Public Relations

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.

Not looking too good

Robert and Simon ZarywaczWhen you send a press release to the media, do you send a good quality photo with it?

By good quality, I mean a portrait shot taken by a professional photographer who understands lighting or, at the least, a clear photo taken on a camera at a high resolution.

In my role as a business writer for a newspaper, I still receive poor quality photos, some taken on mobile phones with low resolution cameras. Sometimes even marketing and PR professionals send these, which astounds me. When this happens, I have to ask them to send a better quality photo.

A high resolution, well composed photo with interesting subject matter can be very powerful. It can persuade a journalist to include an article based on the press release simply because they want to include the image.

Another good practice is to send the photo as a separate JPEG file and not embed it in a Word document or PDF. Often this results in a call or email to send the original file.

As to the composition and lighting, I’ll leave that to the professional photographers, whose expertise and art I admire.

A good photo will make you look good and it’s easy to arrange with a bit of thought and planning.

Here’s one of the z2z brothers.

Overcome fear to tell your story

All businesses need to create a presence so that customers know that they are there. Whether this is through marketing and advertising or from word-of-mouth recommendations, awareness is essential for getting work.

I find that many people are still wary of trying out many of the marketing tools that are available to them. In my role as a business writer for a local newspaper, I often receive phone calls starting with a business owner saying gingerly “I don’t know if you’ll be interested in this . . . ” and then going on to tell a cracker of a story. Of course, the opposite of this is the business owner who sends in press releases regularly with ‘news’ that is only of interest to them. I believe many businesses have good stories to tell and need the confidence to tell them.

While an effective PR consultant can help, businesses without a budget can . . . and do . . . achieve media exposure through their own efforts. With thought and planning, a clear idea of what you want to achieve and a focus on what you will and what you won’t talk about, public relations can be a very cost effective tool.

This applies not only to PR but also to blogging, social media and more. Perhaps you see your competitors getting exposure and feel that you offer a better service than they do, but how will people find that out? Often a voice can tell us that “no one wants to hear about that”, but it’s probably that we’re afraid of standing up and telling our story, a bit like the fear of public speaking.

I’m often encouraging people to talk about their businesses because so many are fascinating and deserve wider exposure. With social media, colleagues and associates can help to share your stories and support you.

There really are many opportunities to tell your stories and people who want to hear them.

Robert Zarywacz is a copywriter and journalist who has written thousands of magazine and newspaper articles. He also researches and writes press releases, case studies and newsletters for clients as well as managing social media and PR campaigns at Robert is the business writer for the North Devon Journal, chairman of COMBEbusiness and courtesy consultant for the National Campaign for Courtesy. Follow @robertz on Twitter.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t call back . . .

. . . if you don’t want to take advantage of publicity for your business.

In my role as a newspaper writer I continue to wonder at how many businesses lose out on media coverage simply by not returning calls or responding to emails from journalists. If they’ve got more business than they can handle, that’s their decision, but how many businesses are operating at full capacity or don’t need more business?

I know people are busy and can’t always respond instantly, but an attempt to return a call to get a comment or article in the paper at no cost would seem to be worth the effort. Perhaps they think it won’t do them any good.

I know from writing for a local newspaper that editorial does generate enquiries. That’s why many businesses I’ve covered previously contact me again when they have some news they think will interest me.

Perhaps they think they won’t be able to talk about their business coherently. Surely they talk coherently to their customers or else they wouldn’t make any sales. There’s not much difference.

And what if the call is about something negative, such as the horsemeat scandal? If you can comment knowledgeably or have a food business where you can demonstrate traceability and quality, you do have the opportunity to benefit.

So the next time a journalist calls for a comment, take a moment to think about the opportunity and what you want to say before calling them back promptly.


Who’s more excited: you or your customers?

Many journalists receive a lot of press releases and many press releases are remarkably similar to each other. What will make your story stand out from the rest?

Because we all work hard to develop our businesses, achievements seem exciting to us. But that doesn’t mean they’ll be so exciting for anyone else.

Take awards schemes, for example. It could be a big achievement to win an award in a specific sector, but if a journalist receives awards stories from three other businesses at the same time, it’ll seem like just another award accompanied by yet another photo of more people in evening dress.

Grabbing people’s attention and making the story individual is the challenge. Sometimes it can be really easy and at others it can be more of a challenge.

Start by thinking what is likely to excite your customers or target audience: they are the ones you want to impress. It’s also a good idea to analyse the types of story that specific publications publish so you can develop an angle that will fit in with their style.

What’s the point of this? To ensure that any press release or material you produce has got a better chance of success.

Time and effort spent on producing something that is unlikely to grab people’s attention is probably better spent on doing something that will work.

With a bit of thought and practice it becomes easier to identify an interesting angle for your story as you learn what excites your readers and what journalists want to publish. This will improve your chances of obtaining valuable PR coverage.

No money or time for marketing?

Times are tough and although I hear a lot of business people say they need to do more marketing, often this comes to nothing. But if trade is slow, doing nothing won’t improve it.

Reasons often given for inaction include lack of time or money, but perhaps another reason is that many people don’t know where to start.

This is a shame because there are many useful actions businesses can take that are quick, easy and don’t cost anything.

One way of looking at marketing is as storytelling. People love stories and somewhere in every business there is at least one interesting story to tell.

Stories break the ice when you’re networking, help you build business relationships, enable you to sell your products and services without realising you’re selling and can win you valuable PR coverage. A story can translate into many different formats.

Can anyone tell a story?

Yes. When I am working as a journalist, the part I enjoy most is when someone calls up out of the blue and, sometimes hesitantly, starts telling me a fascinating story about their business, products or services.

I search for stories like this to interest and excite my readers. Often these stories are more interesting than press releases which some PR agencies write at considerable expense to their clients. (There are also very good PR agencies and we like to think we write a mean press release ourselves.)

So as a result of picking up the phone and telling their story that business has obtained valuable newspaper coverage. It can and does work.

How can this help us start marketing?

It’s just one example of what we can achieve when we think about it and take that first step to do something. Yes, pay marketing specialists when you have the budget, but don’t let that stop you before then.

What is important is to start telling our story. If we don’t, no one will hear it.

In these z2ztips I want to share some ordinary observations on marketing that I hope will be useful. If they help just one business, that’ll be reward enough.

The secret of [ comedy / ignition / PR ] is …

Before we end that sentence, let’s think about this unusual combination of topics.

If we stretched our imaginations – really stretched them – I suppose these days a problem with a car engine’s ignition could create a comic scene, as in silent movies when the motorist’s head emerged from under the bonnet covered in soot and grime, which could end up on YouTube and create PR exposure.

Yes? No? OK.

If an engine’s ignition is not properly set, the car won’t start.

If a joke isn’t set up properly, the punchline won’t be funny.

If a press release is sent to media contacts after the deadline, it won’t achieve any PR exposure.

In all cases, the secret is . . .

. . . wait for it . . .

. . . timing.

You’ll notice we don’t have a humour blog category. You’ll be relieved to know we’re not planning one either.

Did they miss your story?

When working as a journalist, I keep my eyes peeled for certain topics. When I read a press release, I expect it to be about the topic in the headline and introductory paragraph, but last week I found a second story embedded further on in a press release. I left this out of the article I was writing, but it happened that this second story was of more interest to me than the main one.

This could have been dangerous for the company sending the press release as the second story could easily have been missed or ignored. They’re lucky as I’ve taken the effort to interview them for a second article, so they’ve managed two out of one, but they very nearly threw away that second story.

I suggest sticking to one story per press release. Many businesses struggle to find any interesting stories, so it’s best to use them sparingly. It also helps to create a flow of interesting stories to maintain awareness.

Busy journalists and editors can skim the beginning of a press release and never reach the bottom paragraphs. Whether that’s right or wrong, it’s not worth the risk of wasting time and money invested in your public relations programme.

We don’t want any publicity, thank you

Today in my role as business journalist, I phoned to ask a professional firm for some industry comment. The receptionist came back and said they didn’t want to provide any. That was fine with me, because three other firms did want to respond.

Now those three other firms are likely to have their names mentioned in a newspaper for their clients and other businesses to see.

Is that worth anything to them?

Perhaps when someone is thinking of consulting a professional they will remember the names from the article or recognise one of the experts quoted from their accompanying photograph. A new client could generate £500 a year, £5,000 a year, possibly repeated year after year. And all for a few minutes to make a general comment.

I’d recommend making the most of any media opportunity like this. Some businesses are desperate to get into the press, so grab the chance if a journalist calls you.

If you’re worried about what to say, why not prepare an A4 sheet of paper that you can print out on paper or display on your PC if you do get called?

Add bullet points with basic information about what you do in your business. Then, if you start talking and lose your thread, you can use it as a prompt to return you to your point. You could even prepare sheets for different topics. And remember to add your name, title, business and web site or contact details. Make sure you get credited for your comment.

If journalists get to know that you are prepared to comment, they are more likely to call you. Then your name and your business will appear in media articles regularly and raise awareness.

What is that worth to you?

Posted via email from z2zine

What’s the story in . . . ? Wouldn’t you like to know?

Well, stories don’t tell themselves: we need storytellers.

At the start of what will probably be a very challenging year, it would be very easy to just give up after reading some of the doom and gloom press reports and opinion pieces. But wait a minute? Do you know anyone in business who is busy or who has just won a substantial order? We do. And just now a client phoned with a new editing commission.

Life goes on. Business goes on. If we let them.

But if nobody hears that businesses are winning orders, signing new contracts and achieving other successes, the doom and gloom stories will dominate everyone’s thinking.

I’m not suggesting we gloss over major challenges for businesses, many of which are not directly of their own making, but let’s aim for a more balanced picture.

How can we achieve this?

While some businesses are all to quick to send out a press release with news that is more important to themselves than to anyone else, many with real news don’t recognise its value. I usually find that most businesses have something interesting to say about themselves. A bit of thinking about how this could be of interest to others could develop some powerful public relations material.

When I work as a journalist, businesses often send me press releases that are actually sales pitches. Where I have time, I talk to them to find if there is an underlying story that can be developed into an interesting article. Often there is.

Now, not every journalist has the time or inclination to do this, so it is best to think your story through before sending your press release out or contacting the media.

What help will this be? If some PR can raise awareness of your products and services or generate new enquiries and sales, it will help not only your business but also the wider economy. That could be useful if the recent 2.5% VAT rise is affecting your sales.

So what’s the story?

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