Effective communications start with a strong story or news angle that is meaningful and will resonate with your audience. Through a targeted approach, you will reach the right audiences with your messages and help positively shape their perceptions of your company and offerings. If done well, these people can become great advocates in helping influence perceptions for future customers.
Public relations can be an effective tool to convey a variety of messages or news announcements, such as a new product or service offering, a story about how one of your customers may have been positively impacted by your offerings, or a trend piece from your CEO on industry best-practices.
It’s important to recognize though that public relations isn’t about broadcasting through a flurry of press releases, hoping a channel or two will pick up your message. Effective communications is about telling the right story, to the right audience, at the right time.
When identifying the right channels to conduct outreach, it’s also important to recognize that positively influencing perceptions with your audience extends beyond traditional print and online media. In today’s increasingly fast-paced and digital world, social media is another important channel to consider when generating awareness and managing perceptions. It may seem overwhelming at first to listen to all of the conversations about your business, but good communications, done right, can be a highly effective way to insert your voice into the discussion and help positively guide conversations.
To get a better idea how PR can help you tell your story and grow your business, check out this clip from my conversation with Marc Lauricella, Senior Communications Manager, Microsoft:
The first step to consider is if you want PR to be a part of your marketing strategy. You can handle PR in-house, if you have the team to do it, or you can choose to hire an agency, if budget allows. Whichever path you choose, you’ll still need to build a solid approach that will produce the results you’re looking for:
1. Tell a story your audience will care about.
Is your story something that will be impactful to your target audience? For example, “We have the best products in the marketplace” may not resonate, but “Our customers’ lives were transformed through our technology” could! Find the reason readers will be interested in your story (and if interest doesn’t exist, you shouldn’t be telling it!) and the right angle to bring them in.
Before you begin pitching your story to key influencers, determine your objective and goals. Are you trying to generate brand awareness, announce a new product, launch an event? Make sure you identify a story angle that helps you accomplish that business goal.
A tip: While crafting your story, keep in mind that the most impactful coverage you get through outreach is earned publicity, not publicity you’ve paid for, like an advertisement. Because it’s earned, it’s generally considered more credible by your audience. This is your chance to really land your intended messages!
2. Meet your customers where they already are.
Next, you’ll want to be sure your story lands in front of the readers you want to attract, so do your research to identify the most effective channels where your target audience regularly consumes information.
If you’re targeting a particular vertical, consider industry specific journals or blogs. They may have smaller readerships than a major outlet like The New York Times, but the chances of getting your story published and read by high-quality prospects are far greater.
3. Make the right pitch to the right person.
Once you know what channels you want your story in, determine which influencers (journalist, editor, blogger, etc.) to approach, then see what requirements are needed to make for a successful story.
Sometimes a phone call might be sufficient to pitch your story, while others may prefer receiving the information via a written pitch or traditional press release. Look for submission guidelines like these from VentureBeat or even copy templates like this one from Hubspot. Some publications will want to write the story themselves, others may be thrilled with a polished draft from you.
To have your story taken seriously, you’ll want to know as many of these details as possible before formally reaching out to any of your targeted influencers.
4. Shamelessly self-promote.
After your story has published, don’t stop promoting! Spread the story through your personal and business social channels; add a link on your website and in your newsletter. Share it with your employees and ask influencers to spread it to their followers.
5. Maintain relationships with media professionals.
In an era where ads can easily be blocked or simply be skipped, the advantages of good public relations are greater than ever.
Ease the challenges of modern marketing for both yourself and your team by maintaining the relationships you build throughout your PR efforts. Media professionals love sources they can count on for timely, interesting and accurate stories, so be that source! Here’s how:
- Be reliable. Deliver the story you promised, and deliver it on time.
- Be accurate. I can’t say this enough: double- and triple-check your facts. Provide credible sources. Proofread. Even in preliminary drafts, copy, typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors can hurt your credibility.
- Be respectful. Bloggers are journalists, often powerful and well-respected in their fields, so treat them accordingly!
- Be polite. If a publication passes on your story this time, accept it gracefully and move to the next outlet on your list.
- Be aware of the rules and stick to them. If a publication says they’ll only print original content, then don’t send them something that’s been published elsewhere. If you’re going to reprint or link to an article, get the original publisher’s permission. If you send images or text to a publisher, be sure you have the rights to that material, free and clear.
Telling your story may take a little work, but it’s an important part of building your brand the way you want it built. Our partners do great work, so get the word out, and enjoy the additional lift that a really good public relations campaign can bring!