Don’t you just hate it when you open a magazine and one of your competitors is featured and you just know that they will get customers from the publicity. You ask why were they featured and not me? The answer is a public relations program.
Public relations (PR) is an extremely efficient method of communicating with a target audience – and it doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. Business owners can choose from a variety of simple and cost effective activities that will help achieve their business objectives.
The reason that PR works is that it provides third-person credibility not obtainable through paid advertising. In fact, it is said to have 10 times the impact of traditional, paid advertising, placing you above your competitors as the “top of mind” choice for customers, investors and business partners.
Some common features of a PR campaign can include:
Key messages – are designed to ensure that the target audience hear and remember the most important aspects of the business. Key messages are, in essence, a description of a business’ competitive advantage, and are commonly known as elevator statements.
It is best to have no more than seven key messages. Once developed, they should be incorporated into all oral and written business communications.
Target audience – knowing your target audience is one of the simplest ways to achieve your marketing communications goals and save money.
When defining your audiences, really drill down to specifics. For example, rather than “all small businesses in the north shore area” it should be, “businesses employing up to 10 staff, located in the suburbs of Neutral Bay and Mosman etc, in the industry areas of marketing and business consulting etc”.
Study the various segments of your particular market and develop strategies to reach each one.
Although developing a comprehensive media plan can be difficult, you can start with a few easy steps. Think about which media outlets your target audience gets their information from. Make a list of each media outlet and the journalist and start reading/watching. A well-defined media program which reflects the target market and includes realistic activities will be more likely to succeed.
The most important element about media releases is not so much the quantity of them, but the quality of the stories, and ensuring they are written for the target media. Media release topics can include the work your business is doing, issues and trends in your industry, launch of new product, new office opening or a new contract win.
Contributed articles and editorials
Many publications are stretched for resources and welcome contributed articles, as long as they aren’t heavily branded by the business. They are also a very effective generator of sales leads as articles position the business as an industry expert.
Social media has never been more significant than now, with the growing importance of blogs, podcasts and social utilities as a source of information. Blogs are ideal for businesses as they allow products and services to be marketed to readers through the information provided in posts. They also improve organic search engine rankings. Don’t forget to use twitter to link to blogs and let your follows see the work you are doing. The powerful viral effect of social networks and online communities builds on traditional PR strategies to have a positive effect on the brand.
Customer case studies
Case studies provide ideal opportunities to leverage business successes and reinforce the business’ key messages through “story telling”. They provide audiences, including journalists, an idea of how the business’ products actually work through the perspective of customers.
Targeted sponsorships are an excellent way of building brand awareness in key markets. However, it is recommended that any sponsorship is very targeted. Two of the most effective sponsorship opportunities are industry awards and conferences.
Advertising can be one of the most effective ways of generating sales leads and building brand awareness. It also can be the most expensive! One way of avoiding dedicating huge budgets to advertising is using vertical market publications, such as industry association and trade publications. It is possible to negotiate free editorial if paying for an advertisement in many of these publications.
These are just a few of the many ways to improve the communication channels between your business and customers using PR. These activities will increase sales leads, improve brand awareness and, ultimately, lead to business success.
Guest contribution from Catriona Pollard from CP Communications www.cpcommunications.com.au
Editors notes – I couldn’t help myself, but everyone needs some insight on how online publications operate – I’m unsure if it’s been said before in this amount of detail, but it’s about time!
Some guidelines that will see your media release get to where it needs to go. The notes below have been written with online publications in mind, however most of the advice below is transferable to print publications. Remember, online publications have to think of things like search engine optimisation, you can help with this and increase your chances of getting your message out there.
1. Write an awesome press release – there is NO second chance
a) Look at your industry, do you see any trends? Why are these trends taking place? Quote on it, commit to your idea.
b) Be prepared to be ballsy – I’m looking for something interesting
c) Think about what someone searching online (Google) would search for when looking for the story – make sure those keywords/phrases are in the title and the first paragraph of your release
d) This is not required, but I always feel obliged to publish a story if I get a sample – again not required, but I can be bought fairly cheaply and so can most Journo’s.
e) Think of 2 or 3 angles of how I can use the media release – different story angles
f) At the bottom of the media release include a keywords list – this is a list of keywords/phrases between 5 and 10 long that you think people will search for when looking for this article (see below). These are also commonly known as tags. Each keyword/phrase is separated by a comma and all are lower-case – do not use generic words like ‘the’, ‘and’ etc.
e) When you email the media release
i) Make sure the word document is less than 2MB – any bigger and it takes to long to download etc.
ii) Don’t fax them!
iii) Don’t send PDF’s (PDF’s are uncool – formatting is terrible and copy and paste can be difficult – and I usually copy it to an editor to begin a story)
iv) Include the story angles you thought I could use – I might not use it, but it gets me thinking how you’re thinking – often I’m faced with a release and I wonder what it’s about, or how I might actually use it.
2. Get an awesome image – get creative – use Flickr if you have to (make sure you go the copyright free images!)
a) an image can mean the difference between getting run or not, the difference between front page or not.
b) never steal an image – it turns out badly for everyone
c) look at the size of the image on the websites – don’t send odd shaped images that won’t work on the site
d) DO NOT SEND 10 MB images – I’ll use an image up to about 80kb anything bigger kills browsers and I have to spend the time reducing the size.
e) JPG is the standard, however PNG and GIF’s are okay, anything else odd I don’t use – converting is painful and I’ll only do it if the picture is really worth it.
e) Name the file based on your keywords – the naming should look like this: media-release-naming-convention.jpg (see the use of keywords). This means I don’t have to rename your files, and they’re ready to go.. the more efficient your media release and image the more likely I’m going to use it (most people take the easy options over the harder ones – unless it’s super special). Most people don’t realise that the name of an image is used by Google (and other search engines). If the Title of the story matches the keywords in the first paragraph of the story which matches the description and caption of the image then chances are you’re onto a front of Google home run for those keywords – don’t over do it or you will be punished.
3. Call the journo
Okay this last one pained me to write, but only because so many people get this wrong. Firstly tell me your name, don’t tell me where you’re from I get these calls all day and I don’t remember stories by who sent them, I remember the story for the story (ie the topic of the story). Tell me what you want, remember I’m thinking about something else (like punching out a story in the next 10 minutes or what’s for lunch). Make sure you tick the golden boxes above.
Some preparation before calling (I know it can be difficult):
1. Give the press release about a day to get through the inbox and be digested, any earlier and I’m annoyed.
2. Be prepared to explain the release, and explain your angles
Make the call
1. Pick up the phone and call say your name, then make sure you start ticking the boxes the journo is looking for, like:
i) Unique content (don’t lie – has it been run elsewhere – there is nothing worse than duplicate content for online publications – short term gain – long term pain – you’ll be blacklisted).
ii) Explain you have a new issue/comment/product/service, new angle on an old issue (demonstrate newsworthiness)
ii) We have an amazing image
iv) I have a sample you can try
v) Remember you’re the 80th caller of the day, don’t be pushy – if you don’t get what you want there’s always next time.
Best of luck with your press releases! Matt Schmidt – Editor My Life My News.
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