You probably recall the recent announcement by the founder of the yogurt company Chobani that employees would be given significant shares of the company when it goes public or is sold. This is clearly a win for the workers who helped build the company, but the feel-good (no cost!) story covered by numerous media outlets is also a major win for Chobani.
People tend to remember, and are often influenced by, what they read in the news. Think about it: You may have created ads that have built brand recognition, but great public relations material that generates news coverage can, unlike advertising, build your credibility — and that credibility can help you stand out from your competition. In addition, over time, positive stories in the news will paint your business as the expert and provide you with much more exposure.
Here are six steps you can take to put your public relations plan in action:
1. Set a goal.
First, decide what the endgame is. Your goal may be name recognition in your community. You may want to be seen as the local expert or may want to be featured in a trade journal with the potential to reach a larger audience of your peers. Do you want to be interviewed or quoted? Do you want your hotel chain or restaurant to be featured on the cover of a local or national magazine? Once you have a goal in mind, you can plan to win!
2. Know your audience and your media outlets.
Who are you trying to reach? Through what newspapers, journals, magazines, and other news sources can you reach your target market? Determine what type of stories various media outlets print. Can you provide them with the “news” they want? Review contact information for newspapers and magazines that you think will be a good fit, and decide which person will be your best contact. Depending upon what you are trying to achieve, that person could be the editor, the art director, a department or calendar editor, or perhaps a personal contact who can help you to make connections.
3. Generate ideas.
Think of ideas that will appeal to specific journalists and your target audience. What types of announcements can you make? Send the date, time, and subject of an upcoming talk to a local group or event for the calendar section of a local newspaper. Have your photo taken and send that and a few paragraphs to the editor after the event. New products, new services, how-tos and other informative information, the completion of a major job, new clients, industry or community awards, community service, industry survey results, new hires, new pricing, a bio or profile, industry trends, holiday specials — all of these and more are good subjects for press releases.[SH2]
4. Create a plan.
Know when you would like a specific piece placed and where, and keeping lead times in mind, create your schedule. A local newspaper may only require lead time of a week or two, but some journals or magazines could require six months or more. (For example, Christmas ideas may need to be pitched as early as July for magazines, while items like new hires or a free offer can be published in the local paper soon after release.) To better monitor your efforts, create a spreadsheet listing the month, topic, target media, target run date and actual run date. You can slate a different story for each month, and submit it far enough in advance to give your business the best exposure. Keeping track of run dates gives you a better sense of the newspaper’s ability to respond and also shows what you’ve accomplished. You can generally reprint stories (with the paper’s permission of course!) to use for future marketing endeavors.
5. Be persistent and network with journalists.
Whether you want to see a number of articles placed in one or several media sources or a single article printed in a magazine, expect that your initial efforts may be overlooked. Communicate regularly with your target media sources and create relationships with the media to ensure success. If your first submission is not printed, continue to send material monthly to your chosen media outlets; you and your business will become more familiar to them over time. Eventually your persistence will pay off. Know what types of news your contact is looking for. A short conversation with the editor or journalist can help you refocus your efforts in the right direction.
6. Write it up and send it off!
Make sure your material is well written and professional. Remember, your PR announcement should be “newsworthy,” so write in the third person and keep the tone factual. This is no place for hype or a sales pitch. Follow a customary format for your press releases; it will make the editor’s job easier and showcase your professionalism.
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