What is public relations? Clients, friends and relatives ask us this question all the time. Most have a vague idea that public relations fits under the marketing umbrella and that is somehow involves press releases. However, more often than not we get the following response: “Oh PR, how nice. So what is it exactly that you do?”
In response to this question we like to respond that public relations is the art of storytelling and building relationships – with the media, influencers, and strategic partners, to name a few. Today, we’ll be talking about the media relations and publicity side of PR, though PR is so much more than just getting your story in the news.
Many businesses know that they need to write a press release when they have big news to share. And so they do, and then post it on their website, or maybe even use a wire service, and then wonder why the local newspaper never covered their story. Anyone can write a press release, that’s the easy part. Getting media to cover the story is the art form. Though we certainly can’t give away all our secrets, here are a few items that help us earn our clients coverage.
- Relevancy. An oft ignored fact of PR is that although the news you want to share is the most important thing that has happened to your company, it may not be that relevant or interesting to the general public. With each story we find a way to make the news relevant and timely, and ultimately tell it in a way that people will care about.
- The pitch. PR professionals are salespeople in a way. In situations where relevancy is an issue, we brainstorm different story angles that make sense for each publication and pitch article ideas that would be of interest to the publication’s specific audience and demographic. This tactic often results in a slightly different story than what is described in the press release, but the company name and news still finds its way into the article.
- Relationships. Most business owners will tell you that they have found success from building strong relationships with their vendors, clients, and distributors. The same is true with public relations. We invest a lot of time and energy building relationships with the media, influencers and strategic partners. Your average reporter gets hundreds of emails each day so having a relationship with said reporter helps ensure your email is the one that gets opened.
- Knowing the rules. There is a very delicate balance between providing gentle reminders and being a nuisance. After the reporter has responded to the initial pitch, it is often necessary to follow up in order to keep the story top of mind, but 15 phone calls over the span of three days is not the way to get your story published. In fact, we can almost guarantee it’ll have the opposite effect.
Of course a little bit of luck helps in the end as well. But most media coverage results from a lot of hard work, thoughtful approach, and individualized outreach to the press. Sure, posting your press release on the wire might get you a backlink to your website, a few page views from random individuals in India, and a link to post on your Facebook page, but it probably won’t garner the cover story. Again, in the end, PR is about strategy and relationships and should be viewed as a long-term marketing investment.
Diana Crawford is a seasoned public relations consultant with more than 15 years of agency, consulting, and in-house experience. She joined Orapin in 2013 and manages account services and client communications strategy development. She has worked across a variety of sectors and has expertise with professional services, food/alcohol, health and wellness, lifestyle, sports, education, tech, and non-profit industries.