Many people are perplexed when they think of starting a public relations (PR) campaign. So here are some tips to get the ball rolling.
1. Start with your PR Strategy First. What are your company’s sales or customer acquisition goals? What is your unique differentiator (see my article on building your USP for more info)? What are the trends in your industry? What are your competitors doing to market or promote their businesses? Most importantly, what information about your company or product/service might be considered newsworthy to a reporter or to readers or viewers of a specific media outlet?
2. Build your PR Media List. This is the next logical step in your public relations planning effort. Think of all of the newspapers, magazines, e-newsletters, blogs or websites that your target audience might read. Think beyond local newspapers to regional or even international publications and trade magazines. Find a list of reporters and editors who cover your beat (subject matter). Get to know the publications and the stories they write or cover so that you can properly pitch them on your idea later.
3. Develop your press release and/or story idea. The next step in the PR process is to determine your method of publicity. Most people start with a press release. Keep your press release simple and to the point, trying to avoid technical jargon if possible. Create a compelling headline and remember the inverted pyramid rule – put the most important information toward the top. Don’t forget to close with your boilerplate “About XYZ Company” paragraph with a link to your website and media contact information (whether it’s your PR firm or a marketing person within your organization).
4. Create the PR pitch. Now it’s time to pitch your story idea to the reporters you have chosen for the various media outlets. For my clients, I find that email usually works best for the first pitch. Create a short synopsis of your story idea in an email draft. Use this to personalize the pitch to each media contact. Always paste your press release or story below the pitch paragraph, and never as an email attachment (reporters hate attachments and your email will get banned to the spam filters). If you address the reporter by name and try to show that you have done your homework (read the publication and know the reporter’s beat), you’ll have a greater chance of getting the reporter’s attention.
5. Follow up with your media contacts. Although you may get some responses right away, in most cases it will take some prodding to hear back from any of the reporters. Some will flat out tell you they are not interested, and that’s okay. There may come a time in the future when your information will be of interest to them, so don’t write them off your list. The important thing to remember is to not become a pest by calling and emailing the reporters nonstop. They receive a lot of emails and calls every day and simply cannot respond to all of them. Be respectful of their time and understand that your story idea may not be a good fit, but it’s not a personal insult to you. Just continue to build good relationships with the media and eventually your efforts will pay off.
6. Develop an online news room. My clients find it useful to build an online media or news room section of their websites. This is a great place to post your press releases, articles, case studies or other information such as company brochures for downloading or headshots or product photos. When you receive media coverage, you can also post formatted versions of the articles in this section. Not only are you portraying to your prospects and customers that you are a well-recognized company, the media may also discover you when doing their story research, so this merely adds to your credibility.
7. Keep your name out there. Even if your first attempt at PR doesn’t go over so well, keep trying. The next time you send out a press release, you might just find yourself landing a cover story in your industry’s major trade publication. Keep submitting articles, case studies or press releases on a regular basis, and keep updating your online news rooms. The initial effort will most likely pay off in the end. If you don’t have the time, hire a PR agency to help.