four more clients from that, which was great.
Suddenly I had, a reasonably handsome income from those clients, but quite quickly I realised that I was actually working, every hour that God sent, and not really getting anywhere. I was on the edge of burnout and knew that I wasn’t going to do a good enough job for these clients if I continued that way. So I needed more people.
I did a lot more networking, but for a different reason. Not to make money, but network to meet other people who run small businesses and learn from them and kind of share the pain a little bit.
I also joined a mentoring group, to help me make some of the big early decisions. Trying to do it alone was the, like, hardest lesson of the first couple of years.
What were the main challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
“Not trying to do it alone was the hardest lesson of the first couple of years, I guess. Then you realize that getting work, getting clients or getting customers or whatever is only like half the battle, you also need to build, the systems and the people and the structure that’s going to help you to deliver the work. The first hire is the hardest. But ever after I made it, it transformative.
And now we’re five years old. In fact, we’re five years old on Wednesday, tomorrow. In the last couple of years we hired again, last year, I think we’ve hired every year basically six sectors, including me.
We hired again last year, now I have someone for each disclipline within the organisation, plus a bit of cross over for when people get sick or go on holiday. We also have freelancers that we pull in if we’re a bit tight or at capacity.
What are you looking forward to in 2023?
“Later this year, we’re reintroducing a series of online training courses and things like that, to do the things we do for your business. That will be affordable and in some cases free. Where we’re kind of we generally serve like medium sized organizations. I And it’s not a small businesses can’t afford so. We don’t work with a lot of small businesses or one person businesses or whatever. But we frequently get asked for advice. So we’re developing a kind of series of tutorials and online courses and things like that. Be marketing in the second half of the year.”
By Isabel Flynn