Public Relations consists of current, consistent, and accurate communications to your target customers and beyond. The goal is to create and convey a message that convinces your audience to trust you and ultimately buy your products.
Many companies hire professional PR firms to supplement their in-house communications staff, but it’s possible for you to do your own PR if you have the time and know what steps to take.
Years ago PR focused on publicity stunts, free samples, surveys, and catchy advertising. Today it’s more sophisticated and employs a variety of methods to get out your message, including: media commentary, bylined articles, community involvement, media relationships, and public speaking.
Create a plan
Your PR plan doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive to implement. Here are the building blocks to be considered.
Goals – Define what you want your PR to achieve and set measurable objectives that you believe are achievable.
Perception – How you initially position yourself in the marketplace will have a lasting effect. How do you want your business to be known in the community? Are you the low price option, or are you going for a high-end clientele? Is excellent service your number one priority?
Messages – Outline and prioritize the most critical facts that you want people to know about your business. Refine the top three into short, crisp bites that are easily communicated and remembered.
Audience – Don’t think of potential customers as your only audience. Broadly defined, this should include any person or entity that may have a stake or interest in your business. Since word-of-mouth is one of the best forms of advertising, your audience should encompass current and former employees, friends, neighbors, suppliers, local and national media, civic organizations, and government officials and agencies. Even your competitors have the power to spread a message about you, friendly or not.
Strategy & Tactics – Develop a blueprint for accomplishing your objectives. This should include steps you’ll take to establish your position in the marketplace. Tactics are the specific tools you’ll employ to communicate your message to your audience and should include community outreach and selected media outlets. Performing public service and participating in charitable events are excellent ways of obtaining free publicity. Consider donating products and services to worthy community organizations.
Local Media – The local media can make or break a business. Newspapers, community papers, radio stations, and local cable channels are always on the lookout for a new angle or story, and fresh approaches to business concepts. Make sure you invite them to grand openings, open houses, anniversary events, and special promotions. Let them know when you secure an important customer, solve a community problem, or win a business award. Don’t be intimidated by reporters as they can help carry your message in exchange for your time and expertise. That message can be as simple as what you know and what you do better than anyone else.
While the internet has dramatically changed the marketing and advertising landscape, there’s still nothing more valuable than a positive mention of your business by an unbiased third party. If that third party has tremendous trust and reach to millions of potential customers, it can be a life-changing event.
A great example of this is the recent hit song recorded by Carly Rae Jepsen of Canada. When Justin Bieber tweeted to his millions of followers that Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe was “possibly the catchiest song I’ve ever heard,” it became an instant mega-hit. While most of us will never enjoy that kind of superstar endorsement, you can mimic it on a smaller scale through energetic self-promotion of quality products.
If you open a new restaurant, an enthusiastic write-up by the local newspaper’s food critic can provide you with a jumpstart that paid advertising can’t easily duplicate. The key is to capitalize on it and make sure that positive news gets the widest possible dissemination.
The List – Find the best five to ten journalists and bloggers who write about your type of business or your city. Put Google Alerts on each one, read their articles, and find out their individual expertise. You can demonstrate your expertise by commenting on their writings and make a name for yourself in the process. This is one way to present yourself as a go-to expert should they need one.
Networking – The internet provides a simple and inexpensive way to insert your business into the forefront of other people’s minds. Build online relationships by sponsoring Facebook promotions, engaging in online forums, trading links through Twitter, and maintaining your own blog. Social media provide you with unprecedented access, and demonstrating your expertise will get you noticed as a potential resource for future journalistic needs.
Press Releases – These allow you to control the message and frequency of your formal announcements. Issue them to highlight important news and events, but don’t overuse them to the point where they become irrelevant. Online distribution resources include PitchEngine and PRWeb where your releases will be picked up by search alerts and news aggregators.
Self-promotion – Suggest stories to your list of journalists and bloggers that show how customers are benefiting from the products and services you provide. If you’re having a positive impact on the community and its citizens, take the initiative to get that message out. Cultivating the trust and respect of journalists is very important, so take the time to do it personally and professionally.
Your website should include an online newsroom where you can direct the media to go for information. Provide easy access to professional photos, videos, logos, press releases, product announcements, and multiple contact options. Include links on your website to other resources and trade articles related to your business niche or industry. The media need this information for researching potential news articles.
Put together a prepackaged media or electronic press kit that contains background information on your business, timelines, and important facts and figures. Such a kit will save you time in the long run, make it much easier to respond to media inquiries, and ensure your message is clear and consistent. Make sure the kit shows off your products in a compelling way that’s designed to generate maximum buzz.
Show off testimonials and positive customer feedback regarding your products. Include a real simple syndication (RSS) feed on your website that updates company news and product developments. It’s free and easy to set up.
If you don’t have the money to spend on professional PR, don’t ignore the need for it. It’s critical to creating lead generation for your business and building customer and brand loyalty. Apple didn’t get where it is by being shy about promoting itself.
If you have a company vehicle, add professional graphics with your company name and contact information. Other important assets include convenient hours and a commitment to customer service. If you don’t work from home, maintain a polished office to meet customers.
Be an expert in your field and invite interviews from the media. Before you know it you’ll be sitting on industry advisory boards and enjoying your business success.