Public relations (PR) is defined as ‘the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour.’
In essence, this is achieved by maintaining a steady stream of information between the parties concerned; an individual, an organisation, an audience.
Why do I need PR and how does it fit into my marketing strategy, you ask?
Well, PR is a vital tool in any marketing strategy. PR is much less expensive than advertising, and can be incredibly valuable to a small business. It not only supports your other promotional activity but can also be used to deliver news and speak directly to your audience. It could be considered as ‘free advertising’ for your business.
We know that small businesses have tight budgets and will typically get more for their money when choosing PR over advertising.
So, how do you do it?
In truth, there’s no correct formula as it all depends on what it is you’re promoting and to whom. We’ve put together some pointers here on how to apply PR to your business.
Often, journalists are short on time so will appreciate help in putting the story together. And by supplying them with ready-to-use material of your own, you’re making sure that they’ll get it right. This could be anything ranging from a press release, images, product specs or background on your business.
Before you begin contacting any journalists, ask yourself the following questions: What do I want to tell people about (a person, a product, a service, a story)? Why should they care? Most journalists are inundated with hundreds of press releases daily. The fact that your business is opening another branch, for example, isn’t especially interesting. Instead, think about the implications and what it could mean for the local community (e.g. investment, more jobs etc.). Create a story that not only engages the journalist but also the people reading about it.
Let’s face it, a national UK newspaper will not be interested in a business story focussed in, say Skegness, if it has no impact on the rest of the country. Rather, contact the local Skegness media (newspaper, magazine, radio station, online sites) as they’re bound to be interested in what is happening locally. After all, it is in their interests to deliver stories that will interest the community. No matter what story angle you pursue or whom you’re trying to reach, there’s a media outlet that can help you achieve your goal.
It would be a good idea to get a select few journalists on board at the beginning of your campaign as they’ll be more likely to respond if they’re already familiar with your news. For example, invite them along to a new office launch, send them your latest product exclusively ahead of general release, or invite them to meet your new CEO. Familiarise yourself with each of the media you’ll want to contact and get a feel for their style and how they write their stories. This way, you’ll be able to create a more targeted PR campaign.
Although listed as the last point, this is probably the most important. Effective PR takes time to build and it’s very likely that you won’t see results straight away. At the beginning of the campaign, set goals as to what successful PR means to you: gaining credibility, raising awareness, changing opinion or perception, driving website traffic, generating leads, increased sales. Whatever it may be, understand that you are not the only business with a story to tell. You are competing with others for the attention of journalists. But if, you make sure your story is compelling enough, it will bear fruit.