Business Publicity and Public Relations
Part of your business plan and marketing strategies should include publicity and public relations. Ever wondered where some of those stories come from that make it onto the Media? Have you noticed how some businesses’ names are seen with charitable signs? This is all a result of a Public Relations (PR)/Publicity strategy.
What is Public Relations/Publicity? The dictionary term for it means that it is the professional maintenance of a favorable public image. Publicity refers to the professional exploitation of a product, company, or person, by advertising or popularizing.
In other words it is those actions that a business takes to tell its story in a favorable way to the public.
Some examples of PR/Publicity in action are:
- A special story about a customer, a worker, or something your product or service has helped. E.g. A customer of yours turning 100, and is the oldest member of the community.
- Supporting a local charity event or local school event – sponsoring an aspect or paying for the entire event.
Publicity is any exposure you can get your business in a favorable way, and is often seen linked to charitable events. If you haven’t already, consider adopting a strategy that sees you sponsor or support a charitable event in your area each year. Maybe it is providing a service or product at charitable events at no charge. It might also be a local school or community group in need of business support. Have a think about events in your area, and how you can be a part of them.
In the same way as Public Relations and a media campaign helps establish your brand awareness, so does Publicity. This has another benefit of building your good will in the community. By good will, we mean the impression that your community and ultimately your customer gets when they think about your business. Is it the type of business that gives back to the community and is a ‘decent company’? Or is it the type of business that takes and takes, never giving or supporting in return?
Like it or not, your community (online or offline) will develop an image of your business in their minds. This will impact on their decision to do business with you. Also, in adopting to support a charity or event, you are doing something much more than building your own brand – you are giving those less fortunate a chance at a better life.
Public Relations And Media Releases
There are some key points that need to be considered with this strategy. Media releases and stories for newspapers and television and/or radio MUST be newsworthy. Keep in mind what is happening in the news-world, and write your media release with a unique twist or angle that will help it stand out from all the others. Also be sure to take a look into what your business is currently reflecting online A lot of information is available and gets published online as well as in papers. Your company’s reputation can easily be found through a simple Google search of your company name.
To help you with writing your own media releases, here is an approach to developing your own media list and media campaign.
Submitting Media Releases
The role of any effective media release is to do one the following:
- Inform the public about an event
- Educate the public about an issue
- Ask for support from the public for a community need
- Tell a positive story
- Announce a product development that benefits people or a community group
Before writing any media release, it is important to define the message of the article, and to gather your information. This may include statistics, pictures, comments and the facts of the event, story, or message you want to convey.
Writing the Media release
As with anything, practice will help improve writing ability. Keep in mind that by writing a media release you are attempting to complete the journalist’s work, and increasing your chances of having a published media release. Unless it is absolutely necessary, keep the media release under one page in length.
Effective writing is a skill that CAN be learned. Some of the best writers in history did it. If you don’t have the natural ability to sell/promote your product or service in the form of a NEWSWORTHY media release, then we suggest you read Make Your Content PreSell. It is a book written to help you develop a web site, but the principles are basic and can be easily applied to any writing that you do. It is 100+ pages of great information and is available for free download.
Here is a format that can be used when preparing a media release. It is not guaranteed, and there may be other formats that suit your writing style.
- Paragraph one – opening sentence and paragraph must be attention grabbing. Convey the message of the media release in this paragraph.
- Paragraph two – expand on the story, adding any background information or supporting material that goes to developing your story further.
- Paragraph three – The use of quotes can really help the reader. It adds a sense of realism to the story or article, as there is a person behind the story, or even telling it. This quote should be referenced to a person. If quoting from a person outside your organization, then make sure you have their permission to use their words in print.
- Paragraph four – any other elements or statistical information can be included here as well. This is the paragraph that you can start to enforce your message to the reader.
- Paragraph five – Closing paragraph and details. The media release does not have to have a long and formal conclusion. Often a statement of what your business is focused on (reinforcing the message), your website and a contact number.
It always helps to convey the message of the media release through a picture as well. Many papers, local and metropolitan, will have standards for photo quality and size. Also, digital photography is the preferred format, as it reduces the time and costs to convert a traditional film photo to use in a print run for the newspaper.
Standards common for digital photos:
- DPI – 300
- File type – JPG
- File size – 1 MB+
Building and maintaining the contact list
There are a number of methods you can employ to grow and maintain this list. The best method to do this is to contact the paper or publication/media outlet and ask for the name of the journalist responsible for handling media releases either in the local area, or those stories related to your product, service, niche market or target audience (teenagers, families, etc). This can be done either by phone or in person. Some Information to collect might include:
- Phone number
Journalists change quite frequently at newspapers, especially local papers. They either change positions in the same organization, or leave the organization completely. This requires a constant effort on behalf of the media officer to maintain their contact lists for media releases. To maintain your list, a periodic contact to the journal (phone or email) to find out if there is anything that you can do for them is a good idea. You can touch base with the journalist, verify their details, and offer your services to support them. After all, they are paid to find stories, and if you can deliver a story to them that is suitable, you make their life easier.
Sending the Media Release
Once you have written the media release and taken any supporting photos, it is time to prepare the email or fax. Most journalists prefer to be contacted via email with respect to media releases. Unless you have been asked by a journalist specifically to do otherwise, send the media release by email.
To achieve maximum success with your email, follow these steps (possible Template to use):
Good morning /afternoon,
Please find attached media release relating to/about (fill in subject here). Any questions please contact me on (contact number).
E – firstname.lastname@example.org
W – www.yourbusiness.com
ALWAYS include the text media release in the email. You increase the chances of success of the journalist in reading it if you include in the email. Some companies have strict safeguards on their incoming emails, blocking emails that have attachments. Also, if the journalist has to open up the word document after they open the email, the chances of them doing so are small. So, include your media release at the bottom of the email.
When sending the email, it is good practice to send the email to yourself, and include your media release list in the ‘BCC’ field of your email. In this way, the recipients receive an email that does not show your contact list in their email header, and keeps the contact details of your media release list confidential.
Following Up on the Media Release
As a result of your media release, you will either see it printed in the publication as you sent it, it will be passed over by the journalist for another story, or they will call you for more details. You never know what is happening at their end to influence their decision about what stories to print, and what stories are current in the community.
If they ring, be professional and confident in your statements about the subject of the media release. Be sure you have the facts and the message clear in your own mind to carry the message through to the journalist.
Media Campaigns are a great strategy in helping you build a brand in the community that is unbiased. The Media can be very helpful at times in doing this. Spend time thinking about what is unique about your business – write it down now.
Always keep in mind the question – “What’s the story here?” If your mind is constantly searching for a newsworthy angle for your product, service or place of business, you will find it.
Contact the local media, and ask for the details of the person who you send your media releases to. Take them out to lunch – get to know them. The more you can utilize the Media to help your business, the better.
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