The reading level for this article is All Levels
When most people think about marketing, they think advertising. While advertising is a part of marketing, marketing is much bigger than advertising. There are lots of different marketing methods floating around out there, and the challenge as a business owner is figuring out when it’s appropriate to use each one and the best way to use it.
Public relations, or PR, is the art of getting someone else to write or talk about you or your business. Preferably in a favorable manner. Traditionally, “someone else” was the media. In this day and age however, someone else can also be a blogger, a freelance writer, an e-zine publisher or even an owner of a big Web site. For purposes of this article, I’m using the word “media” to refer to all of those folks.
PR is also being able to get yourself on a big talk show to talk about yourself or your business, or writing your own article that’s published in a desired outlet. (Not your own newsletter or Web site.)
PR is one of my favorite marketing methods, but it can also be one of the more frustrating ones. Even when you do everything right, you still might not get the publicity you want. Or for that matter, ANY publicity at all. When a PR campaign doesn’t work, you can find yourself wanting to pull out all your hair in frustration.
Even with that in mind, I do believe most if not all businesses can benefit from some type of PR campaign. But before you launch into something that could end with you becoming hairless (and investing in a sizeable hat collection) ask yourself the following questions.
1. Do I need to see results right away? If you do, better pull out your wallet and pay for some advertising. PR takes time. And it’s not guaranteed. You might not see your article for weeks, months or ever, and there isn’t a darn thing you can do about it. If it’s immediate gratification you want, don’t look for it in a public relations campaign.
2. Do I have the time to consistently devote to a public relations campaign? We’re back to the time issue. PR not only takes time to see results, but you also have to take time to make it happen. Either you have to do it or you have to pay someone else to do it. If you do it yourself, you’ll have the potential of garnering the equivalent of thousands of dollars of advertising for little or no money. But it will cost you some time. If you pay someone else, you’ll save time (which is a good thing, I’m a big believer in outsourcing) but it can get expensive. Worse yet, you STILL might not get any coverage for your money.
3. Do I have enough perseverance to run a PR campaign? PR is about follow-up. It’s about sending story idea after story idea to the same reporter before one finally connects (and maybe it’s the tenth one). It’s about sending a little note or letter to the same editor for as long as several years before you get a bite. It’s about reminding your contacts you’re out there until one day they realize they need you.
If you’re willing to court the media, develop relationships and do whatever you can to make their lives easier, the rewards can be huge.
4. Do I have newsworthy events happening at my business? (Newsworthy is something media personnel feel would interest their readers.) Or, if I don’t, can I create them?
I’m not talking about making things up here. But there are things you can be doing to make your business more newsworthy. For example, you can do a survey and publish the results. You can tie a feature of your product or service to something that’s currently happening in the news. You can hold an event. You can research a newly published study that relates to your product or service. There are countless ways you can transform aspects of your business into newsworthy story items — the creativity exercise below can help you come up with your ideas.
5. Do I want to build my credibility? Develop my status as an expert? Then get that PR campaign off the ground. Nothing builds your credibility or expert status faster than having other people say you know what you’re talking about.
6. Do I want to augment my other marketing efforts? Public relations definitely plays nicely with the other marketing methods. You can be building your long-term expert campaign with PR and building short-term customers with advertising. Or you can turn your community relations strategies into PR campaigns. It’s a great way to get the most bang out of your marketing time and dollar.
Creativity Exercise — How can you use PR in your business?
Grab some sheets of paper and pen (I like the fun gel pens myself) and get ready for some brainstorming.
Start by listing everything you do or sell. Then write out all the features or descriptions of your products or services. For instance, if you have a book, what is your book about? What does it offer people?
Now see if you can turn those features into something newsworthy. Is there a time of year when people are interested in your services? (Accounting and tax season). Are there any studies you can dig up? Is there something in the news that ties into your product? Can you turn an aspect of your business into a human interest story? (Something like fitness tips for busy people or parenting tips for single parents, etc.) Write everything down that comes into your head, even if it’s silly. See if you can come up with 50 story ideas.
Now look at what you wrote. Can you find a few in there that you think would interest the media? Congratulations — you just came up with a PR campaign.