Why is PR coverage important for small businesses?

Last week I posted an article about Influencer Marketing and here I am now writing about PR. Interestingly the two things are very closely related. I’m pretending this is a plan, but it’s really just a lucky coincidence!

Good PR coverage is, in fact, just a more complex form of influencer marketing. It can be a short cut to developing a ‘know, like, trust’ relationship with your audience, because newspaper, blog and magazine readers tend to trust the opinions of their preferred publication.

Some critical points to remember about securing PR Coverage:

  1. Decide whether you want to try your hand with local press or national press.

The approaches will be different. For national press you’ll need a story with national interest. For local press you need a story with local interest – this could involve a local landmark, famous figure, charity, event etc. For trade press or bloggers you can get more technical and write something that appeals to those with insider knowledge on your product or service. (Seems obvious when I write this down, but lots of people don’t get the distinctions here.)

  1. Have a story, or a ‘campaign hook’.

You might have developed a process or product that is totally new and changes how your industry works; you are building on a big story that’s already in the press; you are doing something in a different and interesting way. Or you could develop a ‘report’ about a topic that isn’t being covered already. These are news ‘stories’. Bring your story to life by showing how your business is impacting the lives of other people, helping people financially, supporting other businesses, etc. What’s the human angle? If it’s not interesting outside your business, it won’t get coverage. No journalist will want to write about how ‘The Sussex Widget Company has developed a new-fangled widget’. 

  1. Use a PR adviser if at all possible.

PR experts are experts for a reason. They understand how the press works and how to create a campaign hook. They’ve spent years building relationships with their chosen segment of journalists (whether that’s local, national or both) and know how to talk up a story for each individual writer within their circle of contacts. They can also keep you within the right timeline. Features editors will often have their Christmas gift guides wrapped up in July! Trade magazines will have a forward features guide and you could start speaking to them months in advance of an article. PR consultants stay on top of these timing issues for you.

  1. Create a press release

But, don’t expect journalists to be interested in it, unless you are really making history. A press release is a conversation starter. It’s an opening gambit to whet the appetite, or a source that journalists can refer back to when they are writing on deadline (which is all the time, by the way). If your story is big enough, they will expect to talk to you to bulk up the content in the press release, or give them an angle that all their competing writers from other publications haven’t got, so…

  1. Be prepared to speak to the press.

But, if you can’t slickly articulate your message, don’t rush in. Either find someone else in your business who CAN do it, or get some press training. Some tips for talking to journalists: be charming. Be as helpful as possible. Help them get to grips with a difficult topic, or give them ideas for lots of other stories – journalists need to be good at learning about things very quickly, and if you can short-circuit this process for them, you are golden. Don’t gossip. Never reveal anything that you don’t want printed – ‘off the record’ doesn’t really exist for normal people.

  1. Be available.

Creating a big story and releasing it to the press just before you go on holiday, or even out of contact at the theatre, could be a disaster. Make sure that you are available to make a comment for a couple of days afterwards, even early in the morning or late into the evening. Keep your phone turned on.

  1. Don’t expect to ‘see copy’.

Lots of businesses go into this game saying that they’re happy to talk to a journalist as long as they get to see what they are going to print. This VERY rarely happens. In fact, in 18 years I’ve NEVER seen it happen. Usually deadlines are so short, there simply isn’t time for you to read what’s been written and send your amends back.

  1. Supply pictures.

If you add some fantastic, eye catching images to support your story you’ll have a bigger impact. Particularly if they feature people. A very lovely, local PR expert recently told me that some papers have a ‘face count’ – a target number of faces to get into their paper each week. The more faces in the paper, the more proud mums, dads and relations who will buy it. Simple stuff eh? 

  1. Be prepared to see errors.

Journalists learn fast and write fast. They do their best to be accurate, and sometimes will call you back to check a fact, but they don’t always get every tiny detail right. Be prepared for this. Your business is your baby and it’s hard to accept even a small mistake, but it’s usually not a disaster and isn’t worth asking for a retraction or a change in the content, unless they can update an online version. Most readers won’t remember much detail of what they’ve read in any case.

  1. If all this is bringing out your inner control freak, go down the paid-for editorial route.

Plenty of publications, especially trade or local press will allow you to pay to have a prewritten article in their publication. Get a professional writer to check your work (or write it from scratch) and make sure you meet the deadline. An editor who doesn’t have your piece in time will be pretty cheesed off if they have to buy something in or draft something themselves at the last minute. You won’t be popular.

For help with any of this, or advice on finding a PR consultant, get in touch.