PR as Part of the Modern Marketing Mix
What kind of honor is it to be recognized as “Small Business’ Best-Kept Secret”? No matter how long you’ve been in business, customers are less likely to buy from you if they have never heard of your name or product. Name recognition and visibility are the keys to growing your business and Public Relations is one of the best ways to make your company more visible. Did you know Public Relations can even help your SEO/SEM results? We had one recent client who reached out for PR services because their SEO Firm recommended they hire a PR Firm for better “Domain Authority”. When high quality websites like Forbes point back to you through an article, this helps your website move up in perceived value by Google and Bing.
A most common misconception about PR is that it’s just publicity. This is far from the truth. Publicity is merely getting the word out. PR is a multi-faceted approach to changing the way the public thinks about, feels about, and reacts to a certain company, person, service or product, by a third-party affirmation. This is also the reason why public relations is not advertising. Advertising is a controlled message – planned, purchased and placed by a company to speak directly to the public. The results of PR are often more credible to the public because the message has been created and shared by an unbiased source.
Another misconception is that a Public Relations program is a luxury, something that is very expensive, excessive and difficult to manage. On the contrary, a PR campaign launched within a small business is easily supervised and fun to implement. With the proper planning, the correct tools at your disposal, a great deal of persistence, and SEO, any small business can reap the rewards.
If done right, Public Relations can help your company do many things:
- Establish a premium brand and image
- Create high-profile awareness of the brand
- Establish a consistent image across all marketing vehicles
- Generate qualified sales leads and web traffic
- Increase the ratio of sales to requests for information
- Position your company’s executives as industry experts
Ready for Take-Off: PR Vehicles
On any journey, choosing the right vehicle determines when, and if, you’ll reach your destination. The Public Relations journey is no different. For each type of journey, there is an array of vehicles ready to deliver you there. Planning is key and different combinations of vehicles can accomplish different things. Depending on your goals and your budget, you may want to use some vehicles more often, some less often, and some not at all. Review the descriptions, uses, and outcomes of the vehicles below to see which ones are best suited for your business.
Press releases are the most efficient way to communicate your news to the press and a great way to disseminate your message exactly the way you want. A word of caution: Make sure your news is worthy before launching into the release writing and distribution process. Fluffy news only wastes your time, as well as the reporters’ you’re sending it to, making your company look less credible in the eyes of the publication. Remember the editor’s WIIFM rule: What’s In It for Me? If an editor looks at the headline of your press release and asks himself, “Why should I care?” it’s not a newsworthy topic. Keep in mind that you should know your audience before you distribute your news to them. Not every publication and writer should get every one of your press releases. Determine who should be on your distribution list based on the type of news you are announcing. Product review editors should get new product announcements. New hires or new office space announcements should only go to editors at your local paper.
It also helps to write your releases in the style editors are used to – the inverted pyramid. Put the most important information in the first paragraph, and use the following paragraphs to fill in the details. If a reporter is getting 200 press releases every day, you want to make sure that yours cuts through the clutter and captures them in the first paragraph. The golden rule of press releases is the shorter the better. You want to make sure that if the reporter only has time to read your first paragraph, they will get your news.
There are many ways to distribute press releases. If you do it in-house (the most cost-effective, yet time-consuming method), make sure you send them the way your editors and analysts most prefer – mail, fax, email, or courier. If you decide to use a newswire distribution service, research your options and find the service that best reaches your intended markets for the lowest price. You may also have to supplement your distribution through in-house methods, depending on your market. Hint: Send your releases to your current and prospective customers, too!
This vehicle is not an option – it’s a requirement! Media relations is proactive and consistent contact with editors in your market space. This is sometimes considered the most difficult Public Relations vehicle to integrate into a small business’ communications plan, as it requires steadfast contact with the media. Media relations is a process that works only when it’s constant and carefully crafted. This makes it challenging for a small business that tries to keep their marketing efforts in-house because media relations demands the attention of one or two dedicated marketing professionals who have the time and energy to constantly funnel news to the press and keep them up-to-date on the company’s latest announcements. However, media relations can also be the most rewarding Public Relations vehicle, as it often leads to your best placements. Developing strong relationships with the reporters and editors who focus on your industry will result in quality articles.
Media relations is by far most difficult in the beginning of the program. Reporters experience fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) when dealing with smaller, lesser-known companies with new, unproven products and services. Because of this uncertainty, it’s harder to cut through the clutter, so it’s important to be honest, helpful, and patient with the media. There is one advantage for reporters when dealing with small businesses: easier, quicker access to high-level executives.
The Internet has changed the dynamics of media relations. Email gets you right into a reporter’s office, straight to the desktop, but your message can be deleted as quickly as it was opened. Don’t spam and don’t send unsolicited emails. Email can cut press release distribution costs and reach those media outlets that wire services miss, but you should let reporters know why you’re contacting them and offer them an out if they’re not interested in receiving more information from you. Courtesy goes a long way with reporters; don’t take easy access for granted.
Although you want to contact reporters while they’re working on an article relevant to your business, missed opportunities can still become future opportunities. For example, if you see an article that’s written about one of your competitors or a trend story that you think you should have been included in, you can use this moment to turn your company into a source. Call the reporter to tell him you saw his article and because your company is very heavily involved in that market, you’d like to tell him a little bit about what you’re doing. After all, the reporter’s primary function, like yours, is to inform the marketplace. A similar concept is latching on to a current event. For example, if your company manufactures security equipment, and the latest news in your community is focused on high school robberies, you can call up your local print and broadcast media and offer your spokesperson’s expertise for inclusion in a related piece.
Media relations also complements other vehicles. For instance, when you drop a press release, you should always follow up with a phone call or email to explain to the reporter why this news should matter to him or her. As I mentioned before, reporters and editors get deluged with releases. You need to help them focus on your news.
Note: Some smaller companies I’ve worked with have tried hiring a full-time person to be the media relations component, but found them being pulled into other aspects of the marketing effort, losing sight of the media relations goals. This is one vehicle that is best fulfilled by a team of media relations specialists at an agency. You’ll be so thankful you outsourced this function.
In the next issue, we will talk about other PR vehicles…