I sometimes hear small businesses claim that they “can’t afford good PR”. This always prompts me to ask: “So – what is your idea of good PR?” Often the response is that good PR entails shuffling tons of money into expensive lobbying, exclusive events and fancy brand makeovers. But in this era of post-recession frugal management trends, SMEs are waking up to the fact that PR can work wonders for them even with small budgets. With the right messaging and the right channels, companies can achieve targeted coverage that helps them win the business they want.
This week I met with PR expert and former journalist Margaret McDonnell and I want to share five of her top tips for achieving powerful PR opportunities, regardless of size and scale.
1. What’s the story?
Always ask whether what’s going on in the business can be a potential news story. What new products or services are being launched? Is the business approaching any milestones, or are you planning an event? If it’s interesting to your clients or prospects, chances are it will also spark an interest from the press.
2. What’s going on around you?
By keeping an eye on the media environment in general, you can discover angles of news stories which you could comment on or respond to as a business. If a new statistics report is released, for example, you could take the opportunity to write a commentary on how you see the trends affecting your region or your clients.
3. Write it yourself!
Many journalists appreciate receiving a brief, well-written piece of copy which can be published as it is, or built out into a bigger story. Margaret’s top tip is also to include a photo – even if it’s just a headshot – to make the story even more personal and eye-catching. (Bear in mind, of course, that newspapers don’t want to print the same story as everyone else, so make sure you don’t send a generic mass email to all your contacts. Make it personal!)
4. Keep it regular, but not over the top!
Make a habit of sending a story to your press contacts once a month. This will help build familiarity with your brand and keep you at the forefront of the journalists’ minds if they ever want to do a story involving your particular industry. However – if you want a story to have a seasonal connection such as Christmas or summer holidays for example, send it plenty of time in advance.
5. Be quick!
Sometimes being first with a unique story or offering the first comment on a major news event is all it takes to get covered on the front page. Check the Twitter hashtag #journorequests regularly to spot opportunities to speak to journalists on hot topics.
Ask “So what?”
Another one of Margaret’s top tips is to apply the “so what?” test to every story you create. The information might make sense to your business, but does it really add value to others? Is it compelling? Does it offer something of genuine interest to the reader?
Hopefully these tips can help to spark some good PR initiatives. I look forward to seeing your news stories out there!