Of the many channels of marketing, public relations is one that no business should ignore. And because PR is nearly free, that makes it an ideal channel for small and start-up businesses.
So how do you get your company and/or product mentioned on television and in the newspapers? You start by understanding what they are looking for. Generally speaking, they are looking for two things:
• News about subjects their readers are already interested in - which is usually not you.
• Captivating and/or curious tidbits to fill in the gaps.
It is only into this second category of "news" coverage that you can hope to find a welcome place for your public relations campaigns.
It's unlikely that the media will be interested in any sort of news about your business. Yes you may be able to get news about your company published in an industry trade journal, but what good is that? Your customers aren't reading trade journals. They are watching TV and reading USA Today.
So begin with this: What you won't do. You won't waste your time and resources sending out press releases to the national media about company news. And if you do announce corporate news in industry periodicals, it will not be with any hope that it will boost your sales.
What you will do is figure out, first and foremost, which news media you want to be in, and then figure out how to create curious and captivating stories that relate to your business.
To figure out how to create successful stories, you have to know the media you want to reach and understand what kind of stories their audience delights in. That's actually pretty simple to do. Just see what they have used in the past.
If you want your story to be picked up by USA Today, for example, you might consider coming up with one that ties into a current trend. If you study USA Today, you will see that most of the smaller, human-interest stories are angled that way. The editors at USA Today know what they are doing. They can't compete with The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal in terms of serious news, but they tend to overtake them when it comes to social fads of almost every type. In the health area, for example, USA Today keeps tabs on all the trendy diet and exercise programs. They don't care so much about the scientific import of diet and exercise, but they do care about the kind of diet and exercise that's growing in popularity.
If your media target is specialized periodicals, maybe about golf or electronics or office furniture, you will have to study the best-read publications that go to the consumer you are trying to reach.
If one of those publications likes to run stories about industry statistics, for example, you could do your own industry study and tie that into your product in some creative way. The study needn't be exhaustive in terms of research. Such publications are seldom as concerned with the quality of the research as they are with the interest it will create with their readers.
So it's very important to target your press releases to the specific publications and media outlets whose audiences you want to reach. Rather than sending out 1,000 general press releases about a story that has general appeal, it's much more effective to send out a dozen or so targeted press releases containing stories that are exactly right for the intended consumers.
And while we're on the subject of targeting your press releases, let's observe a parallel truth about successful publicity today: Sending your releases to an individualized list of 100 people with whom you have talked or corresponded is infinitely more effective than buying a list of 10,000 people who don't know you from a hole in the ground.
Public relations today, like marketing and advertising, is much more effective when it's done with intelligence, personalization, and individualization.
Taking Advantage of What You've Got
The rise of Internet communications has changed much of the world of marketing, advertising, and public relations. The fundamental rules of selling still apply, but many of the rules of marketing and PR are different now, because of all the ways there are to reach consumers online.
Just 20 years ago, there were only 50 sites on the World Wide Web. Today, there are hundreds of millions. What that means, in terms of public relations, is that there are literally millions of ways to promote your company and product for free!
And the new rules of Internet publicity are the same as the new rules of print and media publicity:
• Target a very specific audience
• Find out exactly what kinds of stories they enjoy
• Create a story that they might be interested in
• Tie that story to your product in a clever way
• Develop a list of personal PR contacts
• Focus 80 percent of your energy and resources on the 20 percent of the media market that you know well, especially the people in the business who know you and are likely to help you
So have fun with your next PR campaign. Your customers and prospects will appreciate and remember you while your bottom line grows.