Public Relations Rules of Thumb

Following these public relations rules of thumb will increase the likelihood that your in-house PR efforts are successful.

Define your PR goals and objectives. Then develop a written plan for how you will achieve them. A poorly thought-out, haphazard effort will not get you the results you want.

Be realistic. Understand that it often takes a sustained, ongoing PR effort to get results – especially if you want attention from the national media. You may need to start small by focusing on the media in your immediate area, build a track record with them, and then use it to land higher profile interviews.

Build relationships. Effective public relations is all about relationship building. Here are a few of the ways that you can do that:

-- Only contact those media that you know may be interested in what you are publicizing based on what they have written in the recent past or the topics they focus on during the TV or radio interviews they conduct. If you consistently contact members of the media about topics they never cover and could care less about, you risk alienating them. This could work against you later if are publicizing something that they might in fact find of interest.

-- When the media contact you for information or to schedule an interview, respond right away. Respect their deadlines because they are almost always tight. That means that if you do not respond quickly, they will move on to the next expert.

-- If someone in the media asks you for information, be helpful even if you know that your assistance won't result in any attention for you right away. Your willingness to be helpful may pay you dividends later with that same person.

-- If a member of the media indicates that he/she is not interested in what you are pitching, don't become argumentative or try to change that person’s mind. Graciously accept that person's decision.

-- Say thanks whenever a journalist gives you some positive ink or when you have a good radio or TV interview.

Be newsworthy and interesting. Make sure that what you're trying to publicize will be of interest to the media and is not something that is significant just to you because it relates to your business. The media will not pay attention to your message otherwise, and if you consistently contact the media about "news" that is not truly news, you'll lose all credibility with them eventually.

Get familiar with the specific topics members of the media focus on. What do they write about? What kinds of topics do particular radio and TV interviewers like to discuss? This information is essential to knowing who should pitch about what.

Define your target audience. Knowing exactly who you want to reach through your PR efforts -- parents, business owners, retirees, teenagers, sports enthusiasts, people with money problems, and so on -- will help you identify the particular media you ought to focus on.

Whenever you can, tie what you are publicizing to current events, recent statistics and interesting trends. Putting your news in a broader context will help make it more relevant to the media.

Use short, informative and attention-getting headlines in your press releases. Same goes for the subject lines of the email pitches you send to the media.

Follow up after you contact the media with a pitch. It can make the difference between your getting and not getting the publicity you want.

Here's some more public relations rules of thumb to keep in mind.

Offer to be a resource for the media. Let the media know that they can get in touch whenever they want information for a story they are working on that relates to your area of expertise.

Be prepared with information the media can use. Whether you are doing an interview or acting as an off the record resource for someone in the media, let them know that you can provide relevant statistics, industry trend information, fact sheets, and the like. Also, if you are going to do a radio interview, offer to give them some suggested interview questions ahead of time. Not only will your questions save the show's producer or host precious time, but you will also help ensure that you are asked quality questions during your interview.

Get media training. Media training is an excellent move if you are uncomfortable being in front of a camera or doing media interviews by phone. If you blow an interview, you may not have an opportunity to do another one with the same person again.

Be consistent. The messages you convey through your public relations efforts should be consistent with the actions, services and products of your organization as well as with the image you want to convey. Lack of consistency is apt to undermine your efforts and could compromise your brand.

Integrate your messages. Ensure that your public relations efforts, your advertising and your social media campaigns are integrated. They should all reinforce and complement the other.

Post links. Your your website should include links to podcasts of radio interviews you’ve done, to videos of your TV interviews and to any print attention you’ve received. Post these links on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook too, as appropriate. 

If you found this article of value, you may also enjoy reading my article about public relations mistakes.

Return to top of page: Public Relations Rules of Thumb