Know what you want to achieve
It’s not uncommon to hear business owners say that PR didn’t work for them. I’ve heard plenty say this about social media too. Social media is a waste of time, you get nothing from it, and similar kinds of statements. My first reaction, and yours I’m sure, would be to try and find out the way they wanted these things to work for them in the first place.
Sometimes we can put metrics in place to measure the effectiveness of aspects of our marketing. There is much action research that can be done with email marketing to establish which headlines work best, which subject lines work best and which kinds of messages gain most traction. The Cision PR tools we have at our disposal (the most powerful software suite available to the PR industry) tell us straightaway how much coverage we have achieved for our clients. But sometimes this kind of quantifying is not possible, or even desirable.
It is perfectly possible to achieve a good level of free editorial PR, but it is important to remember that we must clearly identify our target outlets, and understand them thoroughly too. There needs to be genuine synergy between your PR objectives and the outlet’s editorial objectives. This is such an important point to bear in mind during list-building.
Biggest is usually not best, just as precise targeting is far more effective than pattern-bombing. Once you’ve identified good target outlets, do your best to get to know the editors who are going to help you. No matter how things change in editorial PR, there will always be one constant: PR agents and their clients must dance to the tune of editors and journalists.
What’s your story?
Sometimes businesses try for free PR and fail. They may then be tempted to write the process off as a waste of time, but they would be better advised to spend time evaluating their activities and asking some fundamental questions. The most obvious of these would be: did you identify a story which was likely to be of interest to the target publication. More specifically – did you actually take a close look at the publication and see if you could offer it something of value?
Then look again at story. Could there some kind of angle not previously thought about? Stories sometimes take a bit of digging. Once you’ve identified the story, look closely at your release. Was it well crafted?
The release itself
THE most important aspect of writing a press release is the old ‘upside down pyramid’ idea. You must lead with the main point of the story. This is the opposite of the ‘settle back and let the story unfold’ scenario. In the press release, you must make sure that the headline encapsulates the main point of the story in a pithy, newsy and intriguing way. As you go through the release, adding details and colour, you also add credibility by inserting quotes from the main people involved. Then provide contact details and points for editors to follow up.
In the vast majority of cases, it is important to send a picture with your release. The words are half the job, pictures are the other half. If you have a relevant, hi-res shot to go with the story, you will really boost your chances of achieving coverage. If it’s for print, decent resolution is vital.
What’s in it for me?
OK yes, you’re only sending this release because you want publicity for your company or client. But this bit must go last, and be on the ‘back-end’ of the main story. Otherwise your release gets chucked in the bin because it’s seen as overtly promotional. But never mind, you can still get a solid plug, with details of the company and a bit of background too. If you get the name of the company in front of its relevant audience, you’ve succeeded.
So, a few thoughts about obtaining free press coverage, which I hope you found useful. This is the kind of work we do every day and we regularly achieve excellent coverage for our clients. Read this excellent piece by Guy Kawasaki, which develops some of these points in more detail.