With each decision that a business makes, it must answer a fundamental question: How can I ensure a strong return on investment?
But when it comes to collaborating with a publicist to share your company’s story — whether with customers, prospective clients or other stakeholders — there’s never a guarantee those efforts will capture the media coverage you daydream about.
That can be frustrating. If you have the proper framework, though, it’s possible to earn media coverage by taking a do-it-yourself approach. It all starts with a good understanding of the value of public relations.
To attract attention, you must first generate some noise.
Most companies focus on developing products or services before they even think about press coverage. But if you’re not creating buzz, how will people know about you? And more importantly, how will they know to trust you?
Sure, you can and should connect with consumers using SEO and other marketing strategies. (I share some top lead generation tools in my most recent Forbes article.) Right now, though, we’re talking about the power of PR. It can be narrowed down to two quotes:
“If I was down to the last dollar of my marketing budget I’d spend it on PR!” – Bill Gates
“Publicity is absolutely critical. A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad.” – Richard Branson
If you need more convincing, check out 48 other quotes that reinforce the power of PR.
Measure the benefits of publicity gone right, and the very real risks of publicity gone wrong.
You’ve seen the light. You recognize PR is kind of a big deal.
But is it measurable? Absolutely. One survey found that marketing executives think public relations is a superior tool for launching new products and services, raising awareness, bolstering brand reputation and increasing word of mouth compared to direct marketing and advertising.
And while more research is needed, an effective metric for PR success is public dialogue about your company. As too many brands have recently discovered the hard way, if you’re not telling your story, someone else is. It’s critical to control your narrative.
For example, starting with the 2016 presidential election cycle and continuing into this year, people have taken opportunities to distance themselves from businesses associated with President Donald Trump and his family. California marketer Shannon Coulter, for instance, launched the #GrabYourWallet campaign to spotlight businesses with Trump connections — and encourage consumers to flee from them. Conversely, brands such as Nordstrom that opted to cut ties with daughter Ivanka Trump’s clothing line enjoyed a positive PR boost.
These are the building blocks of your PR success story — start stacking!
Before you hire a publicist, let’s talk. A publicist is a great tool for businesses that 1) have a budget and 2) have a marketable brand story. Most small companies can’t afford a publicist, and even businesses that can afford one often end up with someone with atrocious strategy (no offense).
I get pitched every day, and 99% of those pitches end up in my trash folder.
Delete. Delete. Delete.
That’s mostly because they don’t have a marketable brand story. So how can you reverse the tide and develop a PR success story in cooperation with a publicist? Here are some basic tips.
- Identify your brand story. This is probably the most critical component because if your story is terrible, it doesn’t matter how much time you spend pitching it. No one is willing to listen. You can begin crafting your story with these resources.
- Work with a professional writer. Every business can spare a few hundred dollars to get some basic promotional materials put together. Or perhaps you have a PR professional on standby to help you prepare news releases on a monthly basis, or whenever you announce a major new initiative. Sit down with your financials and find room for even a small PR investment that can go a long way.
- Make a list of reporters and media companies in your area. Twitter is a great resource, and Google is a no-brainer for locating professional communicators nearby. Better yet, you can hire a virtual assistant to do it for you. Yes, I’ve totally done this. Hire people to do tasks you’d prefer to avoid or simply don’t have time to complete.
- Send your list of contacts the big pitch. Please make sure to individualize it, though. The more friendly you come across and the more you understand the audience of the media outlets you seek to access, the better your odds of earning a platform for your message.
- Create relationships and offer free content. Media professionals are busy, and someone is always asking them for something. Package together some evergreen information that will educate their audiences and position your business as an expert. You’ll save your friends in the media time and give yourself an access point to prospective customers. If you can’t reach the big guys, contact popular blogs or news websites and offer to write content for them, too.
- Pay to play if you have to at first. Earned media is great, but don’t underestimate the merits of sponsored content. Sometimes it’s the best way to get a foot in the door. If you want to be part of media companies, there are ways to pay them to get an account. It’s worth the investment. You can use this as leverage for future opportunities.
Every business has different reasons for connecting with the media and generating publicity. Identify your own needs and find a PR professional who can help bring your story to the masses.