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The development and use of Public Relations as part of your current marketing plan provides a cost effective method for improving awareness of your company, products, and services through improved SEO and earned media coverage. PR allows you to stretch limited marketing budgets, and when implemented properly has the added benefit of providing third party credibility.
Still, while Public Relations is an excellent marketing vehicle, understand that it takes time to build a successful PR engine and media coverage might not be immediate—making it difficult to gauge whether your efforts are successful or need to be modified. And because the SEO benefits that come with increased PR activity are almost immediate, the time to implement is now.
To get you started on the right foot, or to audit your current strategy that isn't yielding the results you'd like, follow these five steps.
1) Develop a press kit.
Whether you are a product or service company, there are three documents (aside from Press Releases) EVERY media/press kit should have:
- § Fact Sheet—this acts as a quick reference for key points about your company such as location(s), contact information, size, markets served, board of directors and/or executive management team, revenue, brief description of company and product/service offerings, mission statement, key clients, significant milestones or awards/recognition, etc.
- § Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)—this is a summary of all the most important elements of your offering and company in question and answer format, as well as answers to questions that are often posed by prospects, customers, and partners.
- § Management Bios—this includes individual biographies of the key management personnel and offers the stories behind the thought leaders of your company.
Additionally, depending on what you are trying to achieve with the kit, you should include pertinent collateral for product/service offerings, current press releases, any supporting or value-add materials such as product specifications and whitepapers.
2) Create a targeted media list.
Whether you purchase a list or create your own through research, you need to know more than just the publication name, address, and phone number for the publisher or editor-in-chief. Purchasing a list or service from Cision (formerly Bacons) or similar vendors, does provide this level of detail, but it can be costly. Either way, you'll want to verify the publications are appropriate for your target audience.
Next, you need to determine who the appropriate contact is—whether it is an editor, writer, or freelancer—covering your type of business. You can do much of this by going online and following them on Twitter, accessing their Facebook page (if public), searching their websites or calling the main office and asking the receptionist or main operator. Obtain as much contact information as you can before ever contacting the editor, you don't want to waste their time when you do get a hold of them.
Be sure to track your communications with each editor, as well as planned coverage in each publication, in a database or spreadsheet. By doing this, you'll be able to easily manage your efforts and your list.
3) Study the publications.
Gather current and past issues of the publications on your media list and read them from cover to cover. Take note of the audience, recurring columns, themes, or types of stories, as well as who is writing, so that you can better craft your submissions to fit the publication. You should also obtain editorial calendars to see what future stories pertain to your business. Check the lead times for the issue and make sure you get your relevant 'pitch' into the appropriate editor far in advance.
4) Get to know your editors.
Aside from knowing your editor's contact information, there are several other things you need to learn about them to establish and maintain a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship. Knowing their preferences is key. How do they prefer to receive information? What is the best time of day or day of the week to contact them? What are they really looking for from you (i.e. What will help them do their job and get you the coverage you want)? While you want to keep the lines of communication open and flowing, you should limit outbound contact to them to newsworthy and useful items only and stick to what is convenient for them.
5) Have a plan.
Developing a Public Relations Plan that outlines your goals, objectives, strategies and tactics for the upcoming six months to year is a must. After documenting all of the planned, newsworthy events, launches, and announcements, as well as other possible opportunities such as self-written articles, case studies, etc., you'll want to create an implementation calendar. Map opportunities you found in editorial calendars to your announcements, and plug them into the calendar. Remember, pitches to editors will likely occur months in advance of issuing a press release so you'll need to make two entries in separate months for things like this.
Your ultimate goal throughout your efforts to obtain good publicity is to do your editors' jobs for them. Provide them with information they can use, that doesn't require additional legwork or research on their end, and always think of ways to make their life easy.