Favourable media coverage is worth its weight in gold. It puts your business in front of a large audience, giving you valuable publicity and editorial credibility.
Getting PR is not easy, however. You have to build relationships with journalists, create a story or a news angle that meets the requirements of key publications and write an effective press release.
PR is especially useful for start-ups; the media is usually well disposed towards a new venture so you should make the most of this PR opportunity.
If you do your own PR, the cost is your time rather than money. Using a PR agency may save you time and deliver results - at a price. Don’t forget that PR is also about avoiding and handling bad publicity.
How to create a PR opportunity
Business announcements, such as appointments, sales, product launches and milestone events, are all legitimate news stories that appear in the trade and specialist press. However, what’s news-worthy to you may not have any appeal for media publications and websites. If you send out too many boring press releases or come across as too self-promoting, you risk alienating journalists.
A great way to get publicity is by commissioning a survey and presenting the findings in a press release. You could also hold an event to create a buzz for your business, bringing in customers and attracting media attention, such as an open day, a demonstration, a seminar, a sale or a charity event. Use social media to publicise what you're doing with video and images.
Promoting yourself as an expert in your field is another excellent way to get publicity for your business. Make a name for yourself by writing a regular blog, offering your services as a speaker and by being active on social media. Reach out to journalists and offer to provide comments on industry developments.
Write an effective press release
A great press release has to grab a journalist's attention quickly - if the journalist is hooked by the headline, they will go on to read the all-important first paragraph.
From there, your press release must give answers to the five questions that every news story has to answer: Who, what, where, when and why. Tell the story using simple language and short sentences. If there's an important fact or figure, start with that.
Readability is key - use generous line spacing and make sure typefaces are fairly large and clear. Structure is also important; the information must flow in a logical way. Use short paragraphs and bullet points; include all relevant facts and figures and provide quotes.
If you have sold a product to a customer, include favourable testimonials from them too. Good quality images are also vital. Your press release must tell the journalist who to call for additional information. If the reporter can't get hold of the right person when they're writing the story, they will drop it.
Handling bad publicity
Communication is the key to managing bad publicity. PR stands for public relations so it’s about managing how you are seen by the wider population, not just journalists. If you get some bad publicity, keep the media, customers, your staff and suppliers informed. Tell your side of the story with written statements, and make sure a spokesperson is available to talk to the press about what went wrong and what is being done about it.
If your firm is being criticised in the media online, respond quickly, honestly and decisively. If you are at fault, own up and apologise. Complaints from customers, faulty products and accidents all make news stories, as does any crisis affecting your industry that could give your firm a bad name by association.
Preparation can reduce the chances of getting bad press. Any employee has the power to enhance or ruin the reputation of your business so make sure your staff understand the importance of customer service and embody your firm's brand values. Put in place procedures for handling customer complaints so that a small issue does not become a big problem.