Public relations (PR) can increase awareness, sales, website visits or generate word of mouth for your organisation. Franco d’Onofrio, founder of Bedfordview based public relations and communications agency, Twiga Communications, advises on how you can use well executed PR to grow your business and gives useful tips to promote your business.
A PR agency is best placed to assist organisations to formulate and write a press release so that it is most effective at delivering the required message. The agency will work with the client to understand what the objective is, and who the target market is.
From there, the PR agency will devise a plan of what should be rolled out. That would include a timeline, content, target consumers, target media outlets and more. This is what would be termed a ‘PR strategy’. The strategy is there to guide the ongoing PR activity, ensuring that objectives are being met while providing a base upon which to value the PR activity and results. Once approved, the agency will roll out the recommended activity and at the end report back to the client, defining what has been achieved.
It is important to decide upfront what ‘success looks like’ for the campaign. This ensures that the client knows what to expect from the agency, and also allows the agency to ensure that it is performing its contract according to client requirements.
News releases and distribution
What many – if not most – people do not realise is that a large part of what we all discuss more often than not comes to our attention as a result of news being distributed on behalf of an organisation by a PR agency. This is either in traditional media, in other words, broadcast (radio and television) and print (magazines and newspapers) or via social media.
This is a form of advertising and a very powerful one at that. The reason is that the news or information comes across in a very organic manner. Examples include an article in a print publication, news or an interview on a radio or television station, or information that is viewed and shared via social media channels.
Think about the time you heard, for instance, someone being interviewed on a radio station about an upcoming event that you were interested in. That process, of getting the representative onto the radio station for an interview, started with a press release. One that grabbed the producer’s attention and led to the on-air interview. It is much more powerful than an advert that results in you ‘switching off’ for a while.
So many discussions start off with ‘did you hear’ or ‘I read about’, and that is what PR in the form of a news release can do for your business, your brand, organisation or event. It creates awareness, generates talkability and interest in what you have to offer. The bottom line is that if you don’t talk about your own business, how do you expect others to do so for you?
The most important element of a press release is to ensure that you are sending a very specific message out to your targeted audience. Give them the basics of what you want to communicate. So for example, a new store opening would need to include details of what, when, where, etc.
Make sure that you get all the details right and that you have checked your spelling and double-checked the details. If you’re going to include a quote, ensure that it makes sense and talks specifically to the topic at hand. Essentially, don’t include any information that does not provide valuable information to the reader. Remember, you’re competing in an ‘info overload’ environment, so keep it to the point.
How to best highlight your expertise
The press release is only one way through which PR can help drive your objectives forward. First off, it enables you to provide a look into the immediate offer/event/product that you wish to create awareness for. In this instance, the content would be directed at this one single piece of information, with a little background.
When embarking on a longer-term PR campaign, companies have the ability to show off why their particular product, service or business should be trusted. This is done via a ‘thought leadership piece’ in which a company spokesperson talks about the broader industry or service environment in which they operate.
Other than announcing new products/services/options for your business, there is also great value in offering a strong opinion within your sector. This is an opportunity to tell your current and future clients precisely why they should trust your offering. Use your expertise of the environment you operate in to expand on the reader’s understanding of the topic. This in turn allows them to place increased trust in you and your brand and is crucial in terms of getting feet through the proverbial door.
Whether you love it or hate it, social media is a part of how we communicate today. But it does not mean that every brand or service should have a presence on every single social media platform.
The biggest plus that social media brings (together with your own website) is that it provides you with your very own media outlet, one in which you can say what you want, when you want. But with that comes the massive risk of reputational damage if not handled correctly. Social media users can be brutal, and can, in a very short space of time, create untold damage to a brand.
There are many people that shun social media, and many that have never taken to this form of communication, particularly older generations. For this reason, a solid PR strategy would be to ensure that the communication is directed at the right consumer base. There is a formula, or rather industry-speak, that should define any communication campaign: Owned+Earned+Paid.
It means that you should have some owned media (your own website, newsletter, social media channels), earned media (the free media exposure that PR agencies are able to provide) and paid media (this is actual advertising placement, be it radio/TV ads, print ads or social media advertising spend).
Social media remains relevant and important across all of the above, and should not be excluded, as long as it is strategically driven and placed. For instance, if you’re offering a service or product to consumers that are nearing retirement age, or maybe even older, then social media is probably not the most ideal platform.
Tips on using social media
- Have a plan linked to your business objectives. It can be raising awareness or possibly driving people to your website, for example.
- Make sure you know who you are talking to – or put another way, if you’re targeting older customers, should you really be on Twitter and Instagram? These platforms are generally used by younger audiences.
- Once you decide which channels you should use, ensure that you have a regular presence and that your content is in line with your business objectives.
- Post interesting and original content.
- Engage your audience. Likes and followers are ‘nice’, but engagement such as shares and comments are king.
- Should someone contact you or tag you with a question, respond quickly. There is an expectation on social media that ‘the door is always open’.
- People use different social platforms for different reasons. Make sure your social content aligns with this.
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