Poor comms strategy? You’re fired: how the candidates should have played their cards in this year’s ‘The Apprentice’

By Laura Morrison, Senior Account Executive

So, you’ve come up with your own sparkling idea to make it big: a business plan with a comprehensive profit and loss (P&L), projection of sales, and marketing strategy. Trouble is, you fall short of a £250k investment to bring it into existence and catapult yourself towards becoming a gazillionaire.  

Your options for securing this funding? A bank loan, crowd funding, an angel investor, a knock on the door of the bank of Mum and Dad? Or you could’ve decided that your best option for raising capital is to throw yourself in a pool with 17 other budding candidates on national TV, and gamble that you’ll survive 12 gruelling weeks of tasks and boardrooms to come out on top. You’d think a bright young ex-Barclays employee would opt for one of the more traditional paths before throwing himself to the mercy of ruthless grillings from a Lord of the realm. Alas, Avi Sharma has become one of the latest victims of Lord Sugar’s The Apprentice, back on screens for its 17th series.  

Calculated risk aside, why embark on this treacherous interview process to fight it out for Lord Sugar’s funding and 50 years’ worth of business experience? In a show where bold players can win big, quite often your best bet for fame and success seems to be shortlisting yourself for soundbite of the year (who can forget, ‘there’s no ‘I’ in team, but there’s three in millionaire’).  

The reason to sign up is clear: exposure, publicity, and 16 weeks’ worth of free comms and TV advertising which would otherwise cost you upwards of six figures. It is not the easiest route to get your brand out there, but in a world where personal brand can outweigh the product an influencer sells, it makes three months’ worth of boardrooms seem ever more appealing.  

Of course, this is assuming you can run its course, failing at the first hurdle gets you about as much airtime as a ‘You’ve Been Framed’ clip without the £250. Although, if you’re lucky and play your cards right haggling salmon down from market price at a stall in Brighton, you stand a chance of being remembered, and might even win. 

With the industry’s talent crisis hitting the headlines every day, you can’t blame Lord Sugar for wanting to vet the options over a painstakingly long decision process with the opportunity to ‘try before you buy’ on an employee providing invaluable insight pre investment. Besides being a creative and a sales-orientated contestant, it is obvious that sugar-coating Lord Amstrad is not going to win you his buy-in, but more so the honesty and integrity of each candidate which will convince him of the potential return on investment (ROI).  

This is where an effective comms strategy is something money can’t buy, whether it be the ability to sell your makeshift products to unknowing audience, communicating with your incapable project manager, or selling your business plan to a room full of industry professionals. Despite the gimmicks of the shows, the ability to effectively communicate a business plan to an investor should be top of the list when it comes to preparation for the candidates in lieu of brainstorming slogans to sell the likes of bao buns and tourist tours to Antigua.  

Although proving you can beg your way through boardroom bustles to avoid the dreaded ‘you’re fired’ isn’t exactly written on Goldman’s job specification, in order to stand a chance of being successful as you subject yourself to this process and beyond, how to ‘PR’ yourself (and your brand) should be top of the list. PR is known as ‘the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support, and influencing opinion and behavior’. There is no doubt that the brave souls who apply – and they do in their thousands we are told – are clear on the need to gather support and sway the Lord (not that one) and his trusty lieutenants on the merits of their business plan – even though they run the risk of ruining what is likely to become their most important business asset, their reputation.  

So, before you start spending your hard-earned savings on boardroom suits, hair extensions, and perfect grooming, try the traditional investment routes and build your business and reputation (why not have a look at our website for our own tips?), without the risk of ever being known for a one liner you will undoubtedly come to regret. “I have the energy of a Duracell bunny, the sex appeal of Jessica Rabbit, and a brain like Einstein”, so said a fallen candidate of series 9 – name omitted to protect the remainder of reputation!  

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