There might be no such thing as bad publicity – but what if you’ve got no publicity?
That’s the reality for lots of small businesses we work with, who don’t have a PR plan, let alone well-practiced pitches to land their product, brand or services in front of the media.
The good news is PR, unlike ER, is something you can DIY yourself. We’ve got you covered with these tips – tried and tested during our one-on-one sessions with tourism operators up and down the State.
But first, let’s just make sure we’re all on the same PR-page
When we talk about publicity, it’s so much more than just coverage in a newspaper, magazine or TV show (although that would be nice).
PR by our definition means anybody other than yourself talking about your business/brand, which opens the remit to digital influencers, your own social media channels, a thought-leader in your industry talking about you or just a niche community group spruiking your product like a mini-marketing machine you don’t pay.
If you’ve read this post, you’ll know how important it is to have someone else talk about your business/brand because it acts as an endorsement.
What we know is third-party referrals create trust in your business/brand and where there’s trust there’s a transaction.
If you picture PR like the best word-of-mouth referral you’ve received, only attached to a megaphone, it makes sense why marketers consider publicity one of the most effective methods to convert customers and core pillar of their marketing strategy.
But PR is a double-edged sword – and not just because publicity can be good or bad
The good news (for small business owners at least) is that publicity is generally the cheapest form of consumer marketing. You won’t need Facebook dollars or lucrative newspaper placements to win the PR-game – just man-hours and generally, lots of them.
With publicity, what you give up in exchange for price, is control over what people say about you.
If you want to control the message, you’ll need to pay for an advertisement where you get the opportunity to choose the words, images and design.
Remember, with advertising you pay for it. With PR you pray for it.
Enough small talk, how do you get publicity?
Know the media first
Sending your cute local story to a national newspaper is a sure-fire way to waste your own time. Don’t do that. Your time is too precious to be shooting blank pitches.
Before getting started, ask yourself:
- Is this a national story? e.g. will Australia care
- Is it a State story? e.g. will your State care
- Is it a local story? E.g. will the local area care
Also ask yourself seriously, does anyone care? We totally get why you might love your business … but that doesn’t make it newsworthy. Sorry.
Before preparing your pitch, learn about individual publications, what they write about and how often they publish to create a bespoke proposition for the publication.
Knowing your publication will increase your chance of publicity exponentially for two main reasons:
- You can speak to them at the right time
- You can speak to the right person
Timing is everything
In regional Australia, some papers only print weekly, so missing the deadline by as much as a day could mean your news is no longer newsworthy by the time of the next publication.
We’ve seen poor planning from event organisers render their ‘pre-promote’ press release completely useless by missing the deadline of their local paper – all because no one diarised the paper’s print dates.
Write to the right person
In researching publications, get to know their reporters and what they will write about. In bigger publications the journalists who write about property, won’t be the ones writing about education. Knowing who’s who in the zoo is as easy as reading and watching your desired publication before reaching out to them.
A bit like sending a local story to a national level, there’s no point contacting the restaurant reporter with your event story … unless of course it’s got a food truck handing out bags of cash rather than burgers – that story is newsworthy.
A quick Google search will usually reveal your pitch’s ideal recipient – remember to keep your eyes peeled for titles like editor, photo editor, chief of staff or news desk.
Cook up an angle
It’s time to get sharp about your angle, which is going to involve some business / brand navel gazing.
No matter how big your business / brand is – not every story is worthy of attention. Can you imagine how long and boring the news would be if journalists covered every single story that was pitched to them?
Start by asking yourself, what’s so interesting about what you want to tell the media? Be really firm as you ask yourself the following questions:
- Is your angle newsworthy aka how big a deal is this and who will care?
- If it’s not newsworthy, is it quirky enough to get away with not being newsworthy? “Man bites dog” is certainly more compelling than a story about a dog who bites a man.
- Is your story timely? Remember that today’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip wrapper (proverbially now) and if it’s not new, it’s not news.
If it’s not clear to you, chances are the angle won’t be clear to anyone else. It’s ok to abort mission. The timing might not be right for PR for you.
Create a pitch
With an audience in mind and an angle up your sleeve, you’re ready to create a pitch.
We always recommend practicing your pitch out loud before it goes out into the world. You’ll find the way you orally tell someone a story filters the most important information first – and you’ll have yourself a news pyramid almost every time.
To double check you have everything you need – go back to your year two storytelling recipe of who, what, when, where, why and how to make sure these are all covered off in your pitch.
Once you can explain what makes your story so special, you’re ready to pitch in the wild.
Does it need to be a press release?
The Internet is full of opinions on the matter – but our advice is that if you’re a small business and don’t need quotes approved by management, there’s really no need to go to the lengths of writing one up. Phew!
It’s just as effective to pitch your story either by a succinctly worded email, list of dot points or a phone call. Remember media get inundated with emails – so keep things short, snappy and succinct.
If you’ve got images to support the story, why not let them do the talking? Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.
When should you follow up?
You’ve sent your pitch out to the world, and you’ve been return served with silence. Ahhh, the joys of PR.
Journalists and producers are busy (and so are you) – so it’s good to place a follow up call, email – even just to obtain a hard no so you can close the chapter on that pitch. If that’s the case, go back to the basics, perhaps you didn’t put the right angle into the right hands. Don’t give up.
If you happen to have a PR-win, make sure you have Google Alerts set up to help capture the coverage so you can spruik it!
In our experience, nothing drives competitors more wild than a positive PR story in your favour.
If you’re looking to dial up your Public Relations efforts, our Content Crew will be more than happy to help.
By Hannah Statham
Hannah Statham is The Boss at Media Mortar. She’s a heavy weight wordsmith, punching with puns, analogies and metaphors that leave readers wanting more. When she’s not refreshing her Instagram feed, you’ll find Hannah walking her rescue greyhound Olivia.