The world of PR can seem like a scary place, often dressed up to look like a time-sucker when all you want to do is tell people who you are and what you do and what you sell, writes Sarah Hawes, FSB member and PR partner to Business Vision Live 2019.
You’ll meet PRs who make it all sound so complicated with talk of being disruptive, building buzz, creating engagement, game-changing this, positioning that and generally confusing the hell out of you playing jargon bingo. But – strip it back to basics and you can get a reasonable grip on your company’s PR yourself with just a few simple steps. And it’s worth getting to grips with some of this stuff because a bit of organised PR can do wonders for you and your brand.
Have you ever found someone on LinkedIn and their profile is awful? Bad or no photos, bits not filled in, basic information that makes no sense and gives you no actual details of what they do or most importantly, what they can do for you?
What about social media timelines – those ones where they’ve not posted for absolutely ages, or they’ve filled their timeline for the last three weeks with retweets and shares because they didn’t have time to write their own content? Don’t updated timelines look so much nicer?
Websites are also often a bad PR exercise too – old and out of date websites make you and your company look terrible! If I go onto a website and the last blog or news piece is from several months ago or worst still, months, I’m not filled with confidence – but I do also think to myself, ‘perhaps they are busy getting their business work done’. Other visitors to the site may not be so forgiving though! But when you see a nice, shiny, updated website with relevant and recent information your confidence in that company is much higher.
Literature is also important – I’ve been handed leaflets before with an apology for the number being wrong, the website hand-written on or scribbled for me because it’s not there. Often this because they’re using up their old leaflets before they get the new ones. Honestly, this looks awful reputation-wise! Just get new leaflets done and printed and bin your old ones. For the sake of a few pounds (and I do know that every pound is precious for a small business), replace them and hand out nice shiny new ones. It gives a much better look.
All of these are part of your PR armoury – and done badly can affect how people perceive you. Your reputation could be really strong when people meet you but ‘on paper’, you could be doing yourself a real disservice!
Before you start:
Before you get going on any PR, you need to step back a bit and work out what you’re doing it all for!
Work out what your goals are:
Sell more products
Reach a larger audience
Become known as an expert
Increase your visibility to your target market/peers
Decide what you want to say – your message, as we say in the industry!
Why they need your service
What it will bring to their life – the benefit to them
Your ‘USP’ – Unique Selling Point’ – why you’re different to your competitors
How you can do it:
Write a press release or pitch your idea to a journalist/magazine/website. If you don’t know how to write a press release, don’t worry – you can do a pitch instead. Journalists are keen to hear your ideas but only have a short amount of time to find out what it is and if it’s relevant to them. So don’t attempt a press release if you haven’t got a clue and also, don’t email them a long and waffling fairy tale – get straight to the point, letting them know why it’s different, what the story is and what you can offer them – a free trial, experience, interview, photos, filming etc.
You can do a quick intro followed by bullet points – it’s OK! If you haven’t told them in the first two sentences what they need to know, they will quite quickly press ‘delete’.
You can use social media to repeat the messages from your press release/pitch. But don’t just do it once – find lots of different ways to say the same thing. Present it in different ways, use different images and ideas.
I use scheduling tools – HootSuite and ContentCal are the ones I like so that I can schedule the posts to go out at regular intervals. But make sure you keep an eye on the notifications and reply to people to comment on the posts – this is the scary bit called ‘engagement’! Don’t leave people hanging – answer them and get a conversation going!
You can then use your pitch/PR to create a news story or blog on your website. It will give you some updated content and also when you post on social media, you can summarise the info and pop the URL link for the news page on the post and send people back to your website to read more. It’ll increase traffic to your website and they are likely to have a little nose around too.
If you’re networking, try to get your PR messages into the conversations. I’ve recently added a few new ‘products’ to my offering and so I’ve made sure to mention them if the opportunity has arisen in various conversations at networking and business meetings etc.
I know what you’re thinking now after all that… ‘That’s great Sarah…but how will I find time to do all of this then?’ I know, I know, I do this all day, every day, so to me it’s easy and I know it may seem scary to read all of this but if you do the planning, I promise you the rest will come easily!
Here’s your summary:
- What are the goals of your PR?
- What do you want to say?
- Plan – what you’re going to say, when and how.
- Squeeze as much out of your PR as you can.
- Be frequent.
- Be consistent
Choose a month, spend some time planning and get your PR out there – see how you get on.