PR is a powerful weapon. It separates your business from the pack, demonstrates your expertise and showcases your products and services to a massive audience that you might otherwise never reach. You get the immeasurable benefit of ‘editorial endorsement’ thrown in, and unlike advertising, all that exposure is free.
If PR is this good, why do so few businesses – especially smaller companies – deploy it? Louise Findlay-Wilson, a PR expert and creator of the PrPro™ Toolkit thinks ironically PR’s own reputation is part of the problem. It’s seen by many as a dark art; something that demands huge chunks of time, is hard to measure and harder still to do unless you have an agency or freelancer onboard.
In this article Louise demystifies PR and shows how a company, of any size, even a start-up, through just a few minutes a day, can have a really powerful publicity campaign.
Our research suggests that less than 1% of small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) seriously attempt any kind of publicity. There appear to be five key reasons for this. One in six say they lack the time, while 10% simply don’t know how to do PR. A further third can’t afford a PR agency? One in six think PR is really the terrain of big companies while a further 22% just don’t get PR – they don’t understand it. They don’t think small business PR is do-able.
So I want to kick off by confronting all of these myths.
Smaller businesses can do their own PR. It needn’t take up lots of time or money. In fact smaller businesses are far better suited to PR than big businesses! Last but by no means least, if you don’t understand it – it’s time you did, as PR is possibly the biggest commercial advantage you have against your larger competitors.
SMEs Are PR Naturals
SMEs are PR naturals. They’re more PR-nimble than their larger counterparts. The can spot a major opportunity and respond in hours, whereas few big businesses can do this. The MD or founder of an SME is far more accessible to the media than the CEO of a major corporate. And when the media does reach him/her they are more likely to say something the media can use; they are more likely to ‘shoot from the lip’ have an opinion and have a compelling story to tell; an SME’s news won’t be diluted by committees or corporate guidelines.
In short, PR is the natural domain of the small and medium-sized business and any SME that doesn’t harness its power is missing a huge commercial trick.
So how can you have a storming PR campaign on just a few minutes effort a day? Here’s how…
First off don’t waste your time. Focus on the media that matters – that means the media your customers and prospects read, look at online or listen to. National media is a tough nut to crack but there will be specialist media, local press, business magazines, trade or e-zines, blogs and websites to go for.
If you don’t know what media your customers and prospects value ask them. If they’re a business look in their reception areas, or check out the media that sponsors the events/exhibitions they go to.
Then get familiar with that media. Get a copy/look at it/listen to it. Know what it covers, its style, editors/writers, and its special sections – think about where you could fit in.
Prepare Your Basic Stories
The most common way of trying to get a story in the media is through the news (or press) release. Aim to put out one story every six weeks. As the name suggests, a news release talks about something new that is happening. It could be the:
A launch of a product or service
Winning of an award
Successful raising of funds for a charity
Securing major order
Case study with an interesting news hook
Presence at an exhibition
The secret is to remember that the editor always has their reader/audience in mind. So you have got to package your story to have maximum audience appeal. Always ask ‘Why will the reader/listener care? What’s in it for them?’ If you don’t know why the audience will care about your story, don’t bother. Find another story.
Writing Your Stories
Once you have identified your news story and you are confident it passes the audience’s ‘why should I care test’ you need to put it into a press release format. Here’s how you do it.
2 sides of A4 maximum
Double line spacing or 1.5 line spacing for longer stories
Eye catching headline – upper case and centre it
First paragraph – the first sentence of the press release should be punchy, no more than 15 words long. This together with the rest of the first paragraph should sum up the whole story. i.e. the who, what, why, when, where and how. This paragraph should be able to stand alone without further explanation. So if the editor cut the rest of the release, your story (while short) would still make sense
Second paragraph – this builds on the first and carries significant facts
And so on
Don’t Forget Amusing/Human Interest
News stories can also be found in the amusing or unusual. Obviously care has got to be taken when developing these. If your business is serious and sensible you don’t want a frivolous story that makes you look like a lightweight company. However, that said, a story about your company solving a customer’s problem in a fun and creative way could work well. It could bring out the personality and personal service aspect of what you do.
Alert your team/colleagues to flag up human-interest stories to you
They are typically incidents that your staff will go home and tell their partners about using the phrase… ‘You’ll never guess what happened at work today’
Get Contentious – Show Your Authority
Don’t simply think of your corporate news…unless it’s going to transform the fortunes of your customers, or the people in the region who work for you, who cares!
Think about the things your customers (the magazine’s readers/the station’s listeners etc) care about and that you can legitimately have an opinion on – what can you ride on the back of?
What’s their pain/challenge?
What’s threatening them?
What’s your opinion about this stuff?
Jot it down and flesh out your arguments
Add weight to your argument – why should your opinion count? Because…
We work with 100s of companies facing this problem
We’re the most popular provider of …
Our team of experts has over 50 years combined experience in this field
We have just won an award for…
We’ve just won a massive contract to deliver …
Create your opinion-based story pitch based on these jottings – and then pitch it to the media – either as a news release – or call them up to see if they’d like a feature on it.
Once you are doing these basic things think about going further…do initiatives that actually help you create news and highlight your expertise
Host an event
Run regular poll questions on your website
Write a guide
Sponsor something relevant
Deliver a talk/lecture
Run a competition
Make a prediction
Tell Your Story
If you’re a business owner – send your media the story of how you have got to where you are, the highs and lows – they may just be interested!
Don’t forget scheduled features. Your media may regularly carry features you can contribute to. Ask if they do, get a copy of their schedule, call the feature writer to see what they’re after and work well in advance when submitting a contribution.
Keep Media Onside
Once you are sending regular material to your media contacts, look after them.
Send your news to everyone but particularly prioritise the handful that matter
Read/listen/watch them and speak to them
Always respond v promptly – their deadlines will be extremely tight
Always deliver to a deadline if it’s been agreed
If you are going to miss a deadline let them know well in advance
Be helpful – feeding stories or info even if there’s nothing in it for you
If they come to you with an opportunity that isn’t in your field of expertise, say so but try to put them in touch with someone who can help
Invite key media to your events/hook up with them at exhibitions
Create exclusive media opportunities just for them (your poll questions, first bite at news stories) – but remember if something is exclusive you can’t offer it to anyone else!
Your media material has a huge role to play in improving your search engine optimisation and the Web will equally help you build your profile too. So don’t miss out on this trick.
Build hyperlinks into your releases that go back to the relevant page of your website – so that online media exposure will drive web traffic and improve your page rank.
Make sure the words used in the links are key phrases that you want to be optimized for
Set up Google news alerts for your market/sphere of expertise. You will then immediately see when the media is reporting on something that you can leap on the back of.
Wherever possible link your news/features back to things on your website where people can get more – downloads, expert guides – but remember to data capture such down loaders
Host your news on your site – but not before you send it to the media!
The ultimate tip – give it a go!
This advice is just a small selection of the hundreds of PR secrets, tips and techniques contained in the PrPro™Toolkit. This ‘campaign in a box’ is designed for businesses that need PR but can’t afford a PR agency. It comes with a media database of contacts tailored for each business’ needs, a schedule of forthcoming features to target, and a bank of press release templates.
To find out more about the PrPro Toolkit CLICK HERE