In our last blog on public relations for business owners, we explored how PR can power up your marketing strategy. In summary: PR is free (apart from the elbow grease) and it’ll build your authority and credibility more effectively than paid promotional activities.
To get you to the start line, we also had you do some research and thinking around:
- The topics that gain media coverage in your industry
- Where these topics overlap with your areas of expertise
- Your brand’s position on key industry issues
- Which media channels and contacts might be interested in publishing media stories or content around those topics
Now that you are inspired and ready to get started, I am going to run you through a couple of the main tools and tactics that I’ve used during my time as a business coach to help my clients make the most of media opportunities.
Your PR for businesses owners’ toolkit
Here’s a list of the main tools I mentor business owners to develop as part of their PR strategy:
One: A media contact list
Once you have worked out which TV and radio shows, podcasts, blogs or news platforms your target customer consumes, you’ll need to work up a list of contact details. You’ll have more success if your pitch (idea for a story), written article or comments hit the desk of the most relevant reporter or producer. You can try to hunt down these contacts yourself, or save yourself some time and invest in a targeted media list.
Two: A media kit
A 24-hour news cycle means that media outlets are under the pump to create a constant stream of content. Therefore, my business advice is to make a busy journalist/podcaster/producer/editor’s life easier; the business who has everything ready to go in the form of a media kit will often win the free publicity.
A media kit contains everything a contact would need to know about your business to write a story quickly and easily. Your kit must include:
- A document outlining the basic facts about your business, eg what you do, what makes you unique, any achievements, key statistics, a list of your products/services and their benefits and a brief history – how/when the business got started and how it has evolved.
- Short bios of key people within the business. This would certainly include the business owner, but you may also wish to include information about other senior members of staff.
- A series of official quotes. This will enable a writer to put together a story without interviewing you if need be (which could be the difference between making deadline… or not).
- Print quality images of yourself, your branding (logo etc) and other ‘action’ shots of your staff at work or your equipment etc.
- Contact details for the best person to interview (usually the business owner).
Three: A media release
A statement or announcement to share a news story about or linked to your brand, this can be included in your media kit or used as a stand-alone tool to generate coverage. For this reason, I am separating it out.
A media release is used to communicate the ‘who, what, why, when and how’ (or the 5Ws+1H) of your potential story. While a well written one can sometimes be printed as it is, the real aim of sending these out is to give a journalist an angle – an interesting take on the story that makes it newsworthy to their readers.
A basic structure would be:
- Date of release – this helps a journalist know that the story is current and whether they can run it immediately or have to wait for an Embargo Date (sometimes you’ll want to advise the press about an impending story, but restrictions mean they’ll have to wait to publish until a certain time).
- Headline (or title) – While you should choose clear over clever, this should act as a hook to motivate a journalist to read the rest of the release.
- First paragraph – expanding on the headline, here’s where you present the main facts – those 5Ws +1H. No more than a few sentences.
- Expansion paragraph – here you can tell the story in a little more detail, adding information that is less essential but still of interest to a reader.
- Quotes – this is one of the most important elements as it offers your expert view. Including these also makes writing the story without conducting an interview easier if deadlines are tight.
- Closing paragraph – this is optional and since a media release should be one page, think carefully about including one. You can always add extra information in the notes.
- Ends – this is an old convention, but writing ‘Ends’ at the bottom of your media release does help a journalist know that they have all the available information at hand.
- Notes to the editor – this can go over the page if need be and should include brief information about your business, along with the contact details of who to call for more information or interviews and who is available for comment etc. If you have a media kit stored in a cloud-based file you could link to it here or attach as a PDF.
- Attachments – images, videos or any other bits and bobs that a news outlet might need to publish your story. Much of this is in your media kit but may also be specific to your release.
Five: media release distribution platform
Sending a media release can take up a lot of time. That’s why it can be a good idea to invest in the annual fee for a media release distribution service. There are lots out there, so do your research. To get you started, check out this Top 10 Press Release Companies in Australia.
Six: PR Calendar
As a business coach, I mentor business owners that an organised approach is key to implementing any new strategy. Creating a PR calendar will help you map out what media releases you want to send out and to whom. A couple of hours of pre-planning will save you time down the track, since you won’t be struggling to come up with new ideas on the spot.
Getting your PRayers answered: tips to improve your chances of winning the spot
There are no guarantees when it comes to winning the media coverage. However, taking certain approaches will definitely increase the odds:
- Take the leap and put yourself out there – Trying new tactics can seem overwhelming but since this one is largely free (or at least inexpensive), you don’t have a lot to lose. My business advice is that perfect is the enemy of good – just get started.
- Don’t forget to follow up – Just as with sales, a follow up call can make all the difference. This is your chance to pitch the story in person and build a rapport with your media contacts. Which reminds me…
- Build relationships with the key players – this takes time but I’ve in my time as a business coach I have seen it pay off. Keep reaching out; even if your first few PR attempts don’t result in a story, a journalist may well add your details to their list of potential sources, so don’t think of it as a waste.
- Establish yourself as a source of comment – take every opportunity you can to get your name in front of journalists as a person who is willing and able to offer a point of view on a topic they cover. When they’re up against deadline and need a quote, there’ll be a list of sources they call upon. You want your name on that list!
- Re-use the content you generate – If you gain media coverage, don’t forget to promote it yourself. Shout about it on your social media accounts and even consider adding a ‘news’ section to your website. Some businesses even repurpose their media releases; you can certainly use the content as a basis for a blog, an email or social posts that will help establish you as a subject-matter expert.
The spin doctor is in
Bill Gates once said, “If I was down to the last dollar of my marketing budget, I’d spend it on PR!”. In my time as a business coach, I’ve certainly seen PR have a positive impact on many a business’ growth; it establishes the owners as a thought-leader, increases awareness of their brand and helps them break through to that next level of success. There’s so much opportunity for business owners to leverage this often-overlooked opportunity; as a low-cost, high-impact strategy, you can’t really afford not to at least give it a go.