When is the right time to start a PR Plan?
The answer is NOW. It doesn't matter if you are "Joe's Bike Shop" or a multi-national conglomerate - almost every business has a story to tell. It is never too early to start a PR Plan.
If you realize that there are things you don't know about your industry - take the time to learn. Also, once you embark on a PR Plan, make sure you read the newspaper every day. Don't forget about your industry trade magazines as well.
Many daily newspapers and trade publications have clipping services available that allow you to view the news headlines and stories that only you are interested in. You can sign up on-line for this service at the publication's web site, as it is important to stay informed. You can also set up search criteria in "Google News". This is a great way to stay on top of news coverage in your industry as well as what news coverage your competitors are enjoying.
Who do I target with my PR Plan?
First, decide who makes up your target audience. This would include your customers, investors (if you have any) and usually your local community. Now, find out what publications they read and what radio and television stations they prefer. If your target demographic is the stay-at-home mom between the ages of 29-45, you may want to target lifestyle magazines, fashion magazines, parenting magazines, home and lifestyle shows, the Oprah show and parenting sections of the local and national newspaper. The list could be more extensive depending on what you are selling.
If you are in a particular industry, such as technology, you would want to target technology publications that write about your product or service, technology sections of the local and national newspapers, major magazines about technology and the various technology reporters for the news programming and specialty shows (Tech TV).
You would also want to target trade shows, either for display or speaking opportunities, as well as conferences if you can present an interesting topic that is relevant to the conference. Local Boards of Trade/Commerce are also good places to approach.
Where do I start?
For some reason, there's a misconception that the way to get publicity is to write a catchy press/media release and then send it out to thousands of editors.
Under this perception, the more editors you get on your list, the higher your probability of success.
While this may occasionally be true, in most cases, PR is not about scattering your message to anyone and everyone; it's about carefully seeding your pitches to the right people, the people who control the media you most want exposure in, with specialty pitches designed just for them. In other words, it's all about relationships.
In sales, there are many strategies that stress the idea of collaborating with the customer. Since PR is arguably a sales process (selling the media on covering your story instead of someone else's), PR success rates increase considerably with your ability to collaborate with your customer - in this case, the editors, journalists, and producers who control access to the media audience you are trying to reach.
These gatekeepers are more likely to choose to cover your story if you develop a relationship with them and work to understand their needs. This means knowing their editorial deadlines or production schedules, being highly responsive, getting interviews with the right people and providing the right information at the right time.
How do I start a PR Program?
Begin by outlining the steps you need to take to get the media interested in what you are doing.
Put together a calendar and plot the times of year that your business has the best chance of finding its way into the news (story lines). For example, the start of the holiday season in November/December is a great time to be featured in industry news stories about on-line shopping. The close of a financial year is a good time to pitch a story about "Tax Tips" or "How to Claim Expenses".
Decide what type of newsworthy angles you could add in to get the journalists' attention. In short, create a document of "Top Stories" and plan the timing for distribution.
Think about how you can make it easier for journalists to contact you and how they can have easier access to what your company has done in the past to generate exposure. Almost every major company has a media room section on their web site. Build your own media room, complete with a media release section in chronological order and post the name, full street address, phone numbers, and e-mail address of your company.
You will find that making this information easily available to the media is a huge benefit when you send out future media releases since it gives them a resource to do a little bit of research before they contact you.
Become the voice of your company, and have reporters come to you for your analysis and interpretation of trends within the marketplace. It is easier than you think it is. Most media professionals are overworked and on a deadline. You can be a go-to expert just by being available and providing relevant comments and opinions.
Once you implement this strategy, you are likely to find your name mentioned on various web sites and in magazines that you hadn't even thought to target with company news. Sure, there are times when your media releases get less exposure than you'd like, but that's the nature of the business. More than anything else, you will learn to be flexible if you are going to stay ahead of the game. It may mean having to adjust your strategy in a year, or even after six months, to make it more effective.
Leanne Bucaro, co-CEO of Infinity Communications, is a public relations professional with more than 15 years of experience in communications and media.
Visit her website