Public Relations is a bit of a funny old thing and I often find it causes confusion about what it actually is. Often people think it is reputation, or maybe word of mouth, sometimes advertising. I think the term has been used in lots of different ways over the years and it’s got a bit confusing about what it actually is. I had someone recently ask to me to help them with PR, but when I delved deeper they started talking about websites, so straight away I knew it wasn’t PR that they meant.
So, what is PR and how does it work?
Well, PR or Public Relations isn’t advertising or marketing, but a marketing tactic you can use to promote your business. It is about sharing positive, good news stories with the local press and gaining editorial coverage in the paper, on the radio or TV.
Unlike advertising, PR is free and if you get it right can be worth thousands in helping promote you or your business.
So, how can you go about getting a story in the press? Here are a few of my top tips…
1 – Find your news story/hook
The most important part of public relations is identifying a story, or finding your newsworthy “hook” – the thing that is going to hook a journalist in and want to write about you, before passing it over to the advertising team. It is no good just saying you’ve opened a new café for example, that could just be deemed as sales. A journalist will want to know about the story behind you or the business. So, saying you’ve given up a degree in law to become a chef and open your own café, or you’ve relocated, or you’re fulfilling a childhood dream is the thing that will get your press coverage.
2 – Identify your key contacts and publications
The next thing you want to do is think where you would like this story to appear. Who do you want to read it (ie. Your target customer) and what publications are they likely to read (local newspaper, national paper, magazine, parish newsletter etc). Also think about if it is something visual would it appeal to the local TV station, or could you talk about it on the radio?
Make a list of the publications that you want to target and find out the key contacts you need to send the press release to. You could call and speak to the news desk, tell them about your story or look on the website and find the most appropriate email address.
You can also look on Twitter for #journorequest and any journalists looking for stories will use this hashtag and you may be able to find some new contacts that way too.
3 – Craft a press release
You then need to prepare your press release. It should be 1-2 pages long and address the who, what, where, when and how in the first paragraph. They journalist will read that first section and make a decision whether to read on or not, so it’s really important. The next paragraphs should expand on the information, give 1 or 2 quotes and always be written in the third person. Imagine the journalist just cut and pastes the information, so you need to make it as easy as possible for them to do this and edit if they need to.
4 – Sell it in, send it out
As mentioned previously, if you have a big story, or are targeting a national publication you may want to call in advance, get the most appropriate name of the journalist and tell them about the story. You will gauge if they are interested or not or talk to them more about the angle you can give them.
You then need to send it over via email. Add a punchy subject line to grab their attention and pick out the key information in the body of the email, with the full release and any photos attached.
5 – Chase it up
Don’t expect a journalist to let you know if they are going to use your story or not. If they like it, it will just appear. If they need more information or want to interview you, they will get in touch. If it is a really important story and you don’t hear anything, or it doesn’t appear you can give them a call to find out if they are using it. If not, it may be that it was too ‘salesy’ or that it was a busy news day and it got pushed down the list, or they have forgotten about it.
It may sound hard, but once you have the knack of it, you can use PR to your advantage. You can build up good relationships with journalists and they may then come to you, if they know you are an expert in your field. PR is also much more effective than paying for advertising, as when an article is written about you or your business it is given more value than a paid for advert, that anyone can place.
So, have a think about how you can use PR in your marketing toolkit and if you need more guidance, you can join the Acorn Marketing Academy with modules on PR and press release templates to download too.