How to apply the art of PR to create a great public profile for your business.
Public relations or PR is about securing editorial or broadcast coverage at no charge through influencing a journalist’s story or review, by appearing in a photo published in media or by writing guest columns or blogs, or providing industry or event commentary.
Or to put it another way, it’s about getting column inches in the press, space online, on social such as Facebook or Twitter, or time on air about your business for free!
Why do it?
Well it’s a great way for businesses to increase their influence and improve their reputation and profile. It’s als a way to bump up traffic to your website, boost sales and get people buzzing about your brand.
Out of control
Here, we talk to Amber Daines, PR expert and director of Bespoke Communications, about how to harness the power of PR for your business. According to Amber, editorial coverage of a company or individual is generally free – but it’s important to understand you can’t always control the results.
“Overall, PR is about influencing consumers, investors, employees, and other stakeholders about a certain viewpoint about that person or organisation, its leadership, products, or even its political standpoint. It’s not about sales although of course PR is a key part of the marketing mix and a number of companies have used PR rather than advertising to create very successful global brands,” she explains.
The important thing to remember is that how a story eventually ends up going out, even if you have been interviewed, might not be the angle you would want. There is the argument, that there’s no such thing as bad press, but it’s good to understand that once a story is in the hands of media, it’s out of yours.
Where should you start?
Amber says PR is an investment in your professional reputation and that of your business. “A company may decide to engage an in-house PR executive or an agency. A PR practitioner can audit any current activities, assess where the gaps in your media profile are and advise ways to improve. Clients might be offered activities that include events, speech opportunities, social media profiling, media release writing and pitching and guest columns which I can ghost-write for them. Most campaigns we operate run for at least three months or be ongoing monthly retainer projects,” she explains.
If you don’t have the budget for professional PR, then consider blowing your own business trumpet by offering to blog for industry websites, talking on local radio, writing articles on the area that you are expert in or setting up your own business blog, Facebook page and Twitter presence.
What results can you expect?
“Having an innovative new product or service that has mass appeal, or involvement with a prominent organisation or well-known personality can really create a wide, mainstream media success story that instantly creates a buzz for your brand. Tailoring each story to suit a particular publication or radio and TV show is vital. Mass emailing news rooms with no individual angle is off putting for most reporters. And be prepared to offer exclusive stories to certain media organisations in exchange for a more prominent story. Quality not quantity coverage is usually worth the trade-off,” she says
What are some common mistakes people make?
Amber says there are four main mistakes she regularly sees people make:
1. Expecting instant results from a PR campaign – it often takes time to build a credible media profile especially if you and your products or services are new to the market or are coming from a challenger brand position. “And many magazines have long lead times of three or more months so you need to be patient,” she says.
2. Assuming journalists will run a story by you if you send it to them, or even if they interview you. Stories get dropped all the time.
3. Understanding what constitutes a news angle. “I have a huge responsibility to educate my clients on what is a news story – just because you are excited about what you are doing, don’t expect a journalist to be,” she says.
4. Being adequately prepared for media interviews. “Many business people think they can ‘wing it’ because they do public speaking all the time or know their brand inside out. Having spokesperson training is a strong recommendation for anyone wanting to make a good lasting impression and to become the kind of talent a journalist ends up calling on again for a future story.”