Public relations is an increasingly important area to consider when running a business. It can help you not just attract new customers, but raise your business profile in general, help attract investment and attract other useful business opportunities.
Dominic Campbell, director of FutureGov, says: “As a growing business, PR is central to our way of marketing. We see it as a way to building key relationships for our projects and spreading awareness of the work we’re doing, so that more customers are aware of our services and more users sign up to our projects.”
While some businesses pay an agency to do their PR and some will take on a communications specialist, it’s perfectly possible to do it yourself.
PR can mean different things to different people, but in general terms it can be defined as methods of getting yourself noticed. Traditionally this would mean approaching media organisations – and this is certainly still a useful approach – but social and other digital media are also increasingly important.
Reporters are the gatekeepers of news, and the key to getting your business some media attention often lies with knowing how to communicate with them. This might seem a little daunting but as long as you have thought through what you are trying to achieve it needn’t be difficult.
“You’ll be surprised, journalists don’t bite and I can assure you that in many cases they would often rather hear from an energetic business owner than a PR trying to spin them the story,” says journalist-turned-PR Nathan Rous.
When getting in touch with reporters, it’s important to bare in mind what their needs are. At the end of the day, the way to get them to use your company in a story is to make life as easy for them as possible.
That means understanding what makes a good news story. You might think your business is groundbreaking but you need to have a good amount of evidence to demonstrate its potential if you want a journalist to write about it.
“I have been approached by many small businesses who think that the fact they have launched a new business is enough ‘news’ to get them in the media”, says Ella Gascoigne of Startup PR. “Unfortunately, it is not that easy.”
Sian Gaskell of PR agency CubanEight adds: “Unlike paid for space, PR is dependent on the media thinking your story is newsworthy enough to run – so a price reduction or special offer is not likely to cut it.”
Businesses can be “newsworthy” in different ways. Anything from the launch of a new product line, to an inspiring life story, a new round of investment or a charity bike ride can be of interest, depending on the audience.
The right publication
It’s really crucial to understand the publications you are targeting. What works for the local press might not be of interest to a trade publication or niche magazine.
A local newspaper, for instance, would take interest in thing affecting normal everyday people. This could be because your business has created new jobs, or because you are offering a new service not available in that area before.
Trade publications will be interested in how your business really stands out from its industry, and if you have a particularly revolutionary way of doing business.
If you’re aiming for a general business title like Real Business, your story is most likely to get picked up if it transcends industries. For instance if you have raised money using a particularly unusual form of finance or have a particularly novel way of keeping employees motivated.
Debbie Zaman of WITH PR says: “Read the media you want to target. Whilst you might have already identified that their readership is a match for your target audience, it is NOT a given that they will want to cover you.
“Look at how each individual magazine or website works and analyse how your product could fit their format.”
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