How to: 3 Steps to DIY your PR
Getting coverage in the media can be a brilliant way to get your business in front of a big audience, without spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on advertising.
However, public relations (PR) is a skill and approach that needs some understanding and practice to get results.
Each year, I manage the marketing and publicity for the Clunes Booktown Festival (this year in collaboration with Janelle Ryan of The Little PR Company).
Over the years, I’ve generated coverage on the likes of 774 ABC Melbourne Radio, The Age, The Weekly Times, The Herald Sun, and RRR Radio.
There are some strategies I’ve refined and easy to implement tips that anyone can try. So if you're looking at securing yourself some PR, here's what I recommend.
Step 1: Finding an angle
First of all, understand what your key messages are and what story you'd like the media to tell about you and your business. The media aren't going to be interested in advertising your business. They want a STORY with depth and relevance to their audience!
Which leads me to my second point: your best chance of getting coverage is to leverage something that has just hit the news OR new findings or research.
What do I mean by this?
Position yourself as the expert by providing your opinion on the research, findings, or other news. Do you agree, and what do you have to back it up? Or perhaps you disagree and have proof to show why? Journos love hard facts and numbers, so the more of these you can present them with, the better.
Set up Google Alerts (free), not only to monitor mentions of your business but also key topics in the media and new research that’s relevant to your business. Then act fast!
Step 2: Writing your story
Next up is to write your story. In general and from my experience, smaller news outlets will ‘run’ a media release that you send them without tweaking it much (providing it’s well written and relevant), while larger outlets with more resources will want to interview you and cover the story with their own unique take.
In your pitch email you’ll need:
- A sharp subject line - this is your chance to grab the journalist’s attention. If you need help with this, look at online news outlets and you’ll get a feel of how they write their headings. Use this approach for your subject line. Think succinct!
- A sentence or so introduction to you / your business.
- A key sentence or two that sums up why the journalist should care about what you have to share with them. If you have hard stats, include them here. Remember, it’s about the story and not about promoting your business.
- Your contact details, particularly your phone number so the journalist can call you for extra quotes and information. If they’re interested in the story, they’ll often call you straight away, so be prepared!
If you’re writing a media release:
- Stick to one page - don’t waffle on.
- Write a compelling heading (see my notes on subject lines above).
- Provide ‘the guts’ of the story straight up - the who, what, why, where and how in your first sentence or two.
- The rest of your media release should support the argument - avoid the temptation to cover different topics.
- Include a few quotes from key people to back up the case you’re making and provide a personal side to the story.
I write my emails and press releases with a sentence to each paragraph. It means the content is easily scannable and forces me to keep the content very succinct, which journalists are grateful for!
Step 3: Pitching to a journalist
You should have a clear idea of the journalists you’d like to approach and the area they fit into at their news outlets - i.e. what ‘beat’ do they cover: politics, crime, lifestyle or the light-hearted afternoon show, or the heavier drive hour… If you pitch something that is irrelevant to a journalist and demonstrates you don’t understand their outlet, you have no chance of getting coverage, and you’ll be seen as a pest!
So now you know your target outlets and journalists, you need to find their email address. You can do this by checking their Twitter profiles, in the printed edition of the paper/mag, on the company website or by calling up the company and asking for it.
Once you have their email address, it’s time to write up your email. It's smart to mention in this email where you see the story fitting in their outlet - i.e. is it for their feature section, is it a profile piece, is it a follow up story to a previous piece they’ve published?
Finally, with newsrooms being stretched and photographers being made redundant, a lot of media will 'run a story' (i.e. publish it) using an image that you send them rather than sending a photographer out to photograph you. Make their job easy by attaching to your email high resolution/good quality images. Just another reason why I’m a big advocate for investing in professional photography.
Then you send! And if you haven't heard back in a few days, you follow up! And that is the basis of getting your story told. That's the 'secret sauce’.
Also, don’t forget to send a short thank you email to the journalist if they do cover your story - niceties go a long way!
The benefit of working with PR companies is that they ‘get’ what angles media tend to be interested in and can find these angles in your business, plus they will have relationships already in place with journalists. However, you don’t need a PR company to generate your own coverage. If it appeals to you to DIY your PR, or you don’t have the budget to employ help, give it a go! It’s absolutely achievable and not only that, once you get that first story, it can be quite addictive too!