This week, Your Executive Secretary are lucky enough to have Maria Parker-Harris guest blog for us on the subject of public relations. Is now the time to admit to Maria, that I am one of those people who get a little scared of PR, even though in a previous life I was the Public Relations Officer for a Royal Navy Ship!
Public relations is often viewed as the dark art that makes new businesses very nervous. The truth is that with a good strategic plan and clear objectives, raising the profile of your business is not as hard as you may think. This blog post hopes to clear up some common misconceptions about PR with simple tips and some ideas that you can use as the foundation for your PR plan. This blog however will never be able to replace the skills and talent of a good PR, who is worth their weight in gold for media connections alone, but hopefully with this blog in your mind you will be empowered to explore adding PR to your business plan.
There are some ground rules with PR and media relations that you should always remember:
- Arguably the first rule is set clear objectives.
- What do you want to achieve?
- Who is your target audience?
- What publications or promotional channels will best achieve your objectives?
Let’s use the example of an emerging UK blogger, who is targeting female readers between 35 and 50 with topical lifestyle content and is looking to monetise their online blog. There is a clear target audience in this example (females based in the UK aged between 35 and 50 with an interest in lifestyle content such as travel, events, music and fashion). There is a very important secondary target audience that is vital to achieving the objective – lifestyle brands that also appeal to the primary target market. In this example publications such as Elle or Good Housekeeping magazine would raise the blogger’s profile to both target audiences. However, that is a big ambition. Social media would be a good way to build profile such as Vlogs or Google+ circles (I will delve into social media advice in a future post). By building their profile on social media, the blogger would become more of a credible resource that would interest such highly targeted publications.
A common misconception of PR is that a press release is the best or only way to sell your story to your chosen media sector. This is absolutely not the case, in fact global brand Coca Cola have vowed to eliminate press release by 2015. Reporters often look to social media to pick up stories that are popular with their readership, inviting the press to an event launching your brand or for an on-site interview can be much more effective. Consider how receptive you are to emailed newsletters, they often fail completely to capture your attention, where as an event that adds value by teaching you something new or demonstrating industry trends or expertise is likely to be far more successful. Be creative and break away from the traditional. Your business is providing something valuable and different, so why wouldn’t you want your promotional strategy to reflect that?
If a press release really is the best way for you to contact the media, then you absolutely must pass the ‘SO WHAT’ test. In a fully connected world, we often are guilty of business vanity, where we believe that our story is earth shattering and interesting to everyone, which sadly just isn’t the case.
- Is your story newsworthy?
- Why is it interesting to the publication and their readers?
- How does it add value to the readership?
- Is it new, led by an opinion leader, full of human interest, exclusive or unique?
If you have answered all of these questions positively, then make sure your press release is well written with the publication and their audience in mind, contains useful quotes, is accompanied by a picture with accurate credits and is easily accessible to the reporter. I would advise sending the press release in the body of an email rather than an attachment. Address the email to a named reporter that you have a relationship with and DO NOT chase! If your story is as good as you believe then they will contact you. Which brings to my final tip; always include clear contact information and be reliable. Deliver what you promise on time or being available for comment will make you a trusted source for the future.
Here are my top tips for simple PR:
- Ask yourself if local, national, international, online or trade press would best achieve your objectives.
- Be clear about your target audience and profile their media consumption, printed media is not always the best strategy.
- Ask yourself ‘SO WHAT’. Be honest and be tough, it will work in your favour in the long run.
- Use social media to test your story or build a buzz that can make you more credible for the publication.
- Always include contact information and be reliable.
I hope this blog has helped and if in doubt always seek advice from a PR professional, we are really friendly and happy to help! You are welcome to contact me with any questions and as I don’t claim to be an all-knowing resource, I will point you in the right direction if I don’t know.
Maria Parker-Harris – MA Public Relations, MCIPR
Maria Parker-Harris manages the marketing, digital and PR for a retail marketing group in Dorset. Believing that creativity is key, Maria’s campaigns often challenge traditional approaches and have been featured in global and trade press. Maria also runs the charitable blog – http://bucketlistthirty.blogspot.co.uk/.
Maria has kindly offered to blog for Your Executive Secretary on a regular basis, so if there is something you would like to know more about then please email Amanda at [email protected] and we ask Maria if she can help.