Not all businesses have the budget of Emirates airlines to spend on their public relations. But having a little or no PR budget shouldn’t stop you from doing it yourself. PR is a key part of building awareness of your business brand and to show people how it is relevant to their personal or business life.
Get to know the press
The most important part of PR is getting to know the press very well – and letting them get to know you. PR is a people business. Creating relationships and building trust is essential to getting your story out into the world. Don’t just write up a press release, find a list of names and send the email blind. At best your story will be stacked up for a slow news day, at worst it will be dumped in the bin. This is because the reporters need to know the source is good, and the only way they’ll know it is if you take the time to talk to them personally.
So before you even write the press release, construct the survey, or begin your social media campaign, take the time to talk to the people you want to work with. Either ring them, or even better, try and meet them at a conference or industry event. Making a personal connection with people working in the media will give you a much greater chance of your story getting into the press when you want it to.
The press release
One of the biggest sources of company stories is the press release. Most of the time journalists and bloggers are very busy and if the press release has everything in it that is required for print, it will have a better chance of being printed. The press release is very traditional and it can work really well if done properly. If you have never written one before, take the time to study how a good one is written. The best press releases are often printed almost exactly as they are sent out. That’s because the writer has found out the average word count (the number of words in the article) the media outlet usually prints, has identified the news angle most likely to draw attention straight away (e.g. patients are seen quicker with a new patient logging system), and written the press release as though it were a news article, including quotes from customers or an industry spokesperson to back up any claims made.
Crime figures lowered by using a certain security business, aging lines significantly reduced by using a certain lotion, drinking this, eating that wont/will pile on the pounds: we’ve all seen the headlines in newspapers and magazines. But behind the stats and stories lies a well honed PR machine paid by big business to keep their brand profile in the public eye, or launching new products or services into the world.
Being on a tight budget means you have to cut out the expensive PR firm and learn how to do it yourself.
Firstly, take a look through the papers, magazines, blogs and websites most likely to be read by your target audience. Then identify how your business can help customers. Sometimes this is simply showing how using your products has saved people money, improved efficiency, or helped people make time for their families. And then create a survey to back up what you believe is true. You may think your new office chair will reduce back pain, but without the empirical evidence of your customers, no-one will truly believe you. It’s very easy to do online now with sites such as Survey Monkey. Load up your questions and send out an invitation (possibly with a prize attached of 10 percent off their next purchase to encourage people to take part) via email to your current mailing list. When people fill in the survey, the site allows you to view the results in a series of graphs, breaking down the demographics for you, so you can compile a story based on the results.
Surveys are a great way to gauge how your customers really feel about your company. If the results aren’t what you expected, that’s perfect for honing your products to give your customers what they really want.
Social media can be an incredibly powerful PR tool. Get it right and your business will grow as a result. But get it wrong and you’ll end up spending a lot of time and possibly money repairing the damage. Which is why, if you are trying to do your own PR, it’s really important to spend time understanding the different social media vehicles and choosing the right one for your business. If you are selling make-up and you spend all your time on LinkedIn, you aren’t going to reach your target market. Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube are much better avenues for you to pursue.
PR can be done on a small budget, but like all tightly controlled financial endeavours, if you move too early without thinking it through properly, you could end up wasting a lot of time with nothing to show for it. Better to plan thoroughly, and research carefully, before dipping your toe into the public relations arena.