Getting Your PR Right

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A great way to get free publicity for your business is with press releases and PR coverage. Many business owners don't really consider PR very carefully but if you approach it in the right way, it can bring a huge amount of new business, new visitors to your website and an increase in sales. It is also a good way to remind your existing customers about your business and how good you are. Just one article in a newspaper can bring a flood of new customers -- just be sure you're ready to cope with demand!

How to approach the media

Most people working in the media now are happy to work with e-mail, although because of the sheer volume of e-mails that most people get, there is probably a fairly low response rate unless you have something exceptionally good to offer them. Try an old-fashioned letter or just call them on the phone but make sure you are well prepared so that you can put across your request and the essence of your story very succinctly. Editors are usually very busy people and will appreciate you getting to the point quickly.

Research

Before you start, spend some time studying the style of the newspaper or magazine you are targeting as they will all have their own style. They will all appeal to a different readership and it is important that you become familiar with this before you start to write your press release or your efforts will be wasted. Most media will be able to give you guidelines – just ask for a media pack.

Finding an angle

The main thing about a press release is that it tells a story or conveys some interesting or useful information. To be of interest to the media, you have to find an angle or your story -- something different and unique that will be of interest to readers. The idea is to tempt them to visit your website or pick up the phone and find out more about what you have to offer.

Human interest stories always go down very well with the media and we all know how sensational stories sell newspapers! To make your press release work, you really have to do come up with something amazing, so get those creative juices flowing and brainstorm an unusual angle for your business. It doesn't have to be directly related to your business, you could find something relevant and topical that is going on and somehow weave your products or services into the story.

Make a point of reading newspapers and magazines related to your area of interest and start looking out for press releases to get a feel for how they work. Once you get into the flow, ideas will start coming to you.

You might think that you can simply approach and editor and rely on them to come up with some ideas but the reality is that they are far more likely to publish a press release if the work has already been done for them. They may do some light editing on your piece but it's a gift for them if you can provide them with a fully formed story that includes pictures and graphics. It's really important that you choose your own photographs because nobody has more of a vested interest in your business than you do yourself. A poor photograph can do a lot of harm and once it's printed it's too late to take it back, so make sure you approve of any images that are used for your press release before they are printed, or better still, use your own images. That way you have full control.

National or local?

The decision about which newspapers and magazines to go for will depend a great deal on the products and services you have on offer. Obviously, if you are promoting a local service, a local newspaper or magazine will be more appropriate and even if you were able to service a wider market, consider whether you have the capacity to deal with a sudden influx of customers. Small businesses can become overwhelmed with business from even a small press release, so make sure you are able to cope.

However, you can go as big as you like if you have a project such as a digital book or downloadable software that is automated on your website. Provided your servers can cope with a sudden surge in demand, you can go right ahead and go for it big time with the national media.

Promoting your business

Unless your press release is about your business opening a new branch or a story about a customer, it's not considered good form to blatantly promote your products with a press release. Your article should really be newsworthy for its own sake. You should of course give your contact details, web address, phone number and so on but try to avoid being overly pushy and pitching in a press release. Make the story interesting and compelling in its own -- it's a bit like social media marketing in this respect.