How to Wage an Effective PR Campaign
When most people hear “public relations,” they think “press release.” However, an effective, results-oriented PR campaign entails much more than that. Here are five tips for getting print, broadcast, and online news outlets to cover your small business.
- Plot your strategy. Think about the local news stories that catch your eye — and hold your ideas to the same standards. What’s new and interesting about your business, product, or service? Why should people care about what you have to offer? Come up with a newsworthy angle for a story that you haven’t considered before (perhaps invite friends and family members to brainstorm with you). At the same time, think carefully about the end-result of your PR campaign. What message does your target audience most want to hear? How will people benefit from reading about your business or seeing a story about it on TV? What do you want them to do next?
- Get the word out. A well-crafted press release or pitch letter is still the best first step in your PR campaign. Keep it to one page, and talk about your business solely in terms of how it benefits the public. Be sure to tell a compelling, relevant story: Press releases with an interesting slant (or a "hook") are more effective than run-of-the-mill announcements about new store openings. Remember that you're the expert when it comes to your product or service.
- Do the legwork. Any press release or pitch letter addressed to "Dear Sir or Madam" will never see the light of day. It's fairly easy to get the names of the people in charge at your community's TV station, newspaper, or website. They're the ones who decide what gets covered and what doesn't. Make it easy for them to consider your pitch by including industry statistics or a compelling customer story. The less work a story is for them, the more attractive it becomes.
- Be persistent. Editors and producers may not read your press release or pitch letter the minute it arrives. But simply sending one gives you an excuse to follow up by phone or email. If a particular story doesn't appeal to them, provide another idea. Most producers will be impressed by your persistence and imagination.
- Make yourself available. When someone is considering doing a story about your business or quoting you as an expert in a feature article, be prepared to drop whatever you’re doing to participate. Now is not the time to let a call go to voice mail. Public relations requires focus and effort, and there’s no "time out" where the media is concerned. In the end, your dedication will pay off: There’s no greater thrill than hearing a customer say, “Hey, I saw that story about you. I want to know more!”
Lee Polevoi is an award-winning business writer specializing in the challenges and opportunities facing small business. He is former Senior Writer at Vistage International, a global membership organization of CEOs.