5 tips for making PR work for you

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 epapers-logosxpensive 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!

Who owns your brand?

labelLet’s be honest…

You only own a very small share of your brand presence. The part that you own is what you tell the world. The rest is down to what the world says about you.

When your target audience wants to know more about your business, it has access to a wealth of information across a wide range of channels – many of which you have little or no control over.

Market initiated channels

  • Social Mediascreenshot
    For many, LinkedIn and Twitter are now the first ports of call for learning about businesses and products. Although you can of course control what is being said on your own official social media channels, you cannot restrict what other people are saying about you. Stay aware of what is being discussed and respond to genuine queries in an official manner – but avoid the trap of defending yourself in every instance or you will simply appear arrogant and deprecating, like this restaurateur for example.
  • Glassdoor
    Employee reviews are becoming more prevalent through channels such as Glassdoor, where people can give anonymous comments and feedback on their experience working in a particular business. And this is no longer just a jobseeker’s resource – we now see prospects and customers looking at vendors’ profiles on Glassdoor to gauge internal efficiency and optimism levels amongst staff, which then reflects on their views of the business.So what do you do if you have bad reviews? Well, the best way to manage this is to read them, raise them internally and make tangible plans to resolve them. Don’t be afraid to ask staff to use these types of sites – it can be the best driver for improvement you’ll ever have.
  • User forums
    Whether or not you are aware of it, it is likely that there are independent forums online for customers discussing your products. Some may be public, such as general DIY websites or money saving forums for example, while others could be private and more product or brand specific. Again, you may want to monitor what is being said – where possible – and then aim to incorporate any complaints areas or suggested improvements into your roadmap.

Vendor initiated channels

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys
    This is the company or service provider’s chance to proactively collect the sentiments of their customers to get a full and impartial view of what is done well and not so well. Apart from the fact that a positive NPS carries a substantial weight when it comes to credibility and market confidence, the qualitative feedback from customers can also provide extremely valuable input into how to better serve them. A company should always share their score with their customer base, accompanied by an executive summary outlining which actions the business will be taking as a result of the input.
  • PR
    Public Relations, in all its many guises, is where a company could spend a great deal of funds on creating the image which they want the public to subscribe to. And although this can go a long way to rectify a negative market view or reclaim customer confidence, the general public is becoming increasingly shrewd to identifying PR as a strategy – and will seek to complement the PR messaging with more nuanced, unbiased peer review.
  • Analyst reports
    The analyst community aims to support vendors in their market positioning, while maintaining a balanced messaging environment based on a true representation of market perception. However, as with PR, customers are aware that there is an element of bias in the sense that the analyst is influenced by the amount of face time with the vendor and by how the vendor conducts themselves in the analyst relationship.
  • Content syndication
    The purpose of syndication is to make marketing content available in locations where customers go to research information to base purchasing decisions on. The majority of the buyer journey currently takes place before they even speak to the vendor, so content syndication is an important channel for organisations to be discovered and researched. This is why it makes sense to create collateral that informs and influences rather than purely sells – as the customer doesn’t want to be sold to at this stage. They just want to learn.

Conclusion

Amidst this wealth of content, the most trusted source of advice for many customers is that of professional peers. We all look at what other, similar businesses are doing and what their views are. We then collate comparisons between products and weigh this against any purchased or vendor-driven media. This is why a business can spend thousands on content marketing and still see limited sales impact.

You may think your brand is yours, but it’s not!