Public Relations is all about building relationships with the company, whether you’re a sole proprietor or a Fortune 500 corporation. This graphic shows the basics for the small business owner. Public relations practices aren’t limited to these four. Not included are government relations, employee relations, donor/member relations, multicultural relations and any other “public” you can think of. Other work includes crisis communication and planning, speeches, events, etc. All require brand development, strategic planning and message development-no matter the company size.
The folks over at PR News do a great job of mini Q&A sessions with keynotes as part of their promotion for seminars. It’s a great PR tactic in and of itself. In their latest post Comcast PR Veteran Walter Neary was interviewed. He mentioned how he hopes one day using social media to reach reporters and bloggers stops being “special”. I agree. If you want to reach the news you need to know where the news people are. More and more tweet, blog or host FB posts. Some base their tool on company requirements, some base their tool on personal preference. Either way, no different reaching out to media on their platforms than if you called, emailed, or met them at the grocery story or local event. All that has changed is the channel of communication. What hasn’t changed is some basic elements:
- Know the reporter/editor’s beat (topics covered)
- Understand their style-each will tell their story their way, not yours
- Provide facts and resources to back those facts up
- Respect their deadlines–just because social media as well as media is 24/7/365 doesn’t mean there aren’t deadlines
- Build a relationship-sending media releases blindly and never communicating not likely to get you covered. Especially in the social media realm.
We cannot afford to keep blinders on about the race to reach media. If you aren’t on social media, you’d better catch up. If you don’t know how to talk to any media, social or otherwise, you’d better catch up. Or you won’t know what hit you when the Google glasses arrive.
The definition of journalism seems erroneously linked to solely to newspapers or magazines. While newspapers and magazines have been the traditional channels for accessing the fruits of journalism, they aren’t what defines journalism. Journalism is the gathering of news and dispensing that information to the people. It is the direct presentation of facts. It’s communication that appeals to the public interest. It definitely isn’t DYING.
Newspapers are transforming, but not dying. There may come a day when they aren’t printed on paper or no longer are delivered to a doorstep, but daily and weekly news gatherers are shifting to be hourly investigators. The new info updated to online sources by the minute.
The need for news and investigation is certainly not dying. We really have the opposite–an insatiable 24/7/365 appetite for information. What’s critically important is the need to train up and coming journalists in critical thinking, deft writing, ethics and neutrality. We need Public Relations pros trained as journalists, to keep the integrity of news balanced with information about businesses, governments or non-profits.
My trip to Kyrgyzstan reminded me how true that challenge remains across the globe. Nearly 50 papers are flourishing in the capital of Bishkek. The challenge is ownership and ethics. Nearly all papers are owned by businessmen or politicians using the newspapers as propaganda rags to highlight their own agendas. Yet the Kyrgyz people are able to glean the truth as they know the biases of each publication. Journalists created a Non Government Organization which seeks funding to assure the ethical and non-biased reporting and accuracy by new journalists in the flourish of news. I was struck by the similarities here-divided media showing bias on both sides of the political spectrum. But traditional non biased news gathering still exists in the dailies and the weeklies in local news. And in some of the national publications. Some bloggers are doing excellent investigative journalism and some are just hacks not checking facts. We just need to know the difference as consumers, as business owners, as public relations professionals and as journalists.
Bloggers are media. They have more and more influence and reach than ever. You can be a blogger and follow blogs. Dip your toe in the blog water and just join a blogging group. You can participate on several blogging groups such as Blogher, DivineCaroline, Betterfly. Follow those bloggers who match your interests, business type, etc. Then you can get a feel for connecting to them. When you want to pitch them, make sure you do your homework. Just like with traditional media sources you’ll want to know
- the blogger’s audience-who reads them
- their reach-where else besides their blog can you find them: books, media outlets, social media
- their look and style. The Blaspheming Bitch is delicious, but may not be for your business audience
- what their criteria is for working with them. The best interchange I’ve seen is from TheBloggess. She was pitched to cover a celebrity. She doesn’t do celebrity endorsements. She gets so many of them that she has a standard, if snarky, reply. Great advice. Someone took offense to receiving the Will Wheaton collating paper photo. She wrote a blog on the worst PR pitch that got the PR firm fired for the way it was unprofessionally handled. Just a warning, she swears. A lot. So do I, just not usually on my blog.
- Just as with regular media, don’t try to get the bloggers to be your personal salesman or pitch woman. They don’t do that.
Media relations is crucial to attaining publicity. Reporters don’t know everyone or everything, but they kind of need to. My relationships with reporters have led to some odd or unexpected articles. I’m an expert in women’s rights, women’s health care services, and public relations strategies. I know a little something about Nevada politics. I can whip up an election strategy, a grassroots campaign and churn out voters. I can talk about sex, religion or politics-often in the same speech. I happen to be Wiccan. These random skills or facts have lead to articles–I had a reporter ask me to call a colleague because he needed to know if Wiccans sacrifice black cats for a Halloween story. (We don’t-we actually don’t sacrifice anything. Tenet is “harm none”.) And no, I don’t wear a conical hat.
Media, from print to broadcast to bloggers, keep track of “experts”. You never know when a reporter needs a gardener, an accountant, a biologist, a machinist. Business reporters need to know resources in the varied industries within their community–they don’t know your business exists unless you reach out to them.
One step is to send them just a fact sheet about your services and expertise. Include employee skills if they have unique skills or expertise. A women’s health center may provide a list of experts including fundraising, Medicaid negotiations, public policy impacts to women’s health, how to negotiate a relationship, how and when to talk to your teen about sex. Oh yeah, and provide medical experts on women’s health. Look for those skills. Then make a list and share with a reporter. Understand which reporter needs this kind of information–target your media audience whether it’s the health reporter, business editor, photojournalist. Provide contact information. Add links to websites or blogs if you have them. Just balance providing information–you don’t need to dump everything you know, or they’ll just dump the information into the trash.
Then follow up. Set up a few minutes to call and talk about news story ideas. It’s how you can get published.
Enter a contest to win $25,000. That’s what the local Reno Veterans’ Guest House did. And they asked the community to help. The Home Depot Foundation apparently runs a contest once a month and gives back to the winning charity $25k in gift cards. The votes come through Facebook and Twitter (links to the FB page). In order to vote you have to “Like” the Home Depot Foundation. A great way for HDF to capture followers.
But here’s why it worked for REno Veterans Guest House. They clearly had a plan. They utilized skills from some local public relations pros. Staff and publicists for Veterans Guest House posted on Facebook seeking vote.s They provided simple instructions in a post. They shared samples stories like starting because a vet’s wife and kids slept in their car while the vet was in hospital cause they couldn’t afford hotel fees. And they properly tagged links to the Home Dept Foundation page; links and comments on their friends pages, groups.Lesson-take advantage of your relationships and post in appropriate group discussions.
They also sent instructions via LinkedIn. They emailed a letter to every person on their personal lists and asked people to forward. I did. My audiences are not the same on FB and LinkedIn-some overlap. But different people use different tools. So their plan covered their bases.
They also pitched local media. So a news station covered the contest, as did a radio station.More than once. The newspaper printed the contest. And that’s just the media I was paying attention to.
And the contest started to get close. Several PR pros took up the challenge-many of us have reasons to love vets. I posted daily on my personal Facebook page, on my business page and on many groups I’m associated with. I tweeted the contest–Congressman Amodei even retweeted my post. We hardly see eye to eye on any political spectrum, but we do for vets. I gave extra credit in my public relations class assignment-and some students took me up on it. Can’t tell you how many friends appreciated my daily reminders on Facebook! The voting went back and forth. If I heard correctly, it’s the first time the contest has ever seen that kind of action. The other program was based in Atlanta-Home Depot’s hometown with close to 12 times the population of Reno Nevada. But it just took a few groups to dedicate themselves to the project-and a lot of social media.
If the Veterans Guest House had tried to buy the coverage of their services across all those platforms it would have easily cost $25000. I don’t recommend measuring with Advertising Value Equivalent, but clearly this program demonstrated to non-profits and small businesses unique ways to LEVERAGE a contest to build awareness, supporters and increase capacity.They carried the news story further with the win; getting back on the radio and television and further telling the story. Posting the news on their website.
The Veterans Guest House is now trying to capture who did what for them. My only criticism in their plan was the direct link to Home Depot rather than driving traffic to “Like” the Veterans Guest House page and find the link there. But hey, they are working towards connecting with their supporters. And maybe they thought of that and were concerned about barriers for participation. Won’t try to second guess them.
And now they’re in a contest for $250,000. Look for the social media posts on how to vote for them throughout March!
Whenever you have a gathering for your business, don’t forget the photographer. Doesn’t matter if its a networking event, a fundraiser, board retreat, business opening, new product–be sure to take pictures.
Ideally you use a professional photographer; when you can afford to, do it. They are skilled at capturing the right moments, recognizing the lighting and working with what’s available, they can manipulate the picture or know what frames well in a picture. Tips like not wearing name badges, or wires above your heads, or shadows across faces–all skills a keen photographer’s eye can capture.
When working with a photographer, try to think in advance what you want to DO with the pictures. Annual report? Submitting people shots to the local news people-watching column?This is an excellent option for publicity–sometimes you can promote your business if you’ve hosted an event and just submit pictures of the attendees. Get the media requirements for this–typically you can submit photos from an iphone if the quality is good.
Write up a check list of those kinds of shots you need-shots of happy kids, active shots of business interactions, people mingling.
Negotiate the ownership of the pictures. Many photographers will sell you all the shots; some may only sell use of the artwork for a period of time. There’s valid reasons for both, just know your options.
If you can’t afford a photographer, you can still take pictures–and should. All these shots can be taken–it’s often just remembering to bring the camera or assign someone to use it during the event.
We are a visual society. The more you can add graphics, especially pictures of real things the better for your blog, Facebook posts, annual reports, investor reports, publicity submission. Click away!