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Guide to PR-ing your Business

Fri, 18 February 2011

Whether you have just started a business, launched a new product or service, or won an award this guide will tell you how to get the most free publicity and media coverage.
Why bother with PR at all? What can it achieve?
Well, there are several benefits of media exposure as long as it is targeted and relevant. It raises awareness of your business and your product or service amongst important audiences - either potential customers or investors. When a journalist writes about your product or service, it provides independent editorial endorsement - a far more powerful and more cost effective marketing tool than advertising in many cases. Media coverage can be directly linked to investor interest. 

Creating your story

Before you begin any proactive PR activity it is important to work out what you’re trying to say and to whom. Here are some questions you should ask:
• Who am I trying to reach? This might be potential customers or investors either in your local area or within the market sector your product/service fits within.
• Which media outlet would be best placed to allow me to reach them? You can easily work this out by thinking about what your target audience reads. For instance, if you’d like to reach local consumers the regional newspaper (print or online) might be the most effective. If you’d like to reach potential investors then a sector trade magazine might offer the most efficient way of reaching them.
• What am I saying and why? Put simply you need to develop the most ‘newsworthy’ story (more information on this can be found below) that is most likely to be of most interest to your target media. For example this could be about winning one of the Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Awards, but in the long term there could be all sorts of things that happen to you or your business that might spark the interest of different media outlets, from new product releases, to more award wins or comment on wider relevant news. For instance, you could feed into a wider magazine feature based around the UK’s next generation of entrepreneurs.

Generating your media materials

Once you’ve decided who you’re trying to reach, who you will be targeting and what you will be saying, it’s time to create your ‘media materials’ - usually just a media list, photography and a press release. It is crucial that your media materials are tailored for the audience you are trying to reach.
• Media list: whether through surveying contacts, searching through the internet or just sheer intuition, you need to work out which specific outlets will be the most valid targets for your story. For instance, a new product release might only really have interest for relatively few specialist magazines, while an award win has broader local appeal and could be an exciting story for your local paper or radio station.
• Photography: compelling photography can make or break stories. Images of you ‘at work’ or using your product, that tell the story of what’s unique and interesting about your business will be most effective.
• Press release (newspapers / online): this should be short, to the point and objective, offering the main details of the story. The aim is to give busy journalists the most amount of relevant information as quickly as possible, prioritising the ‘who, what, when, where, how’ of the story.

'Selling in’

The next stage is to ring your target publications and pitch your story to the most relevant contact available. This might be a business correspondent at a regional print publication, a features editor at a specialist magazine or a forward planner at a local radio news station. If you have a well considered news story and rigorous materials behind you, this should go smoothly, but here are some tips:
• Be polite, to the point and brief: what with staff cutbacks, journalists are perhaps more busy than they have ever been. This means that when you have them on the phone you only have a limited amount of time to pitch your story – it must be easy to understand, as once you’ve told them, they’ll need to be able to explain it to their readers or listeners!
• Listen: Make sure you’re responsive to what the journalist wants and you provide it wherever possible as quickly as you can.
• If at first you don’t succeed…: If you don’t get immediate success, don’t be downhearted! Perhaps reconsider who you are targeting at each publication and respond and adjust your pitch according to the feedback you received from the journalists you spoke to.
Below is a typical PR programme model that can be used as a guide when setting out a PR programme. Some points may not be relevant, as each programme will be unique to your area of activity.
It is recommended that this model is reviewed against the existing or planned PR programme structure to ensure that appropriate preparation has been made, or contingencies put in place.
Question Strategy - PR programme
Is PR the best method of communication for your activity? Assess all communication tools available, eg marketing, advertising, direct mail, etc.
Why do I need to use PR? Define the problem situation.
What do you want to achieve? Set aims and objectives.
Are there any issues to be considered? Issues audit.
Who needs to know? Identify your audience.
What are your key messages? Prepare key messages.
What are the most appropriate channels of communication? Match with the media groups.
Can I develop a press pack? Identify appropriate method of communication.
Do I know how the media works? Develop media relations techniques.
Am I capable of speaking with a journalist? Consider media training.
How long will this take? Set a time scale.
How much will this cost me? Set a budget.
How can I tell if this has worked? Evaluate your programme.

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