Many businesses know they need to raise awareness but often don’t know where to start. Issues of cost, expertise and time all play a crucial role in the decision to either manage PR in-house or employ an external agency. If you do plump for the DIY option, here are some top tips for staying on track.
1. Define your aims and audience
Ensure you know why you are planning PR activity and what you want to achieve through it. Reasons could include changing perception, raising brand awareness, responding to a threat from a competitor, building trust or assisting with recruitment needs.
From this, the next step is to look at your target audience, their wants and needs, what they want to read/hear about and what media they’re consuming. Your key industry title may be the one you read, but are your audiences more inclined to listen to the radio, or scan Twitter to get their news fix?
List your top target audiences and the key media for each. Beside each audience, list the three key messages to repeat over and over again to them.
Conduct desk research to help map out the structure of your PR campaign. Examine your target media and get a feel for things such as house style, regular features and opportunities that will fit with your business offering and what you’re trying to achieve. Examine what makes the news in these titles; are the pages full of news about people, stories about business leaders or product updates, for example?
Build a database of contacts and get to know who you are talking to. Journalists work to deadlines and are often short on time, so providing them with all the information they need, and targeting the right person, will help you avoid any awkward conversations!
Devise a strategy and map it out on an activity calendar. Having one spreadsheet of work in progress will help keep the campaign on track and act as a reference base for the whole team.
Launching your own PR campaign will require investment on a number of levels.
Mainly, you’ll need to be prepared for the company to allocate time and resources for the set-up and on-going implementation of the campaign. PR is not a quick win so it’s important that the management team buys into the strategy from the outset and allows ample time for the results to be realised. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to agree what success looks like up front and work towards it – setting targets (i.e. pieces of coverage, the number of target audience reached) and milestones (six-month strategic review).
Once you’ve agreed how much time the company is willing to invest in PR, you’ll need to assign someone internally to take responsibility for driving activity forward and making it a success. Is there someone in the team most suited to this? May they have a PR or marketing background? If so, and importantly, do they have the capacity to take this on as well as their current role? If not, you may need to train up someone else or think about outsourcing.
4. Know the Queen’s English
Seems simple? You’d be surprised how easy it is to overlook simple grammar and spelling errors.
If you’re apprehensive about writing a press release, free templates can be easily found online as a good starting point. If writer’s block still persists, define the key story points and work with a journalist to develop the idea into a story.
Always proofread your work at least twice. Then get someone else to sense check it before sending it to a journalist.
5. Editorial vs advertorial
A common mistake made by companies who operate their own PR campaigns is spotting the difference between free-of-charge editorial and paid for advertorials. Editorial must have a genuine news angle that’s of interest to a journalist and a publication. Matching your news with a topical issue, for example, a calendar date such as Valentine’s Day or a cold snap of weather will increase the likelihood of making the news pages. Or request an editorial calendar from your target publications to see which features have been planned in over the year so you can tailor your news angle.
If a journalist doesn’t think your story has a genuine news angle then they may pass it over to the advertising team who may then approach you regarding placing an ‘advertorial’, which is paid for space. Some companies choose to pay for an advertorial when they are keen to communicate a particular promotional message, which otherwise won’t make it into the publication.
Writing to suit the style of the publication, and knowing who you’re pitching the story idea to, will help limit advertorial enquiries.
6. Getting out and about
As well as media relations, you should think about other opportunities to build your company’s profile. Networking can be a great starting point and will enable you to meet likeminded folk who you can share and swap ideas with. It’s also a good way to meet potential new business contacts and getting the word out about your brand.
Use websites like Eventbrite to create a calendar of events in your local area and forward plan. You’ll be surprised how many gatherings are happening around you. Go armed with those business cards and follow up with your contacts on LinkedIn to make the most of the event.
About the author
Gemma Cannon is an account manager at Refresh PR, a North West based PR agency with over 30 years’ of specialist PR experience.
Winners of the 2013 RAR award for ‘Best in Public Relations’, Refresh PR delivers creative campaigns underpinned by a solid strategy to ensure activity aligns with business objectives.