I often find that people think PR is placing an advert in the paper, or you need to entice a journalist to come and interview, but it can be much simpler than that.
If you have a story to tell and not sure how to do it. So, here is a bit of an insight into Public Relations for small businesses.
So, what is PR?
When I talk to clients I often get asked if PR is putting an advert in the paper. There is a bit of a misconception that if you want to get information about your business in the paper it has to be paid for. Many people also think that journalists write everything that you read in the paper (or in online publications) but quite often a lot of it will be generated and written by PR and marketing professionals like myself.
It’s a bit of a two-way relationship – journalists are looking for stories, and PR’s want to get positive press coverage for clients. What do I mean by press coverage? I mean an article or feature in a newspaper, magazine or now online publications too.
According to ‘The Public Relations and Communications Association’ (PRCA)
“Public Relations, or ‘PR’, is all about the way organisations communicate with the public, promote themselves, and build a positive reputation and public image.
The way an organisation is represented in the media has a huge impact on how people perceive it. PR professionals try to influence the media to represent their organisation positively and communicate key messages.”
Why do PR?
There are so many advantages to adding Public Relations to your marketing mix. By marketing mix, I mean all the tactics you use to promote your business (social media, email marketing, website, events, brochures, sponsorship etc)
Messages delivered through PR are regarded by consumers as more legitimate than those presented through other marketing tactics such as advertising.
Generally, people can clearly recognise that advertising comes direct from a business to increase sales. Articles in the paper are more likely perceived as trustworthy as they come from a reliable source such as the journalist.
Here are a few of those reasons why you should do PR…
• Often free
Unlike advertising where you can pay hundreds of pounds for an advert, PR is generally free…it just takes time. You can write a press release, send it to the papers and if you’ve got a good ‘newsworthy’ story it gets published for free.
• A good way to promote your business or product
If you have a new product to launch, opened new premises, expanded the business PR is a great way to shout about what you are doing.
• Build and maintain a positive image
By consistently sending out good PR about your business, more people will read about what you are up to, see that the news is positive and this gives a good impression of your business.
• A great way to reach new audiences
We generally share our good news stories on social media, on our website or email, but these messages often will only get seen by your online community. By sending press releases out and getting coverage (in a newspaper or online publication) puts your business in front of a new audience – an audience of people who may not otherwise be able to reach
• You can manage what is said about you
If you send press releases that you have written, that include quotes from you, and all the information that you want to share, you can effectively manage what is written about your business. If a story came out about your business and you didn’t issue a press statement or make comment, then the article is in the hands of the journalist to write the information they know, or can find out. This may not always be accurate.
• Long term effect
There is certainly a positive long term effect on public relations. Building that positive image in the public’s mind with consistent messaging can bring you new customers, build a good reputation and ensure you are seen as a strong business with good corporate and social responsibility and ethics.
How to find a news story
Quite often press releases get passed by or rejected, which can be disheartening. Often it could be timing. You may send a press release when there is some other news breaking (nationally or locally), or you may send it when the paper has already gone to print. Your press release gets passed by, or missed and then it’s out of date a week or so later. It’s important to remember that even if a story is newsworthy there is still competition for media’s attention and some stories just won’t make it.
Often, press releases are bypassed because the content is seen more of a sales story than a news story. So, it is important to find the news ‘hook’ as I like to call it. So, how do you know what is newsworthy?
Here are a few examples:
Timing: Topics that are current make good news i.e COVID19, Tourism in Cumbria etc. If something happened today its news, if it happened last week it’s no longer interesting.
Significance: If the story affects a lot of people it is newsworthy.
Proximity: Local stories will be more relevant and leverage more coverage. If you write a press release you need to tailor it to the local publication you are sending it to and make it relevant.
Prominence: People with status will generally receive more coverage – celebs, CEOs
Human Interest: This is the key area – people love to know about people and finding a human interest angle to your story will appeal more to readers.
The basics of writing a press release
It is all well and good thinking you’re going to write a press release and send it out, but you may be thinking how do I even write a press release??
I’ve created a downloadable template you can use by CLICKING HERE, but here is a quick guide…
Headline: Initially think about an attention-grabbing headline. I’m not talking about one that will go into the paper – as this is the job of a journalist to think up a catchy headline, but something that sums up the story.
Opening paragraph: This is the most important element of the press release – it literally needs to sum everything up. Think about Who, What, Where, When, How – you need to answer all these questions in the initial part of the press release. A journalist needs a quick summary of what you’re telling them, so they know whether it is relevant for them or not.
Additional paragraphs: You can then elaborate in the second and third paragraphs, giving more information about your story
Quote: All good press releases should have a quote from the business owner, partner or stakeholder. Think about the main subject and who is the most relevant person to give a comment on it?
Summary: Round off your press release with any additional information, or a summary of the story, future plans, information for the reader etc.
Contact info: Vital contact information should a journalist need to get in touch with you or the business
Notes to editors: Any further information, background info that a journalist may need. Links to website etc.
It is also worth noting it is good to have a photo ready to accompany the press release as well. if you are going to send these out with your press release, they need to be high resolution for print publications, but not so big they block up the journalist’s inbox.
How to get your story in the paper
So, we’ve had a think about why you should be doing PR, how to identify a story, how to write your press release, but how do you even get it in the paper?
The first thing to do would be to identify which publications you’d like it to appear in? Write them down in a list. You can often find contact details on the publication’s website for the main newsdesks. Or you could give them a call, ask to speak to someone on the news desk and say you have a press release about XXXX to send in and who would be the best person to send it to. This is particularly good if you are targeting a national publication, so you can ensure you get your story to the most relevant journalists (travel, education, finance, sport etc)
Once you have their details send in the press release via email. Make sure you note that it is a press release in the email subject line, along with the press release headline.
Add the main points of the press release – that first paragraph – to the body of the email and attach your press release and accompanying photo, with clear contact details.
If you are sending to more than one journalist ensure you BCC your contacts. Or if you’ve spoken to them on the phone, ensure you send it to them personally rather than blanket email.
Quite often in the local press, your press release will often just appear without you knowing and pop up by surprise. If you’ve not seen the story appear, after a few days (depending on when the publication comes out) give them a call to chase up and ask if they are going to use the story, or did they receive it? It may have been missed, or they may give you a reason why it was not used.
If it is not used remember don’t be offended – there can be lots of factors why a press release doesn’t get published.
It is very hard to evaluate PR coverage when you’re not a big PR agency with a media cuttings service, but generally, if you read or buy the publications you often know if your press release has been used. Another good tip is to set up Google Alerts or do a search in the news section of Google to see if anything appears.
As a rule of thumb, a press article is worth three times more than what you would pay for an advert. So if you were going to pay £100 for an advert 10cm2 the press article is worth £300 per 10cm2.
This is called the AVE, but it is a little out of date these days as it doesn’t take into account digital, online and social media coverage, but it does give you a little guide as to the value of PR.
I hope you have found this blog insightful and given you some food for thought about why you should do PR and an insight into Public Relations for small businesses.
Find out more about my services and how Acorn Marketing Cumbria can help with your marketing