Effective Public Relations: A How-To Guide
By Leza Raffel, The Communication Solutions Group, Inc.
With the countless competition out there... how do you make your business stand out? Increasing your marketing efforts is helpful, but what if your resources are limited? When it comes to standing out in the crowd — distinguishing your products or services, staff and experience from all the competition in the area — public relations is a cost-effective marketing tool. But there is one catch... to succeed, P.R. must be conducted correctly. The following guidelines have been designed to put business owners on the road to P.R. success!
Determine Your Unique Selling Point
Consider what makes your business different from others: Is it your philosophy on customer satisfaction? The services you offer? The experience of your staff? These distinct factors are what marketing professionals call your "Unique Selling Points" or USPs. Use them when promoting your business.
Define Your Target Market
Determine who your clients are and/or who you want them to be. Be realistic, not everyone can be in your target market. Consider the population most likely to benefit from your product or service. To this group of individuals your public relations efforts should be directed.
Inform, Don't Sell
While your press release should reflect the unique benefits of your business, it should not be "salesy." Remember, most publications have advertisers who are paying a significant amount of money to promote themselves; why should they give out free advertising space? Informative copy stands the best chance of being published.
Include Important Facts First
Newspapers often have minimal space available for outside submissions. Editors will often cut your copy from the bottom up, if they need to shorten it. For this reason, it is critical that you include the most important data in the first paragraphs of your press release or story.
Select A Geographic Reach
Where are the majority of your prospects located? Selecting the geographic areas you want to serve is a critical step in determining the most appropriate publications in which to place your P.R.
There are countless local newspapers out there, many of which welcome the opportunity to publish press releases and well-written outside articles. Compile a list of the publications that you wish to contact. Check with your library for the most complete directory of local newspapers.
Making A Contact
Before randomly mailing out press releases, call the newspapers where you intend to send them. Make certain that you find out two (2) things: the deadline for outside submissions and the name of a person to whom you should mail it.
Don't Neglect Trade Publications
In addition to the P.R. opportunities provided by local newspapers, don't forget to explore story placement in publications specific to your industry. It is not uncommon for a national trade publication to publish a story that profiles a small company, especially if it has a strong human interest side to it. This is a great way to obtain national exposure at no cost to your company.
Be Prepared For Changes
There are no guarantees that the press release or story you submit will be printed exactly as your office has written it, or even at all. Frequently, editors cut, paste and rewrite the submissions they receive. Other times, press releases are held for months until further developments occur.
Seek A Professional
Implementing a successful Public Relations program is not easy. Good P.R. takes a lot of time, energy and expertise. This is why many businesses prefer to hire a public relations organization to do the job for them. P.R. professionals do all of the legwork involved in selecting the right publications, creating and mailing copy and following up. In many cases, they know the editors, what they want, and how to get it considered for publication. They save you hours and hours of time and frustration by launching your P.R. program for you.
Once you have started a successful P.R. campaign, do not stop! P.R. is a continuous process. You should always strive to reinforce the name of your business again and again!
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