Public relations (“PR”) can generate media and public awareness for any type of business and its products and services. Ask several people to describe PR and you’ll probably receive varying definitions for two main reasons: Either people don’t understand the difference between advertising and PR; and/or, PR is tailored for each specific business. Following is an outline of “PR basics” you can use for your business.
Know the difference between PR and advertising. The difference between advertising and PR is that advertising is a guaranteed paid placement arranged through a media outlet’s ad sales representative, while PR involves a story that is “pitched” to a reporter working for the outlet’s editorial department. With an ad, you buy the space (in print or on air), you control the content (by producing the ad), and it runs exactly as you wish…with PR, there’s no guarantee how, when, or where your story will run.
Understand why PR is done. If done correctly, PR is capable of reaching a large audience on a small budget. PR and advertising work well together — along with branding — as part of your overall marketing mix. What’s best about PR is that it communicates in a way that advertising can’t…PR is like a third party endorsement of your business, products, and services by a credible, independent source (the media).
Tailor your PR! For maximum results, PR should be tailored to fit your business’s unique brand and identity/image, your products/services, pricing and distribution, promotions and events, the industry you’re in, and where your business is located. A written business plan — or better, a customized marketing plan for your business — can help define this “positioning” to serve as your tailored PR plan’s foundation.
Target your PR! Key to PR success is defining your target market (customers you want to reach) and target media (outlets that reach your target market). Compiling a media list can be time-intensive and costly, but there are ways to streamline this effort. First, ask your customers which news publications, Web sites, and broadcast news shows they peruse. Also, limit your research to local media, and/or media that cover the products/services you offer, and/or trade media that cover your industry and trends. Become familiar with media outlets and reporters, and the types of stories they run — especially related to your business — and when/how/where these stories are reported.
Be Newsworthy. Create press materials (e.g., press releases, etc.) that are timely, factual and informative, interesting to your audience AND relevant to the media outlet (and reporter) you’re targeting…this characterizes your “newsworthiness,” which is core to all PR campaigns. Write your press materials from an objective third-party viewpoint…this can be challenging for many business owners, so search online for free press kit templates and press release examples.
Spread The Word. Distribute your press materials to your media list and follow up. This, too, can be time-intensive, and it involves some rejection, but don’t take it personally if media aren’t interested. Keep in mind that reporters work on deadlines and they need sufficient lead time to cover a story.
Track Results. Note media responses you receive during your follow-up…this will help you further tailor your PR. Also, be sure to archive media coverage of your business…these “clips” go into your press kits and can be displayed in your business, posted to your Web site, used in marketing mailers/emails, and as bragging rights among family and friends!