Reputation is everything in business – the old saying ‘it takes years to build and only seconds to lose…’ is totally true.
So you have the choice of either leaving it to chance, or taking control and ensuring you can choose the image of your business that reaches your audience.
A great way to do this is through PR, either in-house or by using a specialised communications agency. Controlling your public relations message allows you to manage the positive flow of information about you or your company. It also allows you to handle any negative comments and give the correct responses at the right time.
As I’ve said before, audiences are increasingly resistant to traditional marketing techniques, so PR is also a great way to slip past any defences and connect with your audience via channels that they already know and trust.Here's a simple guide that will help you to create a PR campaign that will ensure you're able to remain in charge of the image you're projecting:1. Know your outcomeBefore you start contacting journalists, or writing fancy press releases, you need to decide what your objectives for the PR campaign actually are. Taking the time to thoroughly investigate this is vital. It will help you to be focused and stay on-message in everything you do. It will also give you chance to monitor how effective your strategy is as it progresses.
A PR campaign can achieve many things – whether you want to add to the size of your audience reach, boost sales, or improve your brand's reputation.List your aims, and set yourself measurable targets – such as increasing sales by 10%.Whether you plan on implementing your PR campaign by yourself, or using an external company, it's essential to have a thorough knowledge of what you want to achieve, and to have a realistic timeframe in place.
The WomeninPR blog has some great advice that is relevant regardless of your gender. It says you should make sure your targets are SMART:
- Specific – what do you want to achieve?
- Measurable – how will you measure it?
- Achievable – how will you achieve it within your budget?
- Realistic – Is what you want to achieve realistic with your resources?
- Timed – What timeframe will you use?
I’m a sucker for acronyms!2. Focus everything around your audienceBy this stage, you should already have created focussed customer personas to help you completely understand your customers’ wants and needs. These will also help you to decide which publications to engage with.Everything you do during your campaign should be focussed on addressing these wants and needs. This can get a little tricky, as you will often be communicating through an intermediary – such as a newspaper.
You obviously want the journalists to buy into your business, but your message should be primarily aimed at the potential customers in the audience, so always keep this at the forefront of your communications.3. Decide whether to use professionals or go it alone4. Create a smart strategyAt the heart of any good PR campaign is a strong strategy. It needs to incorporate all aspects of your business, and be part of the fabric of your operations.
The idea is to give off a consistent and positive image whenever you interact with customers – whether that be through your website, or by securing press coverage for an event.
Creating a timed schedule for press releases and social media postings is important, as is dedicating a certain amount of time to responding to the questions and interactions social media channels generate.
You can use your schedule to plan ahead for upcoming events that are relevant to your sector. By doing this, you can have a pre-prepared reaction, and ship it off to media companies as soon as the announcement is made.
This can be a great way to gain coverage, as immediacy is incredibly valuable for journalists.Here's a top tip – you can prepare multiple press releases for the different possibilities of a future event, and then fire off the most relevant one as soon as the event happens – guaranteeing your view is out there first.5. Start creating targeted press releasesTo give your press releases a chance of being picked up by media, it's important to construct them carefully and distribute to the right people.
The best press releases have a strong news angle, rather than simply being adverts for a business. No newspaper is going to print a story that is solely promotional.Be sure to include relevant quotes – that can easily be used as sound bites – and include all the information a journalist would need to write a story from what you send.
Distribute them to a media list that is relevant to your market, and don't be afraid to fire them off to radio stations and TV channels, while making it clear that you're available for interview.6. Make golden contactsShrinking budgets and dropping readerships mean journalists are spending less time than ever before actually gathering news.
As a result, many are more than happy to receive press releases, and use stories that are pre-prepared in this way. It saves them time and effort in finding their own stories, generating interviews, and doing extra research.
Despite this, the average journalist or editor receives hundreds, if not thousands, of press releases each day. The best way to ensure they click on yours is to make anything you release interesting and newsworthy – of course – but to also try and send it to a focussed list of contacts.
Take the time to research the best people to send your press releases to, and don't be afraid to follow up with a brief phone call to ensure they have received what you've sent. Obviously exercise caution, and don't waste anyone's time, but never be afraid to give journalists a quick call to update them about your situation and plans.Rather than sending your press releases to the generic news desks of publications, find out which journalists write the most relevant articles for your sector.
You can then focus on building valuable relationships with those people.7. Find creative news anglesGenerating stories and angles that will get your press releases noticed can be difficult, so here are a few ways to get your creative juices flowing:
- Are you offering a new product or service?
- Are you approaching an anniversary, such as five years trading?
- Can you identify a problem your customers are facing, and then conduct research or a survey highlighting this issue?
- Can you offer a perspective on a relevant news story?
- Has one of your customers or clients done something newsworthy?
- Do you have a strong opinion on a development in your sector?
8. Use your personal brandIf you have a lot of competitors, and you're all offering roughly the same service, then you need to find something that is unique.One thing you can guarantee is unique about your company is you.By creating and promoting your personal brand alongside your business, you can generate a multi-dimensional PR campaign.If you need an example of this, look no further than Sir Richard Branson. The Virgin boss has 3,209,013 Twitter followers as I type this – Virgin itself has just 76,842.9. Assess how effective your campaign isIf your campaign isn't working, you need to identify that and work out why before you waste too much time on it.On the flip side if it’s working great, try and work out exactly what the sweet spots have been so you can repeat your successes.
Constantly refer to your strategy to assess whether you are meeting your aims and targets or not. Conducting a formal monthly review is a great way to do this. Done well, PR represents a fantastic, cost effective way to ensure your customers are clued up about what you do, and that you are always broadcasting the most beneficial business image.