PR – Extending Your Coverage

There’s little doubt that PR can be a valuable business tool. Indeed, in the US – the bellwether of marketing trends – there’s a good deal of evidence that firms of all sizes are re-weighting their marketing spend away from mainstream advertising and into PR. It can certainly be more cost-effective, allowing for greater frequency of coverage of corporate messages and benefiting from the implied third party endorsement of editorial mention.

Here David Evans, is4profit’s PR adviser, outlines some helpful techniques when dealing with the press…

There’s a great deal of mystique about PR, but like most activities for business success the key ingredients are thorough planning and preparation, a little research and lots of application and perseverance. The primary requirement is to plan and make sure your activity is part of a sustained programme. In this area familiarity breeds success.

Key considerations are:

  • Define your target audience – and hence your target media. Whom are you trying to reach? Consumers, current and potential employees, businesses in vertical market sectors, a general business audience? Which publications, broadcast media and regional news agencies serve them? Draw up a list of target publications to receive your material.
  • What are their needs? You can source forward features lists via the advertising department and don’t be afraid to call the editorial desk and introduce yourself and simply ask if there are any plans to cover insurance issues in the near future. As often as not you’ll be asked if you have any interesting ideas for an article yourself.
  • Remember, all corporate visibility can build brand awareness amongst customers and employees. So take every opportunity to publicise community involvement. If you’re handing over a cheque to charity – call the local paper’s picture desk, or submit one yourself with a suitable caption (if possible use a professional photographer). In all PR activity, the cliché “a picture is worth a thousand words” holds true.
  • In submitting material the number one priority is to remember that all media operate to tight deadlines. Research editorial schedules to discover the optimum time to have your story land on the journalist’s desk.
  • Writing for the media is a skill that improves with practice. Success depends on finding an “angle”, an interesting – or even contentious – way of presenting your event or opinion. Remember journalists are bombarded with material and you’re competing for attention, so your story must be included in the first two paragraphs, detailing the answers to four key questions – Who? What? When? and Where?
  • Always give contact information at the foot of your material and do make sure your contact is available to take press calls. Otherwise the effect will be doubly counter-productive – your story won’t appear, and you’ll tee off a potentially influential contact.
  • If you say you’ll ring back always do so, and take the time to prepare beforehand. Work out what it is you wish to get across rather than merely respond to the journalist’s agenda. Increasingly, journalists are refusing to countenance “off the record” discussions so until you have established a relationship of trust with a specific journalist (not just the publication), don’t mention anything that you would not be happy to see in print.
  • If you’re asked to contribute feature material, try to develop a writing style that uses as few words as possible to explain your point. This will allow you to cover more ground.

There is no magic formula to conducting a successful PR programme, but three golden rules will increase your chances of making it work for you.

1

First, don’t be discouraged if what you regard as a good story doesn’t make it into your targeted publication. Some professional magazines can receive over 100 press releases every day and you’re competing with some well-oiled PR machines. Simply plug away – PR can be like a dripping tap and it may be the third story you try to place that generates the coverage you’re seeking.

2 Next, be tolerant. No journalist is out to do you down, but they frequently operate under intense pressure and mistakes happen. If it’s your story that gets mangled, or your quote that goes missing, be philosophical about it and try to turn the situation to your advantage. A short note pointing out the error and offering help on a future occasion will pay far greater dividends than a demand to the editor for a correction. Never forget that today’s junior reporter on a trade publication could easily be tomorrow’s business correspondent on a national broadsheet and PR is a long-term game.
3 Finally, it’s essential that you dovetail your PR programme with all the other elements of your marketing activity and involve all the members of your executive team. It’s all too easy, especially for owner-managers, to go off on a personal ego trip. PR can be a powerful business tool but resources expended in this area should always be measured against your marketing and overall business objectives.

David Evans
PR Consultant
devans@is4profit.com

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