In my experience, PR is one of those marketing channels that many companies think they can do themselves.
Too many times I have heard “The receptionist can have a stab at writing the press release” or “We have a work experience person free to do a media ring round”.
This leads me to believe that people don’t understand what PR actually involves and how complex it is to get a story placed in the media.
Granted, PR is only one part of the marketing mix — but a very effective part. There is no point having a great product if nobody knows about it and, done well, PR represents a fantastic, cost-effective way to ensure that your customers are clued up about what you do.
Whether you are targeting an online or offline media outlet, understanding how best to do the PR can make the difference between a massively effective campaign or a completely lacklustre one. Here are the key things you need to do.
Set Your Objectives
Before you start anything, work out what you hope to achieve. Whether you want to increase web traffic to a particular page on your site, get bums on seats at an event, be trending on Twitter for a campaign or increase customer engagement, you need to make your objectives clear so that you can measure if your campaign was effective and then tailor it if necessary.
Know Your Audience
Who are you trying to target? Which demographic? And so forth … these things will influence the style of your writing and the type of media that you want to target.
Write a Strong Story
Write your release in a ‘media friendly’ way that doesn’t use too over-the-top language about how ‘amazing’ or ‘exciting’ your product is. Keeping it factual will work the best.
Tie in with the news agenda — topical stories, popular events or current topics will work the best, especially if you offer a new perspective on them.
If you are writing for business or trade, then jobs, investment and product innovation is a good place to start — however this needs to come with a word of warning. I am constantly telling clients that what is good news to them is not ‘news’ to a journalist, so that’s something to bear in mind.
Space in a paper is finite, so if your story is not time-sensitive, give the journalist time to use it when they have time and space. Online articles don’t face the same problem, although this doesn’t mean you have free license to ramble on.
Also make sure that you include all necessary links to your website, partner websites and contact information in case the journalist needs to follow up with you.
Build Up Your Contacts
Having good contacts will help get the story placed. To be successful in PR, a black book of strong print, online, broadcast and trade contacts is a must and something that I have been building and nurturing for years.
Be a Good Pitcher
Remember a journalist’s time is precious — keep it short and factual and place the key information up front. I’m not a fan of asking when it will be used, as a journalist often doesn’t know. Best tip is buy the paper! Or set up a Google alert to track an online article.
If you are contacting journalists directly to pitch a positive story, remember that they will be able to contact you directly if something negative happens in your company. If you avoid the negative, it will be harder for you when you are pitching the positive. This is why a PR person is a useful buffer between you and the media.
Be mindful of your Digital Footprint
We’ve all heard the phrase “Today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s chip paper”, but many print outlets have a digital edition. Be careful of your digital footprint — what you say — good or bad — can stay online for a long time after you said it.
I’m not saying that using a PR professional will answer all your problems — as your story can take on a new life once you hand over control to a journalist — but you have a better chance of broadcasting the most beneficial business image/message/tone if you have someone who knows the media pitching on your behalf.
Finally, as a business owner, I know that you understand your product better than anyone, so I get why companies want to control their own business/product. However, using a professional is often key to a successful outcome.
As I always say … if you have a sore tooth, you go to a dentist; if you want to build a house, you go to an architect. So why should it be any different when you need PR?