Thanks to Absolutely Fabulous and Siobhan on BBC1’s 2012, PR is a much maligned profession. Unfortunately we don’t all spend our time drinking champagne and brainstorming over a game of ping-pong. We wish!
Instead, PR is more about finding and creating opportunities within the media where our clients can be seen and recognised by their target audience.
When considering promoting a new business, many people automatically turn to advertising or marketing because that’s what they’re familiar with. Everyone understands the concept of advertising and flyering. You buy an advert and the advert appears in the papers or on the radio, you design a flyer and get it printed and hand it out.
How does PR differ from advertising?
PR is a rather more subtle form of promotion. Many people don’t realise that a huge proportion of what they read in the press is there because of a PR agency. Anything that isn’t news or advertising tends to be PR, so when you see an expert commenting on something, a personal story with a business mentioned, a product recommended by a journalist or an interview with a business person in a business publication, the chances are that a PR person put it there.
Think of it like this, do you buy a newspaper or magazine to read an advert? Do you listen to the radio and watch TV to hear and see adverts. And when you read a journalist’s positive review of a product or service does that have more of an effect on you than when a company takes out an advert telling you how great its product is?
Researching the media
Firstly, you need to look at who your target audience is. Are you a company which can only supply within a certain area or are you nationwide? Is there a specific age range which your product or service will suit? Are you targeting consumers or businesses? If it’s businesses, what sort of clients do you want to attract?
Once you’ve ascertained who it is you need to reach, you have to do your research. While it might sound nice to be featured in Marie Claire, if your target audience is more likely to be reading Saga, you’re better off spending your time trying to reach journalists at Saga. Likewise, if you are only able to sell your product or service locally, you should be finding ways to approach your local press.
If necessary, talk to your audience and find out what they’re reading, watching and listening to and use their feedback as a place to start.
When you understand what your target media is, research it. If you don’t understand what kinds of features and stories they’re running, you won’t be able to pitch to them with any confidence and won’t be able to explain where your story could fit and why it might interest their readers.
Find out which pages would suit your product or service, most titles cover a variety of topics from health and beauty to new products. Take a look and see which pages might be relevant to you. To point out the obvious, if you’re pitching a garden product don’t pitch to the health editors!
Once you’ve researched your target audience, you need to build a press list. Most newspapers and magazines – national and local – have details of their editorial contacts or a main number for you to get through to. Create a list of the right contacts with their phone numbers and email addresses and then you can make a start.
Make a note of who you’ve spoken to and when and what the upshot was. That way you can ensure that you build a relationship with them and you can reference your previous conversations.
The traditional way to approach journalists is through press releases. A press release tells your story so the focus should be on who, what, where, why, when. It should be no longer than a page, but get all the relevant points in.
Give it a catchy title and try to get the most important message into the first paragraph to ensure you grab the attention of journalists and make them want to read more. When you email, make sure the text is copied into the body of the message as attachment can be swallowed up by firewalls.
Depending on the story, it could also be worth including an image which will make the story more eye-catching and appealing. If it’s company news with a quote from the MD then an image of them would be appropriate.
If it’s a story about an event you’ve held, take some pictures or made sure you have a photographer present and send images of the event. If it’s a product launch, then an image of the product would be best. Just make sure they’re high res (300 dpi or more).
The thing to remember next is to get on the phone. Some press releases will instantly interest the press, but journalists get hundreds of emails a day, so it’s worth giving them a quick call to see if they received it and if not, to explain the story briefly and explain why it would be relevant to them and their readers or listeners.
If they’re not interested, ask why so that you can make it better next time.
As they say, today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s fish and chip paper, so when you do get coverage, make sure you use it!
Talk about it on social media, post the publications masthead on the homepage of your website (don’t replicate the article as it’ll contravene copywrite laws). Using the masthead also means that your coverage doesn’t date.
Put it on the walls of your office so that visitors and staff can see it – it’s great for impressing visitors and can be a morale boost for staff.
Whatever you do, just don’t put it in a drawer and forget about it!
It might sound scary at first, but let’s face it, if you don’t promote your company, who else will? The media needs your stories and the more you can help them, the more they will help you!