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How to do your own PR

Want to get your organisation noticed by your target media? Here are some top tips:

Get to know your media and understand how it works

Read and watch the media relevant to your business to find out which could work for you including regional, trade, national media or specific websites. Consider the kind of stories they run, these might include news snippets, case-studies, new business wins or interviews with key personnel. Identify the reporters who cover the patch most significant to your business – for example, will your story be of more interest to the business, health or environment correspondent?

Establish publishing timetables and print deadlines. Unless your story is major breaking news, avoid calling on deadline day.

Start building relationships with key journalists

On the basis that it is harder to do business with people you don’t know, get to know journalists in your target media.

Journalists are often pressed for time so start by arranging a short meeting for coffee, approach them at a networking event, or simply Tweet with them. You could also consider inviting them into your business or ask them to media train you (for a fee of course!).

Make yourself available, at any time, to deal with media enquiries. Reporters work to right deadlines and appreciate a rapid response, even if it is a holding call while you find the answer to their question.

Remember your manners – always be truthful; thank journalists for coverage; don’t nitpick over minor inaccuracies – this will irritate reporters and may ruin your relationship.

What’s the story?

Find your news in actual events, this could include: new staff appointments; company results; new promotional campaigns; relocation, major expansion or new office; winning an award or achieving an accreditation; the creation of a new team or department; rebranding; a new website; an event; the launch of a new product or service; a new deal, or a big new client; the celebration of a significant milestone – an anniversary or the millionth customer.

Information given to the media should be newsworthy and relevant – a good test is whether you can use any of the following key words in the story: first, best, fastest, longest, oldest, biggest, etc.

Human interest and community stories are always of interest to the media and can help present the ‘personality’ of your business. Stories could include an internal team building event (particularly if it includes charitable work or fund raising); staff that excel outside of work or have note-worthy hobbies or interests.

CRM initiatives are an important part of a company’s armoury, charitable work, sponsorships and awards have conveyed powerful messages about brands for years and still work today.

They are recognised news hooks and each have a simple media mechanic:

  • A charity initiative can demonstrate that you are a kind and supportive brand that does good things in your community (not cheesy cheque presentation shots though! Could you donate staff time or expertise instead?).
  • Sponsorship gives you an opportunity to associate your brand with success or other valuable attributes.
  • Winning an award is a strong and independent endorsement of your brand and the things you do.

Consider proactively communicating controversial or negative news stories (e.g. redundancies or site closures). This will give you more control over the story by giving you the opportunity to consider your key messages and rehearse the answers to tricky questions. Bad news travels fast and journalists are likely to hear this news from other sources (disgruntled staff for example) and will understandably be annoyed if they have not received the story from official sources first.

Finally, remember, there is no such thing as ‘off the record’. If you do not wish to see it in print or broadcast – don’t say it!

Become the industry expert – before your competitor does!

Being ‘the expert’ showcases you as a leader in your field and can associate you with the issues you are passionate about. Use your knowledge and expertise to add insight and context to issues both internal and external to your business – for example, providing the practical implications of a new piece of legislation or regulation.

How to become the expert in the media:

  • Differentiate yourself, build up your creds, your unique experiences.
  • Look for opportunities to comment, choose your issues and follow the debate.
  • ‘Talk about the big things and people will think you are big’. What are the big issues in your sector?
  • Try to use analogies to illustrate complex points.
  • Use your own insight, spot a trend or use market research.
  • Be available and responsive.
  • Be colourful, learn how to sound-bite, listen to other experts.

Make it visual – think photography, graphics, maps, artist’s impressions

Wherever possible ‘show and tell’. Demonstrate your product or service if you can, or provide a photograph or other image. It will help lift the story off the page. Don’t forget to caption images so the journalist can easily identify individuals and locations.

PR stunts work because they are visual, offbeat and sometimes comical, but the message should be an integral part of the stunt.

Think beyond the press release

A press release is just one of the ways of getting your story across, other options include a letter to the editor, an interview, a personal email, a ‘teach-in’ session for journalists (e.g. on a new piece of legislation). If you really want to get your message across – pick up the phone.

A well presented and packaged story, which incorporates a photograph, research or a case-study, will work ten times harder than the average press release on its own.

Elements of a well written press release include a great headline, a summary of the story in the first paragraph and pithy, printable quotes and media contact details for additional information. Agree your key messages, making sure you answer the five Ws: Who? What? Where? When? Why? Avoid using jargon, acronyms or terminology that the general public may not understand.

Condense your pitch into the covering email with an eye-catching subject header and a knockout introductory paragraph – journalists receive hundreds of stories each day, so, if your story doesn’t grab their attention immediately it may well get binned.