Public Relations is one of the most under utilized of tools deployed by Small to Medium Enterprises (SME) in the communication mix.
I believe there are three reasons for this:
1. A lack of knowledge of how to engage with media
2. It’s easier to advertise
3 The rise of social media
What is Public Relations?
Public Relations is any editorial coverage you receive without having to pay the publication or media. As an SME you’re used to engaging with local publications trying to sell you advertising space. You may also be invited to purchase advertorials, that is a feature that includes a certain word count along with a picture or advertisement. This is not PR, you are paying the media directly for your coverage when, for a little bit of effort, you can obtain good coverage in the press for free.
Why is PR important to business?
Earlier, I mentioned that one of the hot marketing trends of 2017 would be executive branding, essentially coverage focused on you. We are interested not just in the product but in the people behind the brand and their story. PR is a good way to tell your story and to reach potential customers.
Readers also read and retain information from the stories and articles they read much more than advertisements they may see in the publication. For example, a good review in a newspaper of a dining experience is worth so much more to a restaurateur than any amount of advertising.
Customer relations is about trust, reputation and confidence. Public relations is a great way to build customer confidence and brand identification.
How do I get PR coverage in the press?
Start by having a look in your target publication. What types of story and feature articles do they publish? Are there any stories about business? What angle does the publication report? Begin by tailoring your news or feature story to the publication’s editorial style. Can you provide a great photograph? Pictures are worth a thousand words and often a good photograph or photo-opportunity will sell your media coverage for you. Here are a few pointers:
We read newspapers because we are interested in the human experience and we want to know what other people are doing or experiencing in our community. Who might also be a celebrity, a sports or TV personality that you have invited to your launch.
So what’s happening and why is it newsworthy to the paper’s readers? Maybe you are opening a new business. What is it and what’s different about it? Are you creating more jobs? What’s the size of your investment and what do you hope to achieve over time?
There are two parts to this question, why do you deserve coverage by the press and why are you engaged in whatever it is you’re doing? You’re an entrepreneur but what were you doing before you decided on this venture. And why would you risk secure employment and a steady wage to do whatever it is you’re planning? Why is this so different from every other person’s story and therefore deserving of coverage?
If it’s a local newspaper then what is the local connection?
If it’s a local newspaper then what is the local connection and where is your event happening? It’s amazing how far local newspapers will stretch themselves to find the local angle in a big national news story. However, when it comes to you they’ll want to know if you live locally, is the business local or is the event that you’re running local.
When is your event taking place and at what precise time? Will you be offering a photo-opportunity for the newspaper and when precisely will this be happening. Photographers normally cover 4-5 different events in a day, so a precise time is vital for them. If a photographer is a little late can you recreate the photo-opportunity for him/her?
The News Release
Normally, this is how you contact the media with a carefully crafted written press statement, a synopsis of the above. There is a layout and style you should follow.
(See fictitious example below right).
You should distribute your News Release at least 48 hrs before your event. Where possible, send it via email to a specific journalist on the paper. Add a read receipt to your email. If you are hosting a significant event give your publication at least 5 days notice of the event, the main angle and any photo-opportunities you are laying on. All publications have a news diary and if your event is important enough the news editor will put it into the diary for coverage on the day.
Local weekly press employ few staff but the journalists are always on the look out for fresh news and contacts. A good News Release, story and photo-opportunity should spark a journalist’s interest and garner good coverage. If they want to check the story and develop it further they will contact you on the telephone number you supplied. Be prepared to answer their questions but remember the two or 3 points you want to get across and try and work these into your answers. Ask if they will be sending a photographer and, if not, offer to forward them a photograph later.
A good News Release, story and photo-opportunity should spark a journalist’s interest and garner good coverage.
Of course, we exist in the digital age and there are digital distribution channels for PR copy. One I would recommend for SMEs is Pressat. It is free to register with this service and you can choose a one off distribution package of £110. This allows you to upload your news release and supply all relevant information about your business. You can then select the media sectors you wish to target and Pressat does the rest. This is one way in which a SME can reach publications well beyond their local area. It is particularly good at reaching trade journals thus supporting B2B PR.
Don’t forget, that if you do get media coverage for your event, to draw attention to it in your social media. This is just in case some of your customers missed it. Often you can find the story in the online edition of the newspaper which makes social sharing so much easier. There is also a range of online only publications these days, so don’t forget to target these with your PR. My favourite local one is the Down News which actually receives over 14,000 visits per month, which is more than its local rival, the longer established Down Recorder.