Just what is public relations? And how does it differ from advertising? Public relations is the opposite of advertising. In advertising, you pay to have your message placed in a newspaper, TV or radio spot. In public relations, the article that features your company is not paid for. The reporter, whether broadcast or print, writes about or films your company as a result of information he or she received and researched.
Publicity is more effective than advertising for several reasons. Firstly, publicity is far more cost-effective than advertising. Even if it is not free, your only expenses are generally phone calls and mailings to the media. Secondly, publicity has greater longevity than advertising. An article about your business will be remembered far longer than an ad.
Publicity also reaches a far wider audience than advertising generally does. Sometimes your story may even be picked up by the national media, spreading the word about your business all over the country.
Finally, and most important, publicity has greater credibility with the public than does advertising. Readers feel that if an objective third party – a magazine, newspaper or radio reporter – is featuring your company, you must be doing something worthwhile.
As your business grows, it naturally becomes a more prominent element in your community and your industry. That means that what it does naturally becomes more worthy of notice. And that means improved opportunities for using public relations as a bigger part of your marketing mix. PR is an excellent tool because it gives you exposure you don’t have to pay for directly. The term “directly” is chosen carefully here. True, you may not have to give a cheque to a broadcaster or publisher when your company is mentioned in a news report. But good PR rarely happens without effort.
Getting good publicity usually requires careful planning, persistent effort and, often, spending money for press release mailings, copywriters and PR consultants.
The good news is, as the founder of a growing company, you’re in a prime position to be listened to by consumers and the news media. All you have to do is let others know you exist and that you are an expert source of information or advice about your industry. Being regarded as an industry expert can do wonders for your business. But how can you get your expertise known?
- Start by making sure you know everything you can about your business, product and industry.
- Talk to as many groups as possible. (If public speaking strikes fear in your heart, you’d better get over it. This is one skill you’re going to need as an entrepreneur.) Volunteer to talk to key organisations, service clubs, business groups or anyone else who may be interested in what you have to say. Do it free of charge, of course, and keep it fun, interesting and timely.
- Contact industry trade publications and volunteer to write articles, columns or opinion pieces. (If you can’t do that, write a letter to the editor.)
- Offer seminars or demonstrations related to your business (a caterer could explain how to cook Thai food, for instance).
- Host, or appear as a regular guest or a contributor to a local radio or TV talk show.
Do all this, and by the time you contact media people and present yourself as an expert, you’ll have plenty of credentials. Why do some companies succeed in generating publicity while others don’t? It has been proved time and time again that no matter how large or small your business is, the key to securing publicity is identifying your target market and developing a well thought out public relations campaign. To get your company noticed, follow these seven steps:
1. Write your positioning statement
This sums up in a few sentences what makes your business different from the competition.
2. List your objectives
What do you hope to achieve for your company through the publicity plan you put into action? List your top five goals in order of priority. Be specific, and always set deadlines. Using a clothing boutique as an example, some goals may be to increase your store traffic, which will translate into increased sales, and create a high profile for your store within the community.
3. Identify your target customers
Are they male or female? What age range? What are their lifestyles, incomes and buying habits? Where do they live?
4. Identify your target media
List the newspapers and TV and radio programmes in your area that would be appropriate outlets. Make a complete list of the media you want to target, then call them and ask who you should contact regarding your area of business. Identify the specific reporter or producer who covers your area so you can contact them directly. Your local library will have media reference books that list contact names and numbers. Make your own media directory, listing names, addresses, and telephone and fax numbers. Separate TV, radio and print sources. Know the “beats” covered by different reporters so you can be sure you are pitching your ideas to the appropriate person.
5. Develop story angles
Keeping in mind the media you’re approaching, make a list of story ideas you can pitch to them. Develop story angles you would want to read about or see on TV. Plan a 45-minute brainstorming session with your spouse, a business associate or your employees to come up with fresh ideas.
If you own a toy store, for example, one angle could be to donate toys to the local hospital’s paediatric wing. If you own a clothing store, you could alert the local media to a fashion trend in your area. What is flying out of your store so fast you can’t keep it in stock? If it’s shirts featuring the South African flag, you could talk to the media about the return of patriotism. Then arrange for a reporter to speak to some of your customers about why they purchased that particular shirt. Suggest the newspaper send a photographer to take pictures of your customers wearing the shirts.
6. Make the pitch
Put your thoughts on paper and send them to the reporter in a “pitch letter”. Start with a question or an interesting fact that relates your business to the target medium’s audience. For instance, if you were writing for a magazine aimed at older people, you could start off by writing: “Did you know that more than half of all women over 50 have not begun saving for retirement?” Then lead into your pitch: “As a Certified Financial Planner, I can offer your readers 10 tips to start them on the road to a financially comfortable retirement…” Make your letter no longer than one page; include your telephone number so the reporter can contact you.
If appropriate, include a press release with your letter. Be sure to include your positioning statement in any correspondence or press releases you send.
7. Follow up
Following up is the key to securing coverage. Wait four to six days after you’ve sent the information, then follow up your pitch letter with a telephone call. If you leave a message on voice mail and the reporter does not call you back, call again until you get him or her on the phone. Do not leave a second message within five days of the first. If the reporter requests additional information, send it immediately and follow up to confirm receipt.
Once you reach the reporter on the telephone, remember that he or she is extremely busy and probably on deadline. Be courteous, and ask if he or she has time to talk. If not, offer to phone back at a more convenient time. If the reporter can talk to you, keep your initial pitch to 20 seconds; then offer to send written information to support your story ideas.
The following tips will boost your chances of success:
- If a reporter rejects your idea, ask if he or she can recommend someone else who might be interested.
- Know exactly what you’re going to say before you telephone the reporter. Have it written down in front of you – it’s easier, and you’ll feel more confident.
- Everyone likes a compliment. If you have read a story you particularly enjoyed by the reporter you’re contacting, let him or her know. This will also show that you’re familiar with the reporter’s work.
- Be persistent. Remember, not everyone will be interested. If your story idea is turned down, try to find out why and use that information to improve your next pitch. Just keep going, and don’t give up. You will succeed eventually.
- Don’t be a pest. You can easily be persistent without being annoying. Use your instincts; if the reporter sounds rushed, offer to phone back.
- Be helpful and become a resource by providing reporters with information. Remember, they need your story ideas. There are only so many they can come up with on their own.
- Always remember that assistants get promoted. Be nice to everyone you speak with, no matter how low they are on the totem pole. After you establish a connection, keep in touch; you never know where people will end up.
- Say thank you. When you succeed in getting publicity for your business, always write a thank you note to the reporter who worked on it with you. You’d be surprised how much a note means.
Plan your publicity efforts just as carefully as you plan the rest of your business. You’ll be glad you made the effort when you see your company featured in the news, and when you see the results in your bottom line.
5 Reasons Your Start-up Isn’t Getting The PR You Need
Understanding and working with the requirements of journalists covering your industry will go a long way toward increasing your company’s visibility.
Getting press coverage for your start-up has become increasingly difficult. With an average of 550 000 new businesses starting each month, you’re facing some serious competition to gain traction with your audience. If you don’t take the right approach to PR, you’ll see your competition pass you by.
Exposure doesn’t happen by chance. Behind every great brand story you see in the media, there is a great PR strategy.
Let’s look at some of the most common mistakes that prevent startups from getting the press coverage they desire.
1. Not taking blogging seriously
Blogging on a regular basis is one of the best ways to impact mainstream discourse. A growing number of journalists and reporters are constantly looking for new and interesting story ideas in the blogosphere. You can make your blog a fresh source of news stories by writing about your story and your industry, and by commenting on different aspects of your business.
To get the right press coverage by blogging, ask yourself why your company exists and what problem your product or service solves. Present your story as human and relatable and make sure it is compelling enough to grab the attention of the media.
2. Not networking with relevant journalists
Networking allows you to build a quality relationship with relevant journalists whom you might not have encountered otherwise.
To get quality press coverage, you need to focus on networking with journalists who cover your niche, and to learn what they write about and what their audience likes to share.
Once you have built a connection, you can pitch them the story of your business.
But before you jump in, keep in mind that journalists hear pitches all the time. If you’re sending generic pitches that focus on only yourself, most likely they’ll ignore your proposal. To make your pitch stand out, tailor your story to fit with their beat.
3. Not making your story exclusive to each journalist
Exclusivity is a strong enticement for a news outlet. Not only will it make them more invested in the story, but it will also entice them to get the jump on their competitors.
Assuming you have exclusive-worthy news, the next thing you must decide is what outlet to offer it to so that it has the best chance of reaching your target audience. The goal is to not always reach the broadest audience but to get your news in front of existing and potential customers.
4. Not using the right tools
To build and maintain a great PR presence, you need to use the right tools; ones that help you amplify and monitor your business’s public appeal.
Some of them are:
- Help a Reporter Out: HARO is one of the easiest free tools when it comes to pitching the media. It lets you gain access to daily emails from journalists seeking interviews.
- Google Keyword Planner: This free tool helps you plan out your blog posts with relevant keywords that people are searching for. Careful word selection will help your blog show up higher in search engines returns.
- BlogAbout Title Generator: My favourite free tool to help me brainstorm catchy titles for reporters.
- Google Alerts: This is a free tool that sends you alerts when your company or competitor is being featured in various media outlets.
5. Not being authentic
Reporters are consistently getting pitched stories from entrepreneurs that want press. To make your pitch stand out, be authentic. The reporters covering news in your industry want to hear your story.
Keep in mind that they need you as much as you need them, and they are actively looking to build relationships with entrepreneurs. So, don’t be afraid to reach out to them. To get your story covered, you need to find the right reporter and the right publication at the right time and to be authentic.
No matter how good your product is, it may fail if it doesn’t make its way into the public eye. To get the right press coverage, you need to build a strong network of journalists and bloggers writing about your industry.
When you send a pitch, ensure that it stands out and tailor it to fit it with the reporter’s beat. From this list of errors, you can avoid the mistakes preventing you from getting the PR you desire. Fix it and you can increase the visibility of your start-up.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
How To Use Mistaken Inquiries To Drive Awareness Of Your Business
Whether this is a walk-in, telephonic or e-mail client, be sure not to regret your interaction with them, have a plan in place, how you will deal with such situation.
At times, we receive inquiries or communication from people seeking products/services that aren’t in our line of work. It can also be someone who has mistaken you for a certain company that you’re not. It’s easy to dismiss such inquiries, by simply saying you’re unable to assist the person.
Don’t miss an opportunity to publicise your company, treat the enquirer as one of your clients. Take a proactive approach, use this as an opportunity to inform them about your company and the services/products that you offer.
In doing this you are building a reputation for your brand, and introducing your corporation to someone who might have never known about. It might happen in future, that the said person needs your products/services when they remember how you professionally assisted them, then they will come to you.
Another possibility is that at that moment they are connected to someone who needs your services and they don’t know anyone in your field. Should you play your cards correctly, you might gain a client for the future or the present.
Whether this is a walk-in, telephonic or e-mail client, be sure not to regret your interaction with them, have a plan in place, how you will deal with such situation.
Your response should be structured in a manner that will make the enquirer feel respected and not embarrassed about the mistake they’ve made. When responding to emails ensure that you do so quickly. Sympathise that you cannot assist them because your company only specialises in different services/products. State clearly what is it that you provide and how you do it.
2Show how you solve problems
In the process of explaining your services/products, demonstrate how you can solve people’s problems or meet their needs. This means that you describe your products/services in detail. However, your description should be a comprehensive summary, consider that the enquirer has a life to live.
3Make your brand visible
When responding to emails, remember to include your logo, motto and other things that your brand is identified by. Your offices should be designed keeping this in mind when someone walks in, they should immediately see your identity.
If you have samples to give, kindly offer them to the enquirer. Should you have demonstrations/presentations that you do, politely inform the enquirer about them. Let them know how they can get hold of this.
Related: How To Impress The Press
5Provide them with an opportunity to come back to you
You can share your business card with someone you meet, this should have all your contact detail, i.e. telephone, fax, e-mail and social media details. In an email, these should be nicely positioned at the end of your email, as part of your final greeting.
6Refer them to a relevant business
Should you know of any company that offers the services/products they need, refer them to it without hesitation. If possible, provide them with contact details and a contact person to assist them.
How You Can Avoid The ‘Facebook Effect’
Don’t let perceived realities – of your business or those of your competitors – derail your strategies.
As a young entrepreneur, I received my first bit of publicity from a daily in Durban. It was massively exciting and stroked my ego tremendously because after all, what I had achieved was considered newsworthy enough to be published in a newspaper.
There was a big photo of me on page four, with my interview where I talked about the success of a promotion I had conceived and implemented. My friends saw the article and called to congratulate me, and in my distant social circles people discussed my story and congratulated me too.
Perception versus reality
What they didn’t know was that my business was barely breaking even at the time. The perception of my success was very different to my reality. I proudly showed the article to my mentor (naively expecting a pat on the back) and instead he asked: “Do you believe what they say?” “What do you mean?” I said. “Do you believe all the things the journalist has written about you in the article?” he asked again.
I didn’t answer him because I knew deep down that they weren’t all true. I wasn’t the hugely successful businessman that I was portrayed as in the article.
“If you believe all the good things the press write about you, you’ll also believe all the bad things they say. Be grateful for the press, but do not let it govern your emotions.”
Beware curated reality
In today’s era of social media, fake news, memes, and overly filtered photos, it’s very easy to become envious of the perceived lives that others showcase.
Much like the envy we experience when scrolling through our friends’ posts of their expensive destination holidays — where they can be seen showing off their tanned, ripped bodies while sipping expensive champagne — the same type of envy occurs between business owners when they scroll through competitor’s company timelines and witness their competitors winning great awards, attending glitzy launches and receiving kudos from the press.
In my experience, the perception created by these often-boastful social media posts is seldom close to reality. Like the article on my Durban business, what my friends perceived was nowhere near my financial reality.
Be cognisant and sceptical of this curated reality, so that you as a business do not react in one of two ways to a competitor’s posts:
- Don’t try to emulate their strategy based on what seems to be working
- Don’t end up feeling depressed based on your jealousy of this curated reality.
Instead, your reaction to witnessing these posts should be to:
- Frame your competitors’ posts simply as marketing. They have carefully curated these posts to only show followers the great things about their businesses, products and services. The ‘make-up’ hides the imperfections.
- Use your emotions to make a change. Use the energy their posts ignite inside of you — not the content they project — and pump that energy into YOUR strategy to reinforce it.
- Drive your differentiator harder. Make sure your business stands out as being unique and a thought leader in its industry and not one attempting to copy others. Your differentiator should not be influenced by what you are seeing either positively or negatively.
Always remember, your competitors’ posts represent selective truth-telling because they curate what they want you to see online.
They will never post when times are tough and they are losing clients and not making a profit at the end of the month. Don’t believe everything you see, and most importantly, don’t let these ‘perceived realities’ affect you or your business strategy in any way.
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