PR is looked at by some with a bit of a sneer, but underestimate the power of PR at your peril! Good PR efforts can really have an impact on your business, and can help build your brand, increase sales and even attract new talent for your business.
What is PR?
“Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”
Essentially, Public Relations (PR) is a way in which to earn coverage for your business through the sharing of news and opinions relevant to your business, building familiarity with your target audience.
What to talk about…
So, what should you be talking about? Simply put, you should be talking about anything which is relevant to your business and its audience. This can vary depending on your industry or nature of your business, but will likely include topics such as new appointments, whether that’s a new senior hire or taking on new apprentices, news on financial growth, such as record turnover or increased profit, award wins and also any charity involvement.
If you’re going to share your own news such as that previously mentioned, then you need to consider how to pitch it to the journalists you are approaching. There are a handful of key things journalists need from you:
- Get to the point.
In your approach, ensure that it is clear why you are getting in touch. What is the story and why is it significant? Journalists inboxes are crammed full of press releases and emails from their editor asking where a certain article is, so make yours short and straight to the point.
- Tailored approaches.
Instead of a blanket approach to endless ‘editor@publicationname’ or ‘newsdesk@publicationname’ email addresses, consider a more tailored approach to your outreach. Address the journalist directly by name, and talk to them just as you would as if you were talking to a friend over coffee. Maybe you’ve already had contact with them in the past – if so, jog their memory by reminding them of something you said or did when you met them. This will go a long way to building a relationship with them.
That old saying ‘a picture tells a thousand words’ is true. A picture with a story can be the difference between getting a short mention in a column and getting a half-page spread about your business, and of course, the bigger the coverage, the better! However, you have to make sure that your pictures are of high quality and are relevant to the story you are pitching.
Once the journalist has published your release, it’s always a good idea to share it across your social media channels and tag them into it if you can. This both helps the journalist extend their reach and of course provides a platform for you to show off the coverage you have received.
Another aspect of PR to consider is editorial contributions. Many trade publications will have editorial calendars as part of their media packs, so you can plan ahead for when they are going to be writing about something relevant to your business. The best way to approach this is to get in touch with the journalist writing the piece around six to eight weeks before the deadline, and ask them whether they are looking for any additional comment, interview or expertise to be included within their article. If you’re successful in your pitch to the journalist, then you’ll earn some excellent coverage in an industry publication, which is likely to be read by a considerable number of people who work in the same industry, building your reputation as a result.
You should also the other benefits to this approach to PR, such as the SEO impact of the brand citations and (ideally) links you build in articles with high-authority and relevant publications. This is one of many reasons why PR has a place in the integrated marketing mix.
You’ll notice also that both throughout this article and indeed in the CIPR definition, that I have talked about PR as ‘earning’ coverage for your business. That’s because it’s important to remember that PR is not advertising. In fact, the two are very different. With PR, you supply a journalist or editor with news which you think they might be interested in, and they subsequently publish it. On the other hand, with advertising, money exchanges hands and you pay for an advertorial to be included in a publication, in order to guarantee some sort of coverage for your business.
Some publications will immediately try and sell you an advertising spot, or tell you that you can ‘guarantee’ your press release being printed if you provide them with a ‘small fee’. But this defeats the object of PR. You don’t want your brand message to be forced upon people through advertising, instead you want your audience to recognise your brand as a thought-leader and authority in your industry.
In addition to this, advertising can be costly, with your typical advertorial being charged at anywhere between £500 and £2000. PR on the other hand is free.
Essentially though, PR is much more than simply writing a press release every now and again or contributing to ad-hoc editorial pieces in industry publications. In fact, it’s a lot bigger than that. It’s about building your brand and gaining recognition within your target audience and building trust with them.