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What is PR? Introducing Publi
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What is PR? Introducing Publi
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Apr 16, 2010
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What is PR? Introducing Publi
1. What is PR? What can it do for me? ©RunMarketing.co.uk 2009 All Rights Reserved
Contents: - Public Relations in a Nutshell - Typical PR Tactics - Starting at the Beginning - How Can I Cost-Justify PR? - How the Media Works - Logistics - How do I ‘do’ PR? ©RunMarketing.co.uk 2009 All Rights Reserved
Public Relations in a Nutshell I embarked on my public relations (PR) career in 1998, after leaving university. It was at this point that my then boss told me; “PR is just common sense, that’s all, common sense”. He’s right, common sense forms the bedrock of any public relations campaign or strategy, but there’s so much more to it than that. While the way we “do” PR is constantly evolving the basis isn’t – managing reputations. Before we embark on this journey we need to establish what PR is and, just as importantly, what it isn’t. Firstly, PR is not advertising. With advertising you purchase online space, column inches or airtime. But with PR your aim is to secure those via various campaigns and tactics. PR is the establishment and maintenance of your reputation – trying to ensure that people are talking about you, that those comments are positive and where they’re not, working hard to change that perception. It’s crucial to recognise the difference early on to manage expectations. I’ve often encountered salespeople in meetings who do not understand the difference between advertising and PR and expect every press release to be picked up by the likes of the Financial Times. In this overview we cover what PR really is, how the media works, how to formulate a PR programme from scratch and other useful hints and tips to increase your company’s profile online, offline and on the airwaves. While the challenge faced when engaging The Chartered Institute of Public Relations in PR as a publicity strategy over advertising is the United Kingdom describes PR thus: that coverage is not guaranteed. However any airtime and print space you do get is “Public relations is about reputation - the result of what you do, what you say and what widely believed to be more impactful as it’s others say about you. effectively “endorsed” by the publication. Public relations is the discipline which looks Advertising, on the other hand, is perceived after reputation, with the aim of earning by the public as one-sided and less understanding and support and influencing trustworthy, and should only really be used opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and as a brand-building exercise rather than a sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between trust-building one. an organisation and its publics.” ©RunMarketing.co.uk 2009 All Rights Reserved
Typical PR Tactics Public relations campaigns contain a number of tactics that we’ll cover in the course of this paper, but here’s a brief glossary of terms which crop up in PR: Press Releases: These documents are the standard way in which press announcements are made by organisations of all sizes. Typically not more than 500 words in length, press releases are emailed to key press contacts, sometimes under ‘embargo’ (not to be published before a set time). They include details on news, research, product launches, promotions or any other announcement that could help build a positive reputation for your company. Case Studies: What better way to showcase your product or service than to have a customer case study outlining how your company helped their business? Publications love the “proof in the pudding” – real-life examples of where companies have used a product or service which has had a demonstrable effect on their business. Could you gain approval from a customer and draft an 800-word account on how you helped them operate more efficiently? PR Stunts: Stunts are expensive and sometimes risqué. One of the most famous publicity stunts was UK men’s magazine FHM’s projection of TV presenter Gail Porter’s naked body onto the Houses of Parliament in London to promote its “100 Sexiest Women” list in 1999. Small businesses and start-ups probably don’t need to go to such extremes to make themselves known, but you can always think of (legal) ways in which to attract attention. Articles/Opinion pieces: Articles and opinion pieces are longer texts, usually between 500- 800 words in length, which can be about any subject relevant to your industry. So long as they’re well drafted and neutrally written, many editors may be willing to take your articles and opinion pieces and print them in their publication or website. There are two benefits to articles and opinion pieces. Firstly, they present your company as a thought-leader in your field. Secondly, they’re great for search engine optimisation (SEO), as they contain keywords which people will use to look for your product or service online and they create links back to your site, which further increases your website’s authority, in the view of the search engines. Advertorials: When it’s not possible to place an article or opinion piece in a publication for free, it may be possible to pay for it. This is called an advertorial, which will usually allow you a little more licence to talk about your company, product or service. Even though you pay for space as you would advertising, an advertorial should reflect the editorial style of the publication and there is therefore a perception that the content is endorsed by the publication. As the pressure to generate revenues increases on sales teams within publications, it should be possible to negotiate a good price. Advertorials are not cheap and before taking this route as a small business you need to be absolutely sure that the publication’s readership is relevant for you. Blogging and Blogger Engagement: A shortened form of “weblog”, the blog has become a standard industry practice; so much so, in fact, that the lack of a company blog can be perceived as a conspicuous absence. A blog is essentially an opinion or diary piece outlining an issue of your choice. It could be a response to another blog you've seen, it could be about what your company is up to (in short form) or it could be a mini-announcement. Whatever you blog about, it's great from a thought leadership perspective and it's also really ©RunMarketing.co.uk 2009 All Rights Reserved
helpful for your web ranking, as the more content you put online the more chance you have of being found by search engines. Bloggers can be hugely influential, so it’s critical to engage with the leading bloggers in your field. Computer manufacturer Dell was faced with the full force of a disgruntled blogger in the form of Jeff Jarvis, which prompted a complete about-face in the company’s policy on blogger – and customer – engagement. There are a few protocols to follow when reaching out to bloggers: • Use tools like Technorati and Alexa to check on a blog’s ‘authority’ – you don’t want to waste your time engaging someone who only blogs for a small audience • Don’t treat bloggers as journalists, they’re not paid to read press releases and are under no pressure to post, so there has to be something in it for them • Don’t try and bribe the blogger with product, it could easily backfire • If you can, meet them personally. This goes a long way to building a lasting relationship • Check the regular contributors on blog sites, they may be – or become – influential bloggers themselves Social Media: Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Twitter - these are all online social networks used by millions daily. For small businesses and start-ups, social networks offer an incredible opportunity to reach a global audience and be incredibly creative for relatively little outlay. They also enable you to engage with your customers in real time and monitor feedback on your brand, product or service. RunMarketing has produced a whole white paper on social media best practice, so it’s worth reading that for more information. Visual Aids: Does your company make consumer products? You could provide samples and trials for your industry media for them to review and what about using photography site Flickr to provide images of your products? Starting at the Beginning A poorly thought-out PR strategy is unlikely to succeed. Small business managers have precious little time on their hands to dedicate to marketing, so getting it right first time is crucial in the long-run. There are some very simple questions small businesses should be asking before they start managing their own PR: • What are the objectives of your PR strategy in the short, medium and long term, and how are you measuring effectiveness? • Who are your customers and what media do they access that you can use to reach them? • What makes your company different from your competitors and how do you communicate and articulate that in a way that’s palatable to press, potential customers and search engines? • What do you want the public to say and think about you? ©RunMarketing.co.uk 2009 All Rights Reserved
From here, forming a PR strategy is then limited only by your imagination. There are endless things you can do as a small business or start-up to promote your products and services, from press releases to opinion articles, blogs to social networking, customer case studies and creative stunts. You can engage everyone from your local paper, regional and even national newspapers and broadcasters if you have a genuine story to tell. How Can I Cost-Justify PR? Easy. Without publicity, nobody will know your company exists. PR has been proven time and time again to be more effective than advertising. The top five most recognisable brands as voted by the public in the US did not correlate with the top five advertising spenders, advertising spend does not necessarily buy customers and favourable opinion. In fact, the public is increasingly cynical towards advertising messages, which have to interrupt TV shows and magazine articles to tell the public how good their product or service is. PR, on the other hand, focuses on convincing journalists to carry news about your company which will appear in the form of editorial, which is far more trusted. From a financial perspective PR is also more effective. A full-page magazine advert in a trade magazine circulating to 50,000 targeted readers could cost more than £2,000. You then have to pay a creative agency to come up with the ad in the first place. This money could pay an experienced freelancer to generate a productive campaign that could reach hundreds of thousands. Although online advertising is more targeted and cost-effective, click-through rates are still not impressive. PR quickly justifies itself, just watch your Web traffic after a few online hits. How the Media Works The media landscape is changing faster than probably at any point since Gutenberg invented the printing press. The increasing availability and mobility of the Internet has led to printed media revenues getting hammered and circulations plummeting, while at the same time more and more consumers are migrating to online sources, such as ezines and blogs, for news. In the late nineties or even early 2000s, a lot of clients would dismiss online coverage, saying it didn’t count. They would never say the same thing now! Online is hugely important on so many levels – influence, engagement, page ranking, the list goes on. In fact, digital marketing has made it far easier for small businesses and start-ups to reach global audiences, but when it comes to approaching online or offline journalists, it’s essential to understand what they want. ©RunMarketing.co.uk 2009 All Rights Reserved
Journalists have one thing in mind: their audience. OK, two things; their audience and their editor, who has the ultimate say on whether their articles are published or not. The news process is fairly straightforward: Fig 1: The Story of the Story Figure 1 shows the typical journey a story will make from inception to print. A reporter will receive information via a number of routes, such as an interview he or she has conducted, a press release, tip-off or, often in the case of the tabloids and gossip magazines, photos from freelance photographers or paparazzi. A good reporter will collate more information to ensure the story is accurate and seek a second opinion, for example, from an industry analyst, lawyer or psychologist. Once the reporter is happy with their content they’ll forward it the sub editing team who will be aware of how much space the story will have. This can change quite a lot in print publishing. If a bigger story comes in then yours could be shrunk significantly through no fault of your own, just due to circumstances. The subs check for spelling, grammar and are usually the brains behind the catchy headlines you often see. From here the editor will take the final look before publication and make any final changes, referring to the legal team if required before sending the edition to the printers or, in the case of online journalist, posting. Reporters have far less time nowadays to do press lunches, round table debates and even phone interviews, so the better you draft your press releases to suit an editorial style – especially in the quotes you provide to press – the better chance you have of getting included. Listen to our podcast with technology journalist Gordon Kelly for more on what journalists want to hear from companies and also check out our Press Release White Paper for more on press release best practice. ©RunMarketing.co.uk 2009 All Rights Reserved
Before approaching the press, check out our media training guide or invest in some training – there’s nothing worse than being caught out by a journalist! Also, make sure you’ve a good, high-resolution image of your spokespeople to provide to press. It’s best to have a plain white background if you’re taking pictures yourself. Logistics Once you’ve worked out who you want to talk to, what tactics you want to deploy to reach them and over which platforms then you need a few more things to get started: • Build press lists of target publications and writers: You can do this yourself or you can use services such as Gorkana or Features Exec, which can be quite pricey. Think vertically as well, there could be publications out there that may not be directly related to your industry but still relevant to your customers. Building press lists is time-consuming, so it could be a job for that keen graduate intern! • Build your press release template: Look online for great examples of press releases. For more, listen to our podcast on drafting press releases with Phil Dwyer of PR consultancy, BrandX • When distributing your press releases why not widen your distribution with the use of a press release newswire, which will send out your release to hundreds of journalists. Service providers include Realwire, PR Newswire, Businesswire and SourceWire • You can also use free online news distribution sites, such as PitchEngine, Digg or Reddit to place your news, as well as distributing it to your main targets • Identify relevant bloggers and engage with them: Leave non-salesy comments on their blogs, encourage bloggers to link back to your site. Get blogging yourself! • Build a news and resource page on your website: This is critical as journalists need to know who to contact if they’re interested in you, plus the more Web-friendly text and links you host on your site will increase your search engine ranking • Make sure you build a media kit - or press pack - to help journalists learn more about your company and host this on your news page. See our media kit guide to help you form one. Have high quality digital images of spokespeople on file • Seek advice on how to handle media calls. Journalists can sniff out inexperienced or uncomfortable spokespeople. Study how politicians and business leaders answer questions on television - these guys receive the very best media training • If you are not going to act a spokesperson yourself in any interviews ensure the spokesperson is briefed and available in the event a journalist requests an interview ©RunMarketing.co.uk 2009 All Rights Reserved
How Do I ‘Do’ PR? Your budget will often dictate whether you do your own PR, hire a full-time marketing specialist or outsource to a freelancer or small agency. If you’re handling marketing and PR in-house then at RunMarketing.co.uk you’ll find plenty of resources to help you do it for yourself. If you’re planning to outsource, remember that selecting a PR agency is such an important investment for SMEs and start-ups that it’s important to get it right first time. It’s a long-term investment, so what should you be looking for in the agency you choose to represent your brand? • Firstly, outline your objectives and expectations, draw up a request for proposals (RFP) or request for information for prospective agencies. What do you want from your agency and where do you want to be in 12-18 months time? • Next, research specialist PR firms in your field. Look online, read up in the industry weekly publication PR Week, talk to your industry peers to build up a maximum shortlist of five that you’d like to meet. Be mindful of larger agencies. They might come with a great reputation but if you’re an SME or small start-up you could find yourself being edged aside by bigger-paying clients. The Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) can also help you select agencies via its website • PR firms should be creative. Good proposals should not just meet your brief, but go beyond it and tell you what you should be doing and expect from PR. A good PR company should go the extra mile • When it comes to meeting the company in person it then should come down to chemistry and ideas. Forget the budget for now. If you can work with that agency and you believe they’ve shown the enthusiasm you want that’s something that you can’t put a price on – you can always negotiate on the costs of course! • From there it’s a simple case of selecting your firm, running their contract via your legal team and implementing the plan. But it’s always appreciated if you call the agencies you didn’t choose to give them feedback so they can in turn improve Something to look out for is the ‘senior pitch team’ tactic which some agencies operate, where the team that comes in to pitch to you is not the same team that would be working on your account. They’re essentially a senior new business team, adept at talking a good game but not the people representing your brand. Demand to meet the same team that will be working with you on a daily basis. Listen to our podcast with Stu Campbell of PR consultancy FIRE PR on how to form a marketing and PR plan from scratch. The entrepreneur P.T. Barnum once said that “Without publicity a terrible thing happens, nothing”. If you’re not engaging in PR already, then it’s time to get your skates on. It’s not a thing you necessarily need to outsource and the only real investment is your time. But it all comes down to getting the basics right, and that’s where common sense comes in. If you can master that common sense approach then not only should you be able to look forward to increased business, but my old boss would be very proud of you. ©RunMarketing.co.uk 2009 All Rights Reserved
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