Your PR Toolkit – Coverage as Content

We had a meeting with a long standing client just recently who told us ‘It’s been so useful working with you. I didn’t understand how PR worked but now I understand how it works in harmony with other marketing activities to have an impact on sales’.

His comment was refreshing to hear because we spend a lot of time talking to clients about how they can significantly improve the impact of PR by aligning campaigns to their business objectives and communicating the outcomes to their audiences. A great example of this is to share any media coverage achieved making the coverage into content for social media.

Instead of thinking of it as a one-off piece of coverage, think of it as content which you can use to reach an even wider audience.

There’s so much you can do with your press coverage which will allow you to engage with your audience in a more meaningful way, create debate and discussion and show that you are an expert in your industry and there are so many platforms which make it easy for you to show your expertise and to reach a wider audience so why not use them?

Sometimes it feels like we’re teaching our grandmother to suck eggs. Everyone knows what the different platforms are but finding the time and – sometimes – the confidence, to use them effectively can be the challenge.

The client we’ve mentioned above has really made the most of his coverage. He has columns and opinion pieces in a number of different trade publications which are published in both print and in online publications.
It works in different ways. Firstly, the print coverage drives people to find and connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

He then publishes the online column on his profile and asks his network what they think. Just asking them for their opinions drives people to read his articles and to respond with their own opinions which in turn generates discussion and debate. He’s not afraid of people debating his views, in fact he encourages it as it not only gives them a chance to air their views and for more people to see the original article, it also gives him an opportunity to back up his claims and his views.

Had he relied on the print press coverage, yes, it would have had an impact and raised his profile but it wouldn’t have allowed him to engage directly with other people and have conversations with them in the same way.

By making PR a key part of his marketing strategy as a whole, he has made his press coverage go further, reached more people resulting in client enquiries and speaking opportunities and cemented his position as a thought leader in his industry.

Your PR Toolkit – Issues Hi-jacking

So, you’ve got your business plan sorted, your marketing is all organised and you’re set aren’t you? Well maybe not.

If you haven’t got a PR strategy in place you’re really missing a trick when it comes to your marketing mix. Public relations should be an integral part of your marketing strategy as they can support your business goals by putting your company and your services or products in front of the right people at the right time and at the right place and can help you establish and maintain good relationships with your key stakeholders.

Customers, suppliers, employees, investors and regulators can have a powerful impact on your business and they all have an opinion about the organisations they come into contact with – whether good or bad, right or wrong. These perceptions will drive their decisions about whether they want to work with, shop with and support these organisations. In today’s competitive market, every organisation, no matter how large or small, ultimately depends on its reputation for survival and success and this is where PR comes in.

The PR toolkit can help with your reputation management, raise awareness of your messages and foster relationships with key publics.

So let’s start with effective media relations which is a big part of the wider PR remit.

Engaging with the right media and presenting them with your story through appropriate channels will work wonders for your reputation management as it will give you credibility and help you communicate your messages to your stakeholders.

There are hundreds of ways to engage with the press but for the purposes of this blog, let’s look at issues hi-jacking, a really effective tactic of media relations.

Issues hi-jacking is the skill of identifying a topic current in the press and reacting to it. If for example you’re an accountancy practice this could include generating publicity for your company around the budget. This can include interviews with broadcast media by issuing your predictions about what’s going to happen the day before the budget, giving a blow by blow account as it happens to an online media outlet and issuing an overview of the budget to the media at the end of the day to generate more interviews across the media.

Generating positive coverage in your target media is great, however you can make your media relations go further. You’re talking to radio stations or newspapers or online media giving your expert opinion but then what?

The key to success is to use this as a springboard to dive into other PR activity to tie in with your overall marketing strategy. You’d promote your radio appearances on LinkedIn beforehand to get the attention of your followers, you’d take your comments and use them on your social media channels, you’d write a blog based on your predictions and then your summary and use those on your website. You could record a podcast based on your findings and use that on your social media platforms.

Media relations is an important part of your overall PR activity as it can help you generate content to use on all your other marketing channels, getting your company seen on different platforms making you look proactive and knowledgeable. The more you put yourself out there the more you’ll engage with your stakeholders. Existing clients feel reassured that they’re with a trustworthy company that knows its stuff and potential clients start to notice you and wonder why their existing accountants aren’t out there talking about the budget.

And it keeps going. Once the media have your details and know that you’re a reliable source of comment, they’ll keep coming back and the circle keeps turning.

Keep an eye on our blog as over the coming weeks as we will be focusing on the different elements of a successful PR strategy which can help you maximise your profits and become a key player within your industry.

Why PR Is About Creativity, Not Contacts

We recently had a few conversations with people outside the PR industry which highlighted some interesting perceptions about PR.

For some reason, people seem to think that PRs spend all day just talking to their contacts and telling them what to publish.

We wish…

A good PR company is constantly looking for opportunities for its clients and finding out how it can use those opportunities to generate publicity.

A few years ago, one of our team members was working for a mental health charity and picked up that the film ‘A Beautiful Mind’ was coming out. The film focused on John Nash who had schizophrenia and she recognised that it presented a great opportunity to raise the profile of the illness and the charity.

She contacted the distribution company and arranged a meeting to see if there was a way of working together to support the film and raise the profile of the charity.

They agreed to hold two screenings at private screening rooms in Soho before the film was released in the cinema. One screening was aimed at the charity supporters and fundraisers to thank them for their help and one was aimed at journalists where they’d get the chance to meet the team and the CEO and ask questions about the condition.

The screenings went well and generated some good publicity for the charity however one journalist was unable to make the screening due to a breaking news story. The organisation really needed the support of this particular journalist who wrote for one of the UK’s biggest newspapers so it was time for plan b.

She contacted the distribution company to ask if it was possible to bike a DVD of the film – before its cinema release don’t forget – to the journalist so she could watch it in her own time.

As a result, the newspaper ran two pages on mental health issues, valuable publicity for a condition which was widely misunderstood.

If you’re promoting a service, a charity or an issue, that’s what you need a good PR agency to do. Your agency should be constantly looking for opportunities to get you featured in the press and to be seen as the go-to expert in this field.

We take this approach at Cerub PR which has led to our clients being featured on TV programmes such as The Victoria Derbyshire Show and on channels including CNBC and Sky News as well as The Independent, The Telegraph, The Times, OK magazine and Hello!

Without a good story, your PR agency has nothing, so it’s their job to create and develop a story which will get you into the news.

If you’ve got it, flaunt it!

With so many pressures on your time, you need to be smart when it comes to your PR and marketing.

While we recommend that everyone puts aside a few hours a week to deal with their marketing, repurposing your content for different platforms is a great way to save time.

Instead of worrying about creating new content day in day out, focus on getting the content you have in front of more people. Press releases are still a good way to approach the press with specific stories, for example new products, company anniversaries and awards won however these are all good stories for your social media feeds too. If you’ve written a press release to promote your business give it a new lease of life! Edit it down to one paragraph and post it on Twitter, on LinkedIn and on Facebook, and when your press coverage comes through, post the links online using appropriate hashtags.

Chances are you already have an extensive archive of valuable content on your blog as well. You might even have a lot of off-site content such as guest posts that you can leverage.

Most blogs are designed to be informative and share your knowledge so as well as posting them on social media, take the key points or pieces of advice in the blog and turn them into short paragraphs to allow your followers to quickly access your hints and tips.

If you regularly give presentations, why not put the presentation into bite-sized chunks and share your key tips and advice? People are often scared of sharing their advice in case potential clients take the ideas and run with them, however sharing a few tips is unlikely to give them the in-depth knowledge to allow them to do what you do.

To keep you organised, when you break up your presentations, blogs and press releases, put them into a file so they’re easily accessible and spend some time scheduling them to go out at regular intervals so you can rest assured that it’s all ready to go.

Aside from the fact that the hard work is already done, repurposing your content can have several other benefits. When you repurpose content in a new format and/or update it, you can reach new audiences that otherwise may have never found it. It can also help reinforce your messages. Rather than covering a topic once and letting it disappear into the ether, repurposing your content will deliver your message to your audience consistently.

Organic searches still provide the majority of site traffic so repurposing optimised content in various formats and on different platforms can give you a significant lift in organic visibility and traffic.

A Modest Proposal

We have a client, let’s call him David to spare his blushes.

David is an expert in his field, he’s a professor and someone who’s invited to speak on his area of specialism around the world but he’s a modest chap, and despite these regular invitations, he still questioned why he’s feted in this way and wasn’t sure that he was interesting or knowledgeable enough to be featured in trade titles.

Before we started work with him a few years ago, he’d never really done any PR. He’d published some papers and was known within his field to a certain extent but he’d never really pushed himself forward and was nervous about the prospect of undertaking PR activity.

Since we’ve been working together, we’ve generated commissioned articles for him in the trade media relating to his industry and he now has regular columns in several titles and is well known in the industry.

The results have been impressive. Just recently he attended a conference as a speaker, along with some top level executives from some of the leading companies in the UK and around the world. Being so unassuming, he was wondering why he’d been invited up to share a platform with these people who front such well-known companies.

He assumed he was there to just make up the numbers and that the questions would all be aimed at his fellow panellists. It soon became clear however, that he was the one that all the delegates aimed questions at and wanted to speak to after the conference.

The reason?

Because he had proved that he really knew his stuff. Through commissioned articles and by posting the articles on social media he generated comment and interest and consolidated his position as the leading expert in his field.

He was already highly regarded but by working with him to understand his company, his key messages, his target audience and pitching good story ideas, we were able to generate the press coverage to position him as a thought leader.

His workload has increased and he’s in more demand than ever before. Everyone in his industry knows who he is, his clients know that they’re in safe hands and his competition are wondering why he’s now in this position.

If you’re considering embarking on PR but are worried that you don’t know enough and aren’t experienced enough, remember, you know more than you think you do. If you’re not promoting yourself, your competition will be promoting themselves and once they become the go-to experts in their field, it’ll be difficult for you to catch up.

Making Your Story Work for You

This month, our guest blogger, journalist Marina Gask, shares a few essential tips for anyone contemplating putting themselves forward as a case study in the media.

Freelance journalists are always being asked to find case studies for articles they’re writing.

People who’ve lost weight. People who’ve gained weight. People who’ve changed their lives/left their hated job/moved to the seaside/made a living from their hobby. And so on. It’s easy to think, when you see a call-out for case studies on social media, ‘Ooh, I could do that, I fit the brief’ – but what would you actually gain? Seeing your face in a magazine or online is great, but is it useful? Is it giving you an opportunity to present your business in a good light?

• Think about readership. Ask the journalist for some information on the demographic of their readers. Is it at least partially in line with your customers?

• Ask for copy to be read back to you. Be careful the journalist hasn’t put words in your mouth to make your story more ‘juicy’.

• Make sure your website address is included in the copy or credits.

• Is this article really going to serve your business and give you an opportunity to bring it to the right people’s attention? Will you feel comfortable sharing it on social media?

• Find out what other case studies are being included as this will tell you a lot about the overall feature. Does it still feel like a good fit?

• If your story is suddenly relevant due to a news hook – e.g. you gave birth on the same day as Kate Middleton – you may find you are, briefly, like gold dust and shouldn’t ‘waste’ your story on the wrong publication. Another, better press opportunity may soon arise – and is being a case study for the ‘wrong’ publication ever of benefit?

• Find out the picture requirements – i.e. do you need to provide your own shots, if so what kind, and if not is the journalist arranging to send a photographer to you, or get your picture taken in a studio? Ask to see the image they are using once chosen.

• Develop a good relationship with the journalist and let them know at the outset WHY you are volunteering to be a case study. They will feel duty-bound to respect your wishes.

• If you’ve written a book or have a new service or product to publicise, make sure the journalist is aware of this and ask if it can be given a mention. There may not be room, but nothing ventured nothing gained.

• It’s also wise to find out if your story will definitely be used, and when, so you don’t waste your time. Case studies and sometimes whole articles can get dropped at the last minute, and this can be heart- breaking if you’ve given a lot of your time to the journalist.

• In the event that you get dropped – and it’s not usually the journalist’s decision – you can negotiate to get a mention of your product or service on the news pages, or a mention in a future issue to compensate for your trouble.

A journalist and former magazine editor, Marina Gask is also a press consultant, copywriter and blog coach. To find out more go to www.marinagask.com

Invite us to dinner…

We love networking. In London or in Bucks you’ll often find us getting to know other people in business and finding out more about what they do. Networking’s a great way to grow a business and meet interesting people and you never know where it can lead, but one thing that we sometimes struggle with, is the question ‘so, what do you specialise in?’.

When we started the business, almost 14 years ago, our aim was to work with people and businesses that we wanted to work with and who we thought we could help and that’s still our ethos today.

True, we talk about how we work with individuals and businesses which want to be seen as experts in their field and as ‘thought leaders’ but the range of topics we work on are extremely varied.

Our practical approach to PR means we don’t do ‘stunts’ – although we’re not knocking the agencies who do that as they can be very successful– it’s more that our clients want to be featured in their relevant press for their knowledge, their opinions and their expertise.

The approach to generate press coverage for clients requires a measured approach, which requires an in-depth knowledge of a client’s business, what their areas of expertise is and the issues they feel particularly strongly about. We also need to know what’s going on in their industry – what are the hot topics people are discussing and what can our client add to the conversation. We also need knowledge of the media around the industry, what sort of articles do they run, do they accept commissioned articles and what sort of topics are they going to be interested in.

Fundamentally, the process of media relations is the same. What changes is the media, the issues and the approach but by doing our research, monitoring the media and getting under the skin of our clients’ businesses, we are able to position them as the experts in their field.

When you consider that our clients include companies working with graduates and large corporates with an interest in education to venue security and crowd management and a privately owned landowner and sand and gravel supplier with a passion for supporting their local community, you can see the variety of clients we work with and how our approach works.

This is why, if you invite us to a dinner party, we can happily expound on venue security, sheep diseases, body language, relationships, business practices, employee engagement and numerous other topics.

One of our team just said: ‘I love my job, one minute I’m researching the medical device press and the next I’m speaking to Cosmo about relationships!’.

As they say, variety is the spice of life so whether you want to be in The Independent, on The Victoria Derbyshire Show, in Intersec, or Farming Today, we can help!

A true story about the impact of PR

Normally our blog focuses on hints and tips and advice on PR but last week a talk our MD gave in which she mentioned how a magazine feature led to a serious change in her life made us think that perhaps we should tell her story which demonstrates the power of PR.

As long as I can remember I’ve had these ‘blips’. It’s hard to explain but it’s like a very intense form of déjà vu. These episodes would often happen in my sleep and sometimes when I was awake but it was something that I just lived with. To some extent I thought it was normal and it didn’t occur to me to worry about them. When I was going through a particularly floaty phase at 17 I did convince myself that I might be psychic…Yes, I know, I was young and buying crystals and pictures of Unicorns so it kind of fitted in! It was the 90’s after all…

Time went on and nothing really changed, I was still experiencing these blips but just accepted it as part of my life.

Then one day, I was reading a magazine article in Marie-Claire about a girl the same age as me, who started having ‘absences’. Her description of how it felt really struck a chord with me and it turned out that what she had was a form of epilepsy.

When I was a baby, I contracted salmonella poisoning. One night, my parents heard me screaming – but not normal baby screaming – and when the doctor arrived he rushed me straight to hospital where my temperature was so high I was having fits and the doctors had to pack me in ice to bring my temperature down.

While I’d always known about this, I’d never put two and two together to realise that this might have been what caused my blips.

I went to see a neurologist and was duly diagnosed with petit mal epilepsy.

While I’d already realised that it was probably epilepsy, it was still a shock, especially when it dawned on me that I’d lose my driving license for a year.

Five years on I’m fine, on medication which keeps it under control and I’m driving again – in total I lost it for three years and I had to spend a lot of time explaining I hadn’t broken the law to explain why I wasn’t driving!

While it wasn’t an easy time and I had to rely on help from family and friends to get around (thank you everyone!), I got away very lightly. Just seeing what people with severe epilepsy have to deal with really put it in perspective and things could have been a lot worse, but the turning point was the magazine article.

The point of me sharing this story which I normally don’t, is to show how PR really can have an impact. Whether it’s about a product which can help people deal with a problem they face or a story to help raise awareness of a charity or of a certain condition, it can really have an impact and affect the lives of others in a positive way.

Do You Always Have to Rise to the Occasion?

Valentine’s Day, Shrove Tuesday, Easter, Christmas…

And on it goes. No, we’re not just reciting calendar events where we might get presents, but instead, opportunities for press coverage.

Whether you regularly read a newspaper or magazine or not, these annual occasions are embedded in the public consciousness and are just some of the seasonal opportunities you can take advantage of to promote your product or service.

Now, since we’ve just passed Valentine’s Day, we’ll use that as our example.

When publications are planning their February issues, they tend to allocate a big chunk of space to Valentine’s Day. The kinds of stories they run include gift guides or features advising how singletons can find love or how to reignite your relationship. The question is, how can you capitalise on these dates to get your product or service featured?

Start by looking objectively at what it is you have to offer and be honest about whether it’s relevant.

Take for example, a hammer. It’s not a gift that you’d traditionally buy for your partner on Valentine’s Day so the chances are it’s not going to be relevant for gift guides for magazines coming out in February. Now for some PR agencies, the answer is to come up with a cheesy headline like ‘hammer your love home this Valentine’s Day’ (sorry!), but a cheesy headline does not an appropriate story make.

If however, your product is a scented candle, heart shaped chocolates or jewellery, you’re going to be more likely to appeal to journalists writing about romance. In the same way, if you’re a relationship coach, pitching advice on how to keep the magic alive could be of interest.

As we’re always saying, it comes down to doing your research. If you read the papers regularly and read a variety of magazines, start paying attention to trends and what they’re writing about in relation to annual events. Look at what you might have to offer them that’s going to be of interest. Just using the words ‘Valentine’s Day’ or ‘Christmas’ within a headline and hoping they’ll be interested in what your pitching is not the way to go about it.

Creativity is great, but it needs to start from the product or service you want to promote, making sure it’s relevant to the title and the audience and the season, otherwise you’re wasting your time and making no friends in the media.

So, just to recap:

Seasonal opportunities are great, take advantage of them by all means, but if what you want to promote isn’t relevant, move on and find something that works.

Four Reasons Your PR isn’t Working

There could be a number of reasons your PR isn’t having the impact you thought it would and if you think PR is going to magically drive sales, you may need to think again. While PR is an important part of the marketing mix, it needs to work in conjunction with your other sales and marketing activity or you’ll be wasting your time and your money.

For example, you could get a great piece of coverage in The Times or The Telegraph, with all your key messages included, but actually making the sale relies on a number of other things. Here are some thoughts on the things you need to consider before you get started.

Website:

If your website isn’t up to scratch, people aren’t going to buy. It sounds so obvious, but too often people rely on how good they think the product or service is, instead of how it’s presented to potential customers. Your website is your shop window so if your site is cluttered or your images aren’t professional, you’ll lose credibility. A well designed and easy to navigate site is essential to encourage people to buy from you and they should feel secure that they are dealing with a professional and reliable company.

Price point:

What’s your price point? If people go onto the site to look at your products is your pricing realistic? You might get a 25% uplift in your site visits, but if people arrive at your site and think the product is too expensive, they aren’t going to buy. Do research into your competition and see how you compare. If your product is more expensive, you need to make sure you justify why it’s worth it.

Customer service:

What’s your customer service like? Are your team pleasant on the phone and do they respond to emails quickly? A bad experience with your sales team will put people off. You can get all the great publicity you want, but if a customer has a bad experience with your team, you’ll lose them completely and you can bet that they’ll tell their friends about it which is the worst possible PR you can get.

Sales lead times:

How long do your customers take to decide to buy your product? If it’s something that you buy for a friend who’s having a baby for example, your customer might find your product but may not buy it until months later when the baby is born. Or if you have an expensive piece of jewellery, it may be that your customer needs to save up to buy it. Take into account that there may be a time lapse between getting the publicity and making the sale.

The Answers:

Before you start any PR activity take the time to examine all these areas. Ask your friends and contacts what they think of your website, product and pricing. You need their honest opinions about these things so that you can adjust your model accordingly and if you do decide to embark on a PR campaign, you need put into place an evaluation system to measure its success. For example, Google analytics can help you keep track of whether press coverage is driving traffic to your site but if your sales remain static, you need to investigate why.
Fundamentally, PR can drive people to your product and service and encourage sales, but unless these elements are all working in alignment, PR won’t be as effective as you need it to be.