PR tips

What do you want your PR to achieve?

#SillySeasonPR #3

What do you want your PR to achieve?

Have you ever heard people say “We need to do some PR”?

My question is: why?

Everything we do in business costs money; even time has a cost, as we could be spending it on client work, making product or selling. We need a reason for doing anything, not just PR.

When people say they need to do some PR, it usually means sales have dried up and they know they need to something but don’t know what.

What is your objective?

Like anything else in business, PR activity should have an objective. This could be to:

  • raise awareness of your business, products or services
  • educate potential customers about products/services you provide
  • start customers thinking about your products, eg installing new heating in the summer in readiness for winter
  • buy a specific product/service relevant now, eg ice cream during a hot spell
  • promote an event
  • demonstrate your expertise as a leader in your industry
  • publicise your success, eg expansion, new staff, award wins, new premises
  • demonstrate to the community what a good business you are to work for to attract new employees

What do you want your PR to achieve? #SillySeasonPR

#3 #SillySeasonPR actions

Usually, your aim should tie in with your business plan.

PR can support this when you identify what call to action you want readers to take, such as:

  • visit your web site
  • phone or email you
  • visit your premises
  • book a place at an event
  • check to see whether they need to renew/replace a product they have, eg worn car tyres
  • make a purchase

Identify what you want to achieve so you know what action readers need to take to achieve it and what ‘call to action’ you need to include in your press release.

That’s your #SillySeason PR task #3.

Good luck and do ask any questions you have.

Tomorrow: PR planning and improvisation

Use the content and tips in our videos and posts below to boost your business.

Who is your target audience?

#SillySeasonPR #2

Where do you start with PR? There are important questions to ask and one of them is:

Who is your target audience?

Who are the people you want your message to reach?

Often these are the people that your product or service is aimed at – who you want to buy from you or take some other action:

  • Consumers: young, old or specific interest groups
  • Businesses: large, small, general or specialist
  • A mixture of two or more specific groups

What do they read, watch or listen to?

When you know who they are, look for what they read or view: local or national newspapers, consumer or trade magazines, web sites, blogs or social media.

This will give you an idea of the publications or media to target with your press releases, news and content.

For example, you wouldn’t usually send a press release detailing specialist machinery parts to a local newspaper. The journalists there probably won’t understand what you’re talking about as they are focused mainly on news of interest to the community in the area. The press release would be more suited to a trade publication or web site aimed at specific industry.

Who is your target audience? #SillySeasonPR

#1 #SillySeasonPR actions

Make a list of the target publications, TV and radio programmes, web sites, blogs and social media accounts that cover your target audience(s).

If you have a budget, there are specialist PR services you can pay to distribute press releases direct to relevant journalists. These are especially useful if you have to reach tens, dozens or hundreds of journalists nationally and even internationally. If you don’t have a budget to pay for this and your focus is on a smaller audience, you can identify local newspapers, magazines and radio stations or research those covering a specific industry easily.

Visit a newsagent to see what local publications serve your area or search the internet for specialist publications covering your field. Scan their pages to see what type of content they publish or watch and listen to television or radio programmes to give you an idea of the content they use. If you plan local coverage, you could have a list of one to 10 newspapers, magazines or radio stations. Depending on your industry, you could have the same number or more of trade titles.

Research your target audience on social media by following #hashtags and seeing who posts about your specific topics. You can connect with them to build relationships.

What’s important is to have a list of the main press and media you need to reach.

Tomorrow: What do you want your #SillySeasonPR to achieve?

Use the content and tips in our videos and posts below to boost your business.

Keep on marketing when school’s out with our #SillySeasonPR school holiday challenge

Schools are breaking up for the long summer holidays and so will our MPs – is that a coincidence? – and I know from my role as business editor that it’s a time when the flow of press releases dries up as more people go away on holiday and businesses stop their marketing.

That’s crazy when newspapers still have pages to fill and web sites need news stories to pull in readers. There’s lots of opportunity to get coverage for your business.

Traditionally, there can be a lack of news at this time of year – the silly season – so why not drop a good story into journalists’ hands when the field is clear?

We’ve created the #SillySeasonPR school holiday challenge to help you brush up on your PR and take advantage of the opportunities.

SillySeasonPR school holiday challenge | pressme

Over the next six weeks, we’ll be adding practical hints and tips on how to use PR to promote your business every weekday.

As soon as the schools start back in September, the phones start ringing and emails start arriving again. The the backlog of press releases rushes through and everyone competes to get space on newspaper pages.

The #SillySeasonPR school holiday challenge aims to get your news out there before this rush begins.

Visit daily for the latest tips and suggest any you would like to share.

Have a good summer, enjoy your holiday and make your PR sizzle.

Come back tomorrow for the first tip.

Flexibility: a powerful free PR tool

It’s not good enough to be the best at what you do – you have to let people know it.
PR is a good way to achieve this and is accessible to businesses of all sizes, as Robert Zarywacz explains.

Big business often have big budgets to spend on marketing departments and PR agencies.

How can smaller businesses compete?

Big does not always mean better. Leaner organisations can often respond more effectively.

pressme: Flexibility is a powerful free PR tool

When big isn’t always best

Trying to get a comment out of a big company for a press article can be difficult. How many times have you read in newspapers statements such as “we contacted the company for a comment, but no one was available”? It’s not always because they don’t want to comment.

Sometimes a local manager is desperate to get some PR, but has to refer back to their line manager, who reports back to head office, possibly on another continent, who then refer on to a PR agency. Staff on the ground can be petrified. It’s all right for them to say what they want to an individual, but they can’t possibly be trusted to talk to the press.

All that budget, all those people, all those resources and no coverage.

Lean businesses able to respond fast can get the coverage lost by lumbering, inflexible corporations.

This is an opportunity small businesses can pick up on.

Flexibility gets results

For a journalist, there’s nothing better than when someone responds to an email or answers their phone and is ready to talk, especially when they’ve got to meet a tight deadline.

They could ask anyone to comment, but they’re asking you.

Surely, anyone would take the opportunity to get some free exposure? No, many can’t be bothered.

How many column inches can your comment fill? What would it cost you to buy an advert that size? You’re getting it for free.

And a comment confirms your authority in your specific field. If you’ve hundreds or thousands of competitors, this gives you an advantage over them. You can even link your web site to an online article or tweet it, so you can integrate it into your digital marketing and social media.

What’s the catch?

It’ll cost you a bit of time. If you’re prepared, maybe five or 10 minutes. If it needs more thought, perhaps a bit longer.

Definitely a price worth paying for exposure and building a relationship with the press.

What to do when you get the call?

Keep calm and comment!

You’re probably not going to talk about anything you wouldn’t discuss with a customer or supplier. If the thought of talking to the press or media unsettles you, remember that you’ll be talking about what you know best: your business.

Here’s a few suggestions to help:

  1. Double check precisely what the topic is and whether you feel comfortable commenting. If you know your topic, be bold. If you don’t know much about the topic, it could be wise to decline.
  2. Check the deadline. If you are prepared to talk there and then, go ahead. If there is time to spare and you need to prepare, ask if you can set a time in half an hour or later in the day.
  3. Make sure you are available for comment if this has been scheduled for a specific time. Letting a journalist down is not a good idea.
  4. If it’s a broadcast interview, a landline is usually better for quality and you need to ensure you speak from a quiet room with no interruptions from people or equipment. Set all devices to quiet or, better, turn them off. Close the door and leave the dog outside – they usually discover a squeaky toy or start chewing a bone during interviews.
  5. Ask what the angle will be and the type of question you will be asked so you can check any facts or references you want to quote.
  6. If you have time to prepare, jot down, on an A4 piece of paper, bullets of all the points you want to make, any references and your business details including web address. Be prepared to slip in your contact details where you can.
  7. Enjoy your interview. Draw on your enthusiasm and energy to project your personality.

Take the opportunity

So take the opportunity whenever you can. If journalists know they can depend on you to give an interesting comment, they will call you again, even though you don’t have a big marketing department or pay a PR agency.


Don’t let your hangover be the only awareness of your award win

An award win gives you a big opportunity to obtain press coverage.
If you’re a finalist, Robert Zarywacz suggests preparing in advance so you don’t waste your big moment.

It’s the morning after the regional awards. What a hangover! But what a win! And, boy, did we celebrate!” 

(Enough to warrant three exclamation marks.) 

“Now it’s time to tell everyone about how great we are. I’ll just get another cup of coffee and sit down to write the press release.”

pressme: Don’t let your hangover be the only awareness of your award win

Make best PR use of your award win

It can be a big achievement to win an award and it’s definitely useful for obtaining media coverage, but an award win isn’t always enough on its own.

As our bleary-eyed winner sits down to compose their press release at 9.30am on the morning after, a journalist on their target publication has already been writing an article on these awards since 9.00am.

What’s more, another four businesses won awards last night, one of them winning two awards, so they are going to be the main focus of the newspaper article. The journalist has received a press release from one of the other winners and has already spoken to the winner of the two awards.

Add to this press releases sent to the newspaper from two other businesses which have each won national awards that outrank the regional awards, and our friend’s press release is an also-ran even before it’s written.

Does this really happen? Yes, this is based on my experience as a journalist when I observed award winners working to get my attention when it was too late.

Now, there are other ways of generating publicity from winning an award – in newsletters to customers, on social media and on web sites – but free coverage in the press and media is usually worth a lot. Think how much you would pay to advertise.

What can you do to improve your chances of media coverage?

Plan – write your winner’s press release before the awards event. You won’t be able to put in all the details, such as judges’ comments, although ask the awards organisers at the event when you have been named a winner. Get as much material as you can in advance.

Competitors – you will not be the only award winner. What makes you different? Will you win two awards? Will it be the third year you’ve won this award? Have you won other awards this year? What is it that will get you noticed by journalists so that your story becomes the focus of their awards articles?

Photos – usually an official photographer takes photos at awards ceremonies. Find out how the press can obtain photos of your award win. Sometimes photos can be a pain to obtain, so any help you can give journalists will make their job easier.

Move fast – contact the media as soon as you can. If the awards were announced during an evening event, do it first thing the following morning. Remember our journalist who was writing the article at 9am. You may be hungover, but the journalist will probably have a clear head and be writing to a deadline.

Respond – if a journalist calls you or emails, respond immediately. They’ll have other articles to write if they can’t get a response from you.

With a small amount of preparation you can do a lot to help your chances of getting media coverage of your awards wins. And that’s another reason to celebrate.

Have you missed the holiday PR boat?

We’ve seen the stream of incoming press releases stop during the holidays.
Next week everyone will start sending at the same time, but have they missed holiday PR opportunities?

pressme: Have you missed the holiday PR boat?

No one reads news during the holidays.

Don’t they?

It’s true that stories such as the Prime Minister on his surfing holiday have appeared, but there’s also been many big news stories.

The flow of press releases stops during school holidays, but next week when the new term starts I expect a flood of press releases to come through at the same time for my weekly newspaper business pages.  Instead of repeatedly trying to speak to people for details of news stories, there will probably be too much to fit in the space and some news won’t get covered.

I believe many businesses are missing useful PR opportunities by not sending out press releases over the holiday period. With many publications having reduced resources, interesting news is often welcome. An eye-catching photo will also help.

Will anyone read it? Many print publications also publish news online and many of us still check up on news and business when we’re supposed to be relaxing.

Create a PR schedule to take advantage of all opportunities at all times. That way you can achieve more coverage, especially when journalists are eager to receive good material. And by helping them out, they are more likely to contact you in the future.

• See our #SillySeasonPR school holiday challenge for ideas on how to take the PR opportunities available over holidays.

Approval from the cleaner can wash PR down the pan

A cumbersome approval process can waste a fleeting PR opportunity.
While press releases need checking, businesses need to act fast or miss coverage.

Getting things done in time is what meets PR deadlines

I like to get things just right / just how I like them / perfect done.

Sometimes there is not enough time to do things precisely how we want. If there’s a fixed deadline, we must make it or lose the opportunity.

That’s life.

How many good stories never get told?

Recently, I saw a company had won an award and phoned them for details. They told me to speak to one of two PR agencies that work with them. I phoned the agency and was asked to email. I emailed and heard nothing. I emailed again and was asked if there was a deadline. I replied and have heard nothing since. In the meantime, more interesting stories have come up. I wonder how much they pay their two PR agencies?

Another scenario is when I speak to a company and they say: “We’ll have to get this checked out by head office.” Now, I realise companies need to manage their PR, but they can’t control everything written about them.  And if their process is so cumbersome that they miss the deadline, it’s not worth the resources they spend on this.

Opportunities speed past

Many PR opportunities arise suddenly and need quick responses.

I know from my own PR writing that it’s good to aim for the ideal target market, timing and circumstances, but these rarely occur.

To make the most of opportunities, it’s best to:

  • Prepare as much as you can to take PR opportunities when they arise
  • Respond fast – even if it’s just to say you’re unable to say anything at this time – lack of interest could mean you never get asked again
  • Don’t wait for the perfect moment – it is unlikely to arrive and you will have missed all the other opportunities

It’s likely that if everyone from the chief executive to the cleaner has to have an ‘input’, the resulting PR will go down the pan.

Spell acronyms, initialisms and abbreviations in full before using

Acronyms, initialisms and abbreviations save space and time,
but not if readers don’t know what they mean before you start using them.

ASAIAAIFBU (Always spell acronyms, initialisms and abbreviations in full before using)
Some organisations, products or processes have very long names that become tedious to repeat. Acronyms (which make a new word out of initials, eg LASER), initialisms (eg BBC) and abbreviations, eg ref) can make long names or terms easier to read and write. 

However, the reader does need to know what they mean. Do we know what LASER stands for or what the BBC is?

Spell them out before using

Spell out acronyms and initialisms in full the first time you write them and follow them with the shortened form in brackets, eg British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). From then on you can just write BBC and readers will know what you mean.

But surely everyone knows what the BBC is? Which BBC? There are many organisations with these initials so it’s dangerous to assume, especially if our target audience is a very broad one.

What is more, if you include obscure initials without identifying what they mean, a journalist will have to look them up. It won’t take them much time, but if they have to look up simple things for every press release they receive, it slows down their work considerably.

If you make life easier for journalists by providing information in full, it is a great help and establishes you as a good, reliable source for the future. And building good relationships with journalists is important for the success of your PR campaigns.

Whose time is your PR wasting?

Effective PR requires time and effort,
but we need to focus activity clearly to make sure we’re not wasting others’ time as well as our own.

Whose time is your PR wasting

If you’d put a lot of effort into writing and distributing a press release or article, how would you feel if a journalist started reading but then stopped and asked: “What is this all about?”

If it’s a really interesting topic and the journalist wants to pursue it, they’ll call you to get the real story.

It’s more likely that they won’t have much time and are up against a tight deadline and will give up.

How much time would you have spent putting that press release together?

What do you think the journalist’s opinion will be of your business?

Does it ever happen?

It happened twice to me recently when I received two vague press releases. I like to give people a chance and re-read them to see if I was missing the point. No, they were too vague. They referred to awards or achievements, but did not give any specific details.

I did a bit of investigation. I try to check facts wherever I can as I know that people often mention things without checking them. There was nothing on their web sites.

I now reached a point where the value of the stories in my view was not worth more of my time. I had other news to follow up that I knew was of interest, so I did not follow up these two any further.

What improvements could have got them published?

If the press releases had set out precisely what the awards were, what organisations made them, why they had won them and what it meant to the businesses to win them, it would have told me all about the stories.

Perhaps they would have been newsworthy.

In the event, they wasted my time and, I imagine, wasted theirs too.

My advice when looking to start any public relations activity is to establish what your news is, who will find it interesting and what you want it to achieve.

If you can’t provide the answers to these questions, I suggest spending the time on something more likely to be useful.

Can your press release grab the attention you deserve?

Got a newsworthy story but fear you can’t compete with professionally produced press releases?
Take heart. Not all PR agency produced press releases are effective.

Does your business have some remarkable news?

Are you bursting to tell the world, but every time you go to write a press release or pick up the phone to talk to the media you stop because you’re not a PR professional.

Please, don’t stop.

Over the years, I have written for newspapers and business magazines and received more press releases than I care to remember, both from businesses and from PR agencies and consultants. As you can imagine, these have included effective press releases and not-so-effective press releases.

Not all the effective ones were produced by PR agencies and consultants. Not even an awards logo on the bottom of an agency-written press release can guarantee its effectiveness.

I don’t suggest all or most PR agencies and consultants do not provide value, especially as pressme exists to produce press releases for paying clients, but there’s nothing to say that you can’t produce a press release that will match the best.

I know this because in my long experience as a journalist and editor I have received powerful press releases written by businesses themselves.

Now, it could be that you don’t have the time or really don’t feel able to write a press release. That’s perfectly fine. In the same way we employ an accountant because we want a professional to calculate our taxes.

But if fear of your press release competing with those written by professionals is all that holds you back, cast those worries aside.

What’s important is to get your story out there for the benefit of your business. This could be by using a PR professional or by doing it yourself.

Your story needs to be heard.

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