Every once and a while it’s a good idea to review the basics of public relations. Doing so helps you be sure that you have not developed any bad habits or overlooked anything that may be undermining your efforts to generate positive attention for your business. Here are my public relations basics expressed as a list of dos and don’ts. What are yours?
• Prepare a written plan that defines your goals and objectives and that details exactly how you will achieve them is a fundamental public relations basic. Poorly thought out, haphazard efforts won’t get you the results you want.
• Make sure that your public relations messages are consistent with the actions, services or products of your business and the way that your employees treat your clients or customers. Saying one thing and doing something else will undermine the impact of those messages.
• Integrate your public relations efforts into your advertising and social media campaigns. They should all work together, reinforcing and complementing one another.
• When you publicize something, make sure that your news is truly interesting and newsworthy. While your news may be a big deal to you, it may have little or no import to the media.
• Focus your efforts. When you are publicizing something, identify exactly who you want to reach and then use that information to zero in on the specific media you should contact. This is a key public relations basic.
• Whenever possible, tie whatever you are publicizing to current events and trends. Make your news relevant to your market. Ask yourself why they should they care about it.
• Make the headlines in your press releases short but informative. The headlines should be interesting enough that the media will want to read them.
• When you contact the media via email, spend time crafting subject lines that will make recipients more apt to open them. Also, keep your messages short and to the point.
• Follow up with the media after you contact them. They are bombarded with information from people just like you -- all wanting their attention. This public relations basic can make the difference between your getting the publicity you want or not.
• Offer to be a resource for the media you want attention from -- someone they can contact anytime for information or for a quote. Also, be prepared to provide the media with fact sheets, statistics, industry trend information, tips and suggested interview questions, among other things. In other words, be useful to them to the media. Don’t always be asking them for something.
• Understand that an effective public relations effort is all about relationship building. That includes building positive relationships with the media and with members of your target market.
• Say thanks. When a member of the media gives you or your business some positive ink or when you have a good radio or TV interview, let that person know you appreciate it. Doing so is part of relationship building.
• Respond right away when the media get in touch. A delay could cause you to miss out on an important opportunity.
• Invest in media training. This will be money well-spent if you are uncomfortable in front of a camera or doing phone interviews.
• During an interview, mention your web site URL. However, don’t sound like an advertisement. Blatant self-promotion will undermine your efforts.
• Incorporate social media into your efforts. Post on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and on other social media sites you are active on podcasts of radio interviews you’ve done, videos of your TV interviews, and links to any print attention you’ve received. Also, post them on your website and write about them on your blog.
• Avoid sending out poorly worded or badly organized press releases or releases with grammatical and/or spelling errors. You’ll undercut your credibility with the media if you do and your mistakes may overshadow your news. Poorly written communications will create a negative image for you and your business. Even so, I've seen a lot of companies ignore this public relations basic.
• Don’t bury the news in a press release by placing it far down in the release. Your news and all of its most critical details belong in the very first paragraph or two of the release. Most media are not going to take the time to read through your release looking for its most salient details.
• Never cut corners by e-blasting your news or by pitching to every person in your media database. It’s a bad idea and a waste of time. You’ll get better results if you figure out exactly which media are most likely to be interested in what you are publicizing. Also, if you constantly send irrelevant information to certain media, they are apt to begin trashing every communication you send, which means that when you do send something that is actually relevant to them they won’t read it.
• Don’t ignore media lead times. Although TV and radio typically have relatively short lead times, monthly magazines work as much as 4 months ahead. So for example, if you would want attention in a particular publication for a Christmas-related product or service or if you have a Christmas-related story idea you’d like to pitch, you may need to contact the appropriate editor as early as late Summer.
• Don't be overly aggressive when you follow up and unwilling to accept "no" for an answer. Although follow up is essential, don't over do it! You'll turn off the very media you are trying to woo because you'll be perceived as a pest.
• Never assume that you’ll get the results you want from the media right away. Sure, there are “overnight successes,” but getting the media to take note of your business can take time, patience and multiple pitches or releases. Polite persistence is often the name of the game. This public relations basic may be frustrating, but it's very true.