Monday, 4 April 2016

10 tips for more effective PR

I was recently asked to speak to a West Midlands business networking group about PR, with a focus on how to get publicity for your business. Public relations is not one of my core services - but I work with some great agencies and companies who do provide this service. As a former news editor I also have plenty of experience about what makes a good press release.

Here are my 10 top tips for Do It Yourself Public Relations, which I shared at the Connect Networking meeting. 

1. Spend some time thinking about who is your target audience of ideal customers. Think about their gender, their age, the work they do, the interests they have. Where are they getting their news and information? Make a list of the specific newspapers, magazines, websites and social media channels that they would read regularly. 

2. What can you say or share that will interest and influence these people? Is there a compelling story about why and how you formed your business that would interest and inspire others? Do you have a link with a charity or not-for-profit that is close to your heart? Could you create free resources relating to your business that would help others, such as tips for planning a stress-free wedding or organising a new website?

3. Always remember that to win people's attention you need to add value by providing information that helps others or makes their life better or easier, not just self-promotion.

4. Choose the publication you want to send your story to carefully (think back to point No.1). I would recommend reading several editions of any newspaper or magazine before trying to pitch them a story. Similarly, get to know the style and content of any online publications you want to target to ensure you are not wasting their time and yours with words and pictures that they would never use. Look out for the bylines of writers on similar stories to yours and don't be afraid to pick up the phone, introduce yourself and ask them how they like to receive press releases. The easier you can make their life the better. Are there any smaller, local publications or free titles that may be looking for good, local content? They MAY offer you an advertising deal to run alongside your story. Weigh up the benefits and what you can afford to spend.

5. Make sure you have a relevant, professional-looking image to send to illustrate your story and send a small version of it with your release, DON'T send huge images to any publication without being asked, but tell them there is a high resolution image available if they want it. Keep your press release to a page - two at the most - and include all your contact details. If you are targeting a magazine, many of them have long lead times, planning their editorial schedules months ahead in many cases.

6. Think about other possible outlets for your story or press release. Do you belong to the Federation of Small Businesses, a local chamber of commerce or business clubs and networking groups that publish members' news online or in print? You should also self-publish any news and stories you create on your own website, blog and/or social media channels. LinkedIn has its own publishing platform, Pulse, which makes a great home for any content that would be interesting or helpful to other businesses and professional people who could be your future customers. Not all your press releases will find a place in a third party publications, but you can self-publish them all and then promote them on other social media channels such as Twitter, Pinterest and Google+.

7. Become a 'go-to expert' in your field. Make local and national BBC stations, as well as the press, aware that you are accessible and well-informed about your specialist subject. Don't be shy. Rolling 24-hour news coverage means there's a huge appetite for content and opinion, which is why accounts such as BBC Have Your Say on Twitter have appeared.

8. Create a calendar of regular events that you could produce content about for your own website, blog and social media channels. Some of these pieces may also make an article for a newspaper or magazine. For example, a therapist might use the clocks going forward to provide a topical peg on which to hang an article on how to get a better night's sleep using natural therapies and relaxation techniques. Look at the 'events' section when you are logged in to Twitter's own analytics as well as local and national 'what's on' websites for inspiration. Make your content calendar a living document that you update and adapt all-year round.

9. Make it happen: create your own media opportunities. For example, a crafts person could organise a competition for children to  promote their family-friendly venue or the classes/workshops they run. Get together with complementary businesses to run a one-off workshop - FREE or at minimal costs. Send a press release to promote it and then a follow-up article after the event with pictures.

10. Make time. When running a business it's easy for your own PR to go to the bottom of your long to-do list of jobs. Diary some regular time and treat it as seriously as you would a meeting with a paying customer.