by Amanda FitzGerald
Very often PR (Public Relations) is the last thing businesses think about when putting together their marketing strategy. And this is a mistake. You could be leaving a lot of money on the table!
The main pieces of the marketing mix tend to be: SEO (search engine optimisation), direct mail (is that still a thing?!), the email campaigns, website, merchandise, social media management of the daily posting from a well thought out content plan, paid advertising, events and exhibitions, networking and the list goes on. But the one missing piece is publicity.
A primary reason why publicity is so important is that it is someone else talking about you. If you take a look back at that list above for the marketing mix, you’ll see that all these elements will involve you talking about you, not a trusted third party – as in a journalist, who will need to be impartial as they research you, get the facts, the stats, the quotes, verify your info as they do their general due diligence so that their audience (reader, listener or viewer) can learn something or get value from what they have written. Another reason is that all those adverts that you’ll have spent your marketing budget on may well be ignored as people scroll past them, unless they are particularly relevant or eye catching. Then, often your advert will have to be seen multiple times before it has an impact.
I should know this, as once upon a time I used to sell ad space for a big magazine publishing house, and we were always encouraged to sell a series of ads to our client. This would not only generate as much revenue as possible for the publisher, but it would also mean that the magazine readers would have the opportunity to see the ad in case they missed it in the first few editions…which would then mean the client would get business from their big advertising campaign and want to re-book out the space. This can be very costly.
Publicity is absolutely critical. A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front-page ad.” — Richard Branson
My first introduction to PR was when I was a teenager and my mother was running a mail order company, Janet Coles Beads, back in the 1980’s. She wrote to the Daily Mail to tell them about her beautifully hand-crafted artisan beads imported from across the world and to her surprise they added a small paragraph about the fledgling company. This one piece of publicity literally launched her company. It was pre-email and so that week, the postman came to the house each morning complaining about his back as he delivered sack load after sack load of postal orders and cheques for her bead catalogue.
Once piece of PR can soon snowball into more PR opportunities, so my mum then appeared in some glossy magazines as other journalists had read her piece in the Daily Mail and were interested in this new company. She soon realised this was such a brilliant way to get new eyeballs on her company and to raise the all-important brand awareness that she employed a PR agent who got her some serious gigs – on national TV, radio, newspapers, more magazines. Over the years her database grew from 400 names to 40,000 names and she eventually resulted in her becoming a house hold name and known as the Queen Bead! That is the power of PR.
So what can you do right now to get some PR for your company?
You can either hire a PR agency, or you can upskill your team and have it all done in house.
Allocate a team member
This will ideally be your marketing or comms manager, or even a personal or virtual assistant, who can afford to spend 30 minutes a day ‘doing’ the PR. You can even do the ‘Daily PR7’ as I call it – this is literally a 7-minute time investment, but you need to be consistent. It’s not something you try for a week, think it doesn’t work then give it up.
Get your ducks in order
Press kit, outlines of your email pitch, bio, strong photos, backstory, golden nugget (what makes you / your organisation stand out from the crowd), research your competitors and see where they have been featured and get inspiration and find the gaps.
Decide why you want to pitch to the press
This is known as your ‘press hook’. Is it a new launch, an event, a thought-leadership or profile piece? Are you reacting to something being talked about in the press right now such as a new legislation, a survey, an awareness day or something related to the season? Are you wanting to give commentary or expertise about a big news story just breaking? Or can you set the news agenda as you have a new idea or case study that is relevant to be shared?
You may want to be whistle blowing
This could be about something you’ve spotted in your industry. We’ve had two clients very successfully do this and it is an excellent way to show your thought-leadership.
Identify where you’d like to be featured
This should primarily be where your clients consume their media for work or leisure. For example, when I ran my luxury Peruvian knitwear e-commerce store, the typical client was known as ‘Waitrose Woman’ so I’d be pitching to The Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian and Mail on Sunday shopping editors as well as to the glossy high-end magazines. This is when your competitor research comes into its own…. see where they advertise or have had publicity. This will be a great place to start.
One thing you need to know from the outset is that journalists need you. They are constantly are on the look out for case studies, experts, human interest stories as they need to create content that their audience can enjoy, and your company can be the one to provide it!
Some final tips:
- Be sure to do short and snappy pitches with compelling headlines so the email gets opened
- Get to know the outlet you’re pitching to so you don’t go in cold and pitch to the wrong person in the wrong section
- Get back super-fast to the journalist if they have made an enquiry. They are rushed for time and if you take a few days or even hours to reply, you may lose your pitch!