Communications specialist, Maggie Robinson, Director of Smart Thinking Consultancy, discusses the power of Public Relations (PR).
The relationship between public relations and marketing can be an uneasy one, with both able to argue that the other is a sub-section of their field of expertise. As a result, it can be easy to stick to one and overlook the other.
However, public relations is a really valuable tool for any business and a critical part of the marketing mix.
A quick search online will show that PR can cover a whole wealth of things, from internal communications with staff to lobbying and copywriting, but the main thing that comes to mind is media relations – getting pieces in the press.
A press release is a way to get information to journalists in the hope that they will choose to publish a story about you, whether that’s in print, through broadcast or online. It differs from traditional advertising as you do not pay the journalist to write the piece, you can’t guarantee its inclusion and the version which is published could be re-written by the journalist, at least in part.
So why write a press release? People trust their preferred source of news and are more likely to believe what it says. With traditional advertising, you have complete control of what it says, where it’s said and how it appears, and customers know that. However, journalists use their editorial judgement to decide what their audience want to hear about and whether it’s of significant interest.
Having this journalistic ‘gatekeeper’ leads audiences to trust what they are told – they know the journalist has done the research on their behalf. It’s similar to talking to someone about the car you’re planning to buy – if a close friend recommends it, you’re more likely to take note of what they say than a recommendation from someone you don’t know well and who often travels by bus.
Getting Past the Gatekeeper
A press release is the traditional way of getting information to journalists in an easy-to-digest fashion. It normally contains information about the event, product or topic you’re looking to promote, as well as quotes from significant people, photos and details of how to arrange interviews. As technology has progressed, press releases can also include video clips and links to social media.
As newsrooms get increasingly smaller, press releases are also normally written in such a way that the content can be copied and pasted straight into an article.
The press release makes it clear to the journalist the ‘who, what, where, why, when and how’ of what’s going on and why it’s important or interesting to their audience. It’s this which is the most critical component. Finding the right ‘hook’ can make all the difference between being featured and being dropped.
Why should I get an expert involved?
It is entirely possible that you can secure press or media coverage yourself. However, a professional will have a knowledge of how newsrooms work, will have contacts with relevant journalists and can spot that ‘hook’ to make your business newsworthy.
That third party trust comes into play with journalists too. Newsdesks are inundated with information, lots of it uninteresting or irrelevant. If a journalist is used to dealing with particular marketing or PR agencies and have picked up their stories before, they are more likely to pay attention to the releases they send through, increasing the chances of coverage.
Journalists need contributors too, and if you work with someone who already has an established relationship with the press, it’s more likely you could be offered up as an expert for interview when a relevant subject comes up.
Someone with experience of planning media campaigns can also work to get you consistent, favourable coverage, rather than you becoming a one-hit wonder.
Should I invest in PR as part of my Marketing strategy?
PR is one aspect of the image of your business your customers see. Ideally any PR or media activity should weave into the rest of your marketing strategy, complementing what happens in the rest of your business and maintaining consistency in your key messages and tone of voice. Your PR activities can inform the next steps of your marketing strategy and vice versa.
Whether you choose to approach the media occasionally, or if you want a long-term PR campaign, positive media coverage can make a huge difference to your business, enhancing your reputation and increasing sales.
To find out more about how PR can make your business more visible, contact email@example.com or call Maggie on 07920 143172.