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.
Nicole is a former student. She works at the Abbi Agency. She posted the blog on her personal and originally posted to The Abbi Agency blog. I liked it so much I wanted to share. Student surpassing the professor. *-0 Good job Nicole.
By Nicole Rose Dion, social media coordinator/graphic designer
Bloggers have flocked to Pinterest like seagulls to your sandwich at the beach, especially if their blog involves photography in some way. They love it because Pinterest gives them just another lovely outlet to display all of their excellent photos and the ability to interact with their fellow blogger brethren (because what more do they really want?).
There are a number of steps you can take to interact with these bloggers on Pinterest and get them to notice you (or your client) and therefore have them want to interact back.
- Follow them/follow their boards: A lot of bloggers will have content pinned from their own blogs as well as other people’s blogs. Follow all of their boards in order to see what sort of content they are pinning. When a person gets a new follower on Pinterest, they usually receive an email alerting them of this, so this will get your name in front of them. But don’t just stop there, follow the pinners that they follow to see what sort of things they’ve been pinning as well.
- Repin their pins: If they’re a big blogger, they may not notice your name in their email right away, but if you keep repining their pins, your name will consistently show up in their Pinterest feed/email feed. The goal is to get them to see who you are and see that you’ve been taking a genuine interest in their content before they see you’ve pitched them.
- Like/comment their pins: These are just other ways of interacting with their content. There’s a lot less commitment involved than actually repining something and it will show up in their Pinterest news feed as well. Commenting will get more notice than just a “like” because people tend to read the comments on pins before they re-pin them.
- Tweet/Facebook post about their pins (& tag them): Most likely if they’re on Pinterest, they probably have a Facebook and Twitter page associated with their blog as well. As your client, make sure when you like one of their pins, or repin some of their content from their blog, you post about it on Twitter or Facebook and give them proper recognition by tagging them. Maybe they don’t watch their Pinterest feed very often but they will definitely be watching their Twitter @replies or Facebook mentions.
- Email them and reference their Pinterest content: Finally, once you’ve spent some time getting to know this blogger and the types of things they like to pin/blog about, you can email them about your client. Make sure you mention that you have been following their pins and like their style.
At this point, they should recognize that you’ve been following all their social media efforts and they will appreciate that, especially if you actually read their blog and know what they like to read about. From there, help them see how your client would align nicely with their current blog/social media topics. Reference things they’ve posted/pinned about before for extra points.
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.
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!
- First write a business plan–or update it if you have one on a shelf. You can buy my friend Erica Olsen’s book. Can’t bother with a book, try her online program to help you keep track. Whatever it takes, make a plan and review it regularly.
- Target your audience. Really dig deep in their demographics-age, gender, marital status, everything you can figure out. Then figure out what their lifestyle is. Then figure out what motivates them to buy what you offer. If you have clients it’s easy to engage them. If you are starting up a business you need to research the possibilities and check competition.
- Next flesh out the marketing plan. Know just how much networking, customer relations, social media, publicity, events, media relations, etc you need to reach the clients on your plan.
- Invest in list management.You need a place to put your leads and a way to communicate. Ideally you move beyond the capability of the 50-100 limited emails you can send with your personal email. You need at least 5 times as many people to talk to so you can get the “yes” sales you need. That’s a lot to track. We use iContact. Also recommend Constant Contact or Mail Chimp. There are others–find what is most user friendly to you.
- Work your customers. Best sales force is word-of-mouth. Best way to get positive WOM is to talk to your customers. Stay connected. Offer them value. Engage them into your company-you know, like a relationship. Not a hook up.
- Focus your business growth on what you do best-not on the 10% that you suck at. We spend so much time trying to fix that last percent of what’s broken–and will never get fixed–rather than build the best thing into the superlative thing.Focus on what you love or are best at.You’ll grow even more.
- Make things easy for your clients. Whether its sending them reminders about their appointments or offering to drop materials off at their work site–whatever it is you can do to make their lives easier do.
- Make time for sales and marketing. You spend 40 hours a week making the product or doing the service. It’s best if you sell it.
- Delegate what you can’t get done. Building on the fact that you should be the primary sales force, what can you delegate to others? Bookkeeping? Marketing and public relations? Being in the store? Remember focus on your favorite element for your own pleasure and then delegate–enlist family or hire staff or outsource some services.
- Play it forward. You’ll really reap more if you give to prospects and share with others than if you are stingy with your time.
- Make sure your marketing outreach materials are current. When is the last time you updated your website? Your handouts? If you pulled everything together and put samples on a board can you tell it’s the same company or does it look like you picked up an assortment–if visually it doesn’t look the same, you need to do some branding.
- Stuck? Hire a coach. Coaches can help you puzzle through what blocks you; train you on beginning steps; help you break down a giant project into manageable pieces. They also can provide the accountability you might need to meet deadlines. Not to mention the encouragement. Solo-preneurs definitely need that sounding board. And we can help you with that.