Why should you add a Public Relations campaign to your marketing tools? It can be free, it provides you with credibility, and it distinguishes you from your competition.
You may have created ads that have built business recognition, but great public relations material can, unlike advertising, build your credibility—and that credibility can help you stand above your competition and attract more customers. People tend to remember, and are often influenced by, what they read in the news, hear on the radio, and see on TV. Over time, positive stories in the news will paint you as the expert and provide you and your business with much more exposure. In addition to an investment of time, the keys to a successful PR campaign are to plan, network, write material that will interest your audience, and show some determination and persistence.
Set a Goal. Decide what the end game is. Your goal may be name recognition in your community. You may want to be seen as the local expert or to be featured in a trade journal with the potential to reach a larger audience of your peers. Do you want to be interviewed or quoted? Do you want your home design or incredible photo to be featured on the cover of a local or national magazine? Once you have a goal, you can plan to win!
Know your audience and your media outlets. Who are you trying to reach? Through what newspapers, journals, magazines, and other news (or “infotainment”) sources can you reach your target market? Determine the story types that various media outlets use, and provide them with “news” they want. Review contact information for newspapers and magazines that you think will be a good fit, and select a contact person. Depending upon what you are trying to achieve, that person could be the editor, the art director, a department or calendar editor, or perhaps a personal contact that can help you make connections.
Generate ideas. Think of ideas that will appeal to specific media outlets and your target audience. What types of announcements can you make? Send the date, time, and subject of an upcoming talk to a local group or event for the calendar section of a local newspaper. Have your photo taken and send that and a few paragraphs to the editor after the event. New products, new services, how-to and other helpful information, the completion of a major job, new clients, industry or community awards, community service, industry survey results, new hires, new pricing, a bio or profile, industry trends, holiday specials—all of these and more are good subjects for press releases.
Create a plan. Determine the desired placement and timing of a specific piece, and keeping media lead times in mind, create your schedule. A local newspaper may only require lead-time of a week or two, but some journals or magazines may require two months or more. (You may need to pitch Christmas ideas as early as July for some publications, while news of new hires or a free offer can be published soon after release.) Monitor your efforts; create a spreadsheet listing the month, topic, target media, target run date, and actual run date. Slate a different story for each month, and submit it far enough in advance to give your business the best exposure. Keeping track of run dates gives you a better sense of the newspaper’s ability to respond and also shows what you’ve accomplished. You can generally reprint stories (with the paper’s permission of course!) to use for future marketing endeavors.
Be persistent and network with journalists. Whether you want to see a number of articles placed in one or several media sources, or a single article printed in a magazine, expect that your initial efforts may be overlooked. Communicate regularly with your target media sources and create relationships to ensure success. If your first submission is not printed, continue to send material monthly; eventually your persistence will pay off. A short conversation with the editor or reporter could uncover ways to increase your chances and help you refocus your efforts in the right direction. Maybe they are looking for a new regular feature you can provide.
Write it up and send it off! Make sure your material is well written and professional. Remember, your PR announcement should be “newsworthy,” so write in the third person and keep the tone factual. This is no place for hype or a sales pitch. Follow a customary format for your press releases; it will make the editor’s job easier and showcase your professionalism.