PR is essentially the process of keeping your name in the news. You don't need to be or know a professional journalist. What you do need to know is how to get a reporter, editor, or producer's attention.
PITCHING TO THE PRESS: Whether you're sending two lines or a two page press release, make sure you send it to the right person. Otherwise your news will end up in the trash instead of the "What's Happening" column. If you're not sure who would cover your story, call the operator or receptionist at the station or publication and ask. Equally important, ask what that person's deadline is never interrupt a reporter or editor under deadline. If you send a news item and haven't received coverage within a few weeks, call back and offer the reporter or editor additional assistance, such as more background information, or people he or she can interview.
WHAT'S THE STORY?: Think there's nothing newsworthy about you? Think again. And think creatively. Have you hired a new employee? Received an award? Changed your address? Completed a degree? Spoken at a conference? Has someone in your office done something unusual? Have you surveyed your customers recently? Have an opinion about current developments in your industry? How about an article where you share some of your expertise? Has your company rebounded after a bad year? Or, has it reached a new milestone?
Your news doesn't have to be a long feature story either. Think about the two and three line blurbs that appear in the back of your local business journal. The important thing is to look at your company through the public's eye, and assume they know nothing about you therefore, it's all news to them.
WILL THE MEDIA PICK IT UP?: Think of all of the talk shows, news programs, newspapers and trade journals that compete for public attention on a daily basis. They need all the help they can get. They need your story. Help them out. Never turn away any media no matter how small the publication or program. Don't ignore local programs in an effort to get the attention of the national media.
BUT IT TAKES TOO MUCH TIME: How much time does it take one sales rep to talk to a hundred prospects? Answer: A lot longer than it takes you to write a paragraph that will be seen by thousands of people. After your story has been printed, cut it out, photocopy it, and send it out with your next mailing with the reference "As seen in the Indianapolis News." That gives you credibility, and will make your potential customer sit up and pay attention. Now, how much time is that worth?
BE TIMELY: To help guarantee coverage of your story hook it into a special event or anniversary that's coming up. Or tie it into other news that's happening.
WRITING THE PRESS RELEASE: The press release is the most fundamental tool of public relations it's the way you convey your story to the press. And because the press receives a lot of releases, yours should be clear, concise and easy to read. Write it so that the reader can get the gist at first glance.
Start with a headline that gives a hint about the content. Answer the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, and WHY in the first paragraph. Often, editors and reporters will simply use the first paragraph, and edit out the rest of the release. The rest of the paragraphs should be written in order of descending importance. The second paragraph should expand on the lead by giving the full name of the person, business, product or service you are promoting. You may also include a direct quote. The third paragraph provides additional information.
Press releases should be kept to one page whenever possible and almost never exceed two. If you must have more than one page, end the first page with a completed paragraph and write the word "more" on the bottom of the page. Wherever your last paragraph ends, write "end."
While a release should be able to stand on its own, photos are always helpful. Five by seven inch black and white shots are best. If you want to pull out all the stops, create a press kit with a release, photos, literature about your business, and copies of other articles written about you (which you will have from earlier releases to your local business journal!).
CONCLUSION: Before you put together your PR campaign, keep in mind these 5 P's:
PURPOSE: Why are you promoting yourself?
PRODUCT: Are you promoting yourself, your product, a service?
PLAN: Who are you trying to reach and what do you want them to do or think?
PACKAGING: Differentiate yourself in a way that will grab attention.
PROMOTION: What's the vehicle? A feature story? A blurb? An article?
If you put your PR strategy together right, you'll receive the ultimate payoff coverage that money just can't buy.