Very few service and product offerings are unique but the one thing that is unique is YOU. So if you want to get your business on the map then very often the best person to focus your promotion work on is yourself. Look at how successfully Sir Richard Branson has created the Virgin brand and that is down largely to him associating his own image with everything that his companies do. You may not have the PR and advertising budget of a billion dollar business but if you are savvy enough about it and you follow the three practical steps outlined below then you could soon be creating waves of excitement for your latest products and services.
1. Create a press list
The best place to start is to review the publications you would like to appear in. You can go to your local business library to review their publications, or if you attend the Women Unlimited business club at the British Library you should go through the wealth of publications they have on their racks. From there you can start to build a list of useful editorial and journalistic contacts. The publications themselves will normally contain the main telephone number of the magazine and often a list of journalist email addresses. My recommendation when starting out is to create a list of around 100 contacts. There’s no harm in having more than one journalist on your list from the same publication.
Once you have gone through your core publications you should start to think more broadly, don’t just dismiss a publication because it’s not in your target group. You might be surprised where golden opportunities to promote your business might emerge.
2. Preparing for the Press
A press pack contains information which gives a journalist a brief overview of you, your business, what you want to say and how to contact you. Your press pack should contain:
This is a promotional summary of your most important highlights and is around 300-400 words in length. It’s similar to the information given about an author on the jacket cover of a book rather than being a full-blown CV.
Having professional photographs of yourself is a must and is worth the investment. I always have both colour and black and white ready as it just makes it easier for the journalist and publication.
Your company in 30 seconds
A boiler plate is a high level paragraph about your business and the services/products you offer and should be around 200 words in length.
Your proof points
Include a list of anything you have published, whether it’s books, articles or academic papers and add the URL links so that journalists can take a look if they want to. In addition, include any videos you have made but don’t worry if you haven’t published anything yet, this is not a requirement just a nice to have.
Include your logo on all documents, contact details and your website address. The only exception is your photos. Remember you are promoting your company at all times.
All of this needs to be in electronic format and if you go to meet a journalist make sure you take your press pack in hard copy format.
3. Making contact
Once you have done all of the above the next step is to approach the press. People do this in a variety of ways, there is no one right way but you need to identify the method that works best for you.
Sending a press release can be a great way to get the ball rolling in terms of raising awareness about your business, products or services, but it needs to be viewed as part of a wider process. You have to follow-up your press release with a telephone call and don’t be put off if they say they are not interested or they haven’t received it – this is all par for the course and the key to success is in being persistent.
There are a few schools of thought as to how often you should send out a press release. Some PR specialists suggest every couple of weeks and others suggest once every 6-8 weeks so that there is a sufficient gap between releases. One thing to bear in mind is that publications cannot be seen to be favouring one service or product provider over another. So if you are sending releases on a regular basis it is unlikely that the same publication will provide continuous coverage.
If you would like a step-by-step guide to writing a press release email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to send you my free guide.
National newspapers and consumer magazines, particularly those with an international profile, generally don’t use by-lined articles and they only print content they’ve commissioned themselves to be written by journalists. However trade and specialist publications are open to the proposition and they can be useful promotional tools for businesses.
If you are interested in writing a by-lined article you need to be prepared to:
- write to a deadline and if you miss it you will have damaged your relationship with the publication and they will probably not extend the offer again
- write to a specific number of words
- have your article changed by the editor without your permission
- have your article dropped or rescheduled at the last-minute if something better comes along for the publication
- not rehash old articles that have been previously published, that will not be well received
If you get your article printed you will know that:
- the editor thinks you have something worth saying
- it could be read by several thousand people
- your name is printed under the headline and this will help build brand awareness for you and your business
To convince an editor to publish your by-lined article you have to write a synopsis about its content. As a good rule of thumb this should be between 200-300 words in length. Send the synopsis to your contact at the publication and then follow-up. Don’t write the article in advance because it’s not uncommon for a publication to give a writer a steer as to what they would like to see included.
This is by far the most time efficient approach for any entrepreneur because journalists get to put a face or at least a voice to your name and that has a positive effect in creating a more solid and potentially lasting relationship.
Journalists will interview you if you have something unique to say, for example, a different angle on an issue that has been floating around your industry, or if you have undertaken some form of research and have some interesting facts to impart. You still have to call and sell your story to them so make sure you have a set of compelling bullet points to hand so that you can persuade them to invest their time in talking to and writing about you.
- If an interview has been set-up, always ask the journalist if it would be possible to have the questions in advance. I have never yet been refused outright but some journalists send a fuller list of questions than others.
- The one thing you should never ask a journalist is for a proof of their article after they’ve interviewed you but before it goes to print. This is strictly off-limits. However, if your interview contains technical information, for example, medical terminology, algorithms or spelling of unusual names then you can offer to provide clarification if required and this might just bag you sight of the article before it goes to print.
- Ask the journalists when the article is likely to appear in print and follow up with them if for any reason it doesn’t; interviews can get rescheduled.
- Sometimes journalists will inadvertently misquote you but you shouldn’t get too hung up on this. It is generally best just to accept the oversight unless it is damaging to you or your business in which case you will need to follow up with the publication.
When used well and executed efficiently, PR is a fantastic tool for spreading the word about you and about your business or set of products or services. However, achieving the results you want in terms of brand awareness and ultimately revenue generation takes time and a consistent effort. It is important to remember though, that journalists and publications of all sorts have deadlines to meet and need to find stories of interest from somewhere. So if you can approach the right people with insightful views on subjects that matter, then your profile and that of your business can be increased dramatically.