In terms of moving the needle regarding awareness of your company and brand, and building a good PR plan foundation, Fortney outlines a range of sound tactics:
- Use social media — Facebook, Twitter and other social media collectively represent a quick way to increase awareness for your business. Although it does take some time to develop social media, it's free and gives you the chance to interact with media, and potential partners, in a way never available before. “The key is being interactive and providing good content,” Fortney adds. It can't be all about you. It's called ‘social' media for a reason. I always say it's like being at a party filled with people you want to meet.”
- Be the expert you are — “One of the most important things you can do for business success is to differentiate yourself from competitors,” says Fortney. “Once you've defined that key difference (and benefit to your customers), make yourself an expert. Media are always looking for fresh expert sources for stories. You aren't always going to get a full-page feature on your business so you might as well be quoted as an expert in a trend piece. This is especially true with national media.”
- Utilize media networks — There are resources that specifically help get your message to the media. For example, Help a Reporter Out is a service that provides emails with direct queries from media members seeking sources, ideas and products. MyStorySource.com is a free service that compiles up to 30 story pitches daily from small businesses and nonprofits into one email for media representatives. Others include Reporter's Source and PitchRate. All of these are free to join and use.
- Become a local news source — Local media are local for a reason. They want interesting stories and ideas on local businesses. If it doesn't have a local angle, they aren't interested. “Don't be afraid to tell the story of you behind the business—what made you start the business, the story,” she notes. “Media and the public love human interest stories.”
- Craft solid press releases and send them out at intelligent intervals — Among the key problems business owners have with do-it-yourself PR is that they don't know what their story is or how to tell it. Or they may think they have a story in their mind but it won't be of interest to media, who produce stories based on reader interest. “It can be tough to learn to think like a reporter, but that's exactly what you have to do to create a compelling and interesting news story,” adds Fortney. “It can be worth it to find PR pros that specialize in small business to help write your press release.” The amount of press releases you send out should be relative to the number of events, promotions, compelling stories you have to tell. If you don't have news, don't send a press release out. It's sort of like crying wolf. One day you will have an incredible story, but media may be turned off and not open your email. Fortney calls this “the Bowl of Spaghetti Theory.” “Take a bowl of spaghetti—press releases—throw it up on the wall and see what sticks. PR is about news. It's about great and interesting stories and it's very proactive. At the end of the day, success comes from follow up with media.”
- Work with the media — Respect their deadlines and ensure that they cover your type of business or story. Also, Fortney warns, don't send large file attachments in email, as it bogs down inboxes. And if a reporter calls you, get back to them ASAP.
“The reason PR works is because of the credible third-party endorsement it offers,” she points out. “Imagine you pick up the paper and read your favorite columnist and one day he/she mentions a product or company. You're almost 10 times more likely to seek out that product/service because a perceived reliable source has given you the information. Much like you'd ask a trusted friend or family member to refer a doctor. Because of this, PR tends to be seen as less intrusive then advertising. Just bear in mind that your PR must be strategic; you need to understand where PR fits in with other marketing tactics and build a plan that supports each tactic with the next.” - Excerpted from an article published by Wells Fargo Bank."
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