Practice positive PR - some useful tips

PR is a process focusing on developing an image and a reputation with your customers and the market as a whole.  Often this image is created by cumulative effect, based on the quality of your services / products, your communication materials, your team, you; and the willingness of your customers to broadcast their positive experiences. 

Developing a profile to the market is a long-term process.  Many businesses I’ve worked with believe PR to be predominantly ‘sending out press releases’, in an ad-hoc way, in the hope of landing a big feature or national/local press presence.   However, whilst press releases are indeed part of a PR plan – there’s a whole load of groundwork that happens before you get to the Press Release stage.

I’ve worked with businesses in the past which have initially chosen to manage their PR activity in-house with a ‘semi-dedicated’ resource.  However, they soon realise that PR is a resource intensive activity – and not something that can be done half heartedly.  

Good PR agents have spent years building trusted relationships with journalists.  They are close to the coal face and know when and what journalists are looking for.

There comes a stage in any business where getting proactive with PR makes sense.  My recommendation would be to partner with a small PR agency or a good freelance / self employed PR agent, who ideally understands your target market.   Or if you are going to go it alone - then here are some key steps to consider:

  • Create a PR Brief.  Creating a PR Brief is the best way of ensuring that the PR agent/agency - or indeed yourself, understands your thinking.  The Brief should cover information such as:
    • Background – about your business
    • Communications objectives – what you want to achieve from PR activity
    • Target audiences – who are you aiming your activity at
    • Reach – local area, national press, global, tradepress
    • Communication channels – ideas on how you reach this audience
    • Messages – what do you want your audience to know
    • Challenges – anything that may need to be addressed
    • Timescales – are you working to a timeline
    • Budget – how much you have to spend on PR
    • Evaluation – how will you measure effectiveness

Putting together a document which incorporates all of these elements not only helps you to cement exactly what it is you are looking to achieve, but if you are using external resources, it also provides the experienced agency/agent with a great starting point. 

Let's look in more details at 'going it alone' - and what you need to put in place a PR process:

If you do decide to go it alone – and manage your PR ‘in-house’ – then set up a PR Process.  You’ll need to create your own press lists to target on a regular basis – and ideally start courting relationships with the editors/journalists you want to engage with. 

When creating press releases be sure to consider the ‘so what’ factor  (and by this I mean being critical about the news that you are looking to share - read through the piece from a 'so what' perspective) - if there’s nothing really compelling, groundbreaking, innovative or topical – then it’s unlikely that any journalist will pick it up.   Only put out genuinely newsworthy press releases.  You only have to look at press coverage in the nationals or your local newspaper to see the types of news covered.  Be sure you position your press releases accordingly.  The media are often interested in survey results, joint alliances, take-overs, topical issues that your service/product solves for the consumer etc. 

So, now you’ve got a newsworthy story – be sure that your press release grabs the attention it deserves:

  • Title.  The title should be bold and is often put in capital letters.  Keep it succinct and action focused – eg:  ABC COMPANY LAUNCH BREAKTHROUGH TECHNOLOGY FOR ABC SURGERY.
  • Subtitle.  If your title warrants it – you may need to provide a little more information.  ABC company launches product x to compliment its range of bespoke robot technology.
  • Features and Benefits.  Include a description about the key features and benefits. 
  • Quote.  If possible add credibility by including a customer quote. 
  • Quote.  Be sure to include a quote from the MD, CEO or relevant company spokesperson.  If reporting on a joint alliance – then include quotes from both companies.
  • Detail.  Include pricing and availability detail.  Keep in mind that journalists will want to construct the story based on the information you send to them.
  • Contact and boiler plate.  Be sure that you include contact details – email, phone and url – and a specific named point of contact.  A boiler plate is effectively a quick overview of your company – your mission and strategy – some people refer to it as a company ‘sign off’. 
  • Keep it succinct and easy to read.  You really don’t want to circulate a press release that is more than a couple of pages long – and definitely no more than three pages.  Use 1.5 spacing.

Do keep in mind that journalists are often looking for expert opinion – and so if you have a specialism or specific expertise, then it’s worth communicating that you are a credible source that they can tap into. 

And finally, keep at it.  As I stated before, if you are going to start PR activity internally from scratch – then be sure you are committed to ‘dripping’ newsworthy information to your target press list on a regular basis.  But be sure it’s newsworthy, as you don’t want to be labeled a nuisance. 

To reiterate, PR agents have formulated trusted relationships over many years – and so whilst you may strike it lucky 'going it alone', PR is a specialist field, a long-term and committed tactic.

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