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Which marketing channels are right for your business? Public relations

Which marketing channels are right for your business? Public relations
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Siobhan Stirling - Sharp Minds Communications by Siobhan Stirling - Sharp Minds Communications
Owner/Director - Sharp Minds Communications Ltd

05 Oct 2017

PR can be a fantastic weapon to include in your marketing arsenal, but be warned – it is a dark art and you have less control over the results.  So, to get return on investment, you really need to know what you are doing.

What do we mean by PR?  

PR technically stands for public relations, which covers all your external comms.  However, what most business people understand by the term PR is more accurately described as media relations.  This is the art of trying to get coverage about your events, new products and community involvement simply for the fact that it is newsworthy. 

The advantages  

A successful PR campaign can be extremely cost effective: it can get you coverage in a wide range of target publications, much wider than you would have been able to afford if you had paid for advertising.  This makes it a very attractive marketing channel. 

Editorial coverage also gives respected third-party endorsement of your company activities.  This makes it far more valuable than advertising, which only shows that you have deep pockets. 

For many small- and medium-sized businesses that want to build a client base within a defined geographic area, the most relevant campaigns are local ones, and these are generally the easiest to deliver. 

The disadvantages  

Unlike other marketing, which you can control from beginning to end, with PR you hand editorial control over to the journalists; what you write in your press release may not be what appears in print, online or on the radio or TV.  

There are also no guarantees of success; you can have something that you think is really interesting, but it may not get take-up because your target outlets have got similar features in the pipeline (something that you are unlikely to be aware of) or because it simply doesn’t appeal to the duty editor. 

Journalists are also very busy people; they don’t take kindly to being spammed by things that they think are not newsworthy.  It can be easy to belittle your brand by crying wolf, so that when you do have something that really is of interest to their readers, listeners or viewers, it goes to the bottom of the pile and doesn’t see the light of day. 

PR can also be harder to monitor than other digital marketing; there are no simple analytics that you can drill into.  You have to keep checking all the media outlets you targeted, to assess your return on investment.    

Winning over journalists  

To run a successful PR campaign, you need to know how to tell your story in a way that maximises its appeal to the journalists and reaches the right audience: 

  • Right audience : You need to do your research to understand which newspapers, magazines, websites, radio stations and TV programmes your target audiences are following.
  • Relevant: Your campaign needs to appeal to the audience of each outlet you send it to. If you send a journalist a press release that is completely irrelevant to their publication, they won’t bother opening the next email you send to them.
  • Compelling: You need to write a press release that makes the journalists’ lives easy. It should be written in the style of the target publication, so they can copy and paste with minimum effort.  It also needs to be fairly objective; if it is gushingly subjective you won’t convince the editors of the validity of your story.  Provide sources for any statistics or quotes that you include so they can see evidence for all your claims.
  • Attention grabbing: Journalists can receive hundreds of emails a day. You need to catch their attention with a pithy email subject line and a great, succinct, covering email.
  • Give them what they want: Radio, TV and print journalists have completely different needs. Your campaign needs to provide everything for any given medium to tell the story their way; for example, if you are hoping for TV coverage, what images and sequences will there be for them to film?  Interviewing a person sat behind a computer doesn’t make for scintillating television.  Most print campaigns will be more successful if you can provide high-quality, professional photos.
  • Right timing : You need to send your campaign at the right time. Glossy magazines have long lead times (from two to six months); you need to research what these are and submit your story at an appropriate time for each.  You also need to know which day of the week different journalists are most likely to read your press release and time your campaign to optimise this.
  • Follow up : This is key. You need to set aside time to make follow-up calls to the journalists; nine times out of ten they won’t pick up your story first time round, but you are likely to get a much better response if you take the time to call them individually to see if they are interested in your story.
  • Nurturing relationships : To be really successful with PR, you need to invest time to develop positive, ongoing relationships with journalists so they look forward to receiving communications from you as a reliable source of great stories. 

PR is a fantastic way of getting independent endorsement of your brand and reaching a wide audience.  But to be successful, you need to do your research to understand what journalists want.

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