There are lot of misconceptions surrounding public relations. It’s often described as “free advertising”, and if done properly that description can be somewhat accurate. In practice, however, public relations are usually not executed well enough to garner measurable sales benefits for business-to-business (B2B) companies.
That doesn’t mean PR can’t be an effective component of your marketing mix. It can, if you follow these guidelines.
The biggest thorn in the side for writers and editors of trade publications and industry blogs is the torrent of promotional announcements masquerading as news.
To a writer or editor for a trade publication or an industry blog, news is anything that is both noteworthy and out of the ordinary. Announcements about common events such as executive promotions, charity sponsorships or the acquisition of new customers are almost never considered news. At least not by writers and editors. And they’re the ones you need to convince, because they decide whether or not your news release ever sees the light of day.
What are the current hot trends in your industry? Are you involved in something that is directly related to those trends? Are you launching a major new product or service that have will have important ramifications for your industry? Have you collected information or developed a knowledge base that could be of real benefit to your industry? These kinds of questions can help you draft a news release that editors and writers will pay attention to.
Do you have enough information in your company to create a small guide book or tip sheets that can provide your industry with solutions that are generally not well known to common problems faced by your industry? A news release about the availability of that material could be very interesting to publications and their readers.
Information attained by surveying your customers for their opinions on important industry trends can be offered and announced in a press release, as long as the survey generates interesting, newsworthy or unexpected results. Intriguing reports or white papers written explaining little-known and interesting aspects of the technology or processes underlying your company’s products or services can be well-received by the trade media, and help to position your company as a thought leader and innovator in its field.
Of course your ultimate audience will be the readers, listeners or viewers of the trade media you target, but first you have to get the attention of the editors and writers. And the best way to lose their attention is to send them something that wastes their time, slows them down, or generally annoys them.
Imagine you’re an editor or writer at a major trade publication, newspaper or industry blog. In your average workday, you might receive dozens of press releases. It’s obvious to you that many of these press releases have been sent to you just because your name is on a mailing list, not because the news release has any relevance to the topics you’re covering. In addition, as you’re trying to meet your publication’s deadline in two hours, you keep getting phone calls and emails from people asking if you got their press releases.
If you were this editor, wouldn’t you appreciate a company that didn’t waste your time by swamping you with irrelevant press releases? Wouldn’t you want to talk more with companies who sent you press releases and story ideas that help you in your coverage of the industry?
The goal is to create a headline that is compelling enough so that an editor will decide to cover your story. You do that by focusing on the most important fact about your news. The rest of the copy will provide the editor with additional information to make the story interesting to the publication’s audience.
Editors are always looking for news releases that reflect important business concerns in your field, such as industry trends, new technologies, or government regulations. Your release will always get more attention if you can connect some aspect of it to a major issue everyone in your industry is talking about. Think of the top subjects and trends your customers are talking about, and see if your news release can be credibly linked to one of these topics.
Try to think about all the information an editor or writer will need to write their story, and then give it to them. That could include product spec sheets, company history and background, high-resolution photos, etc. Above all, make sure the writer or editor can easily contact you, by putting your personal company contact information on all news releases.
This is a strategy that small- to medium-sized B2B companies normally pay little attention to. Until there’s a crisis, of course.
Years ago a communication crisis would usually involve relatively straightforward issues such as equipment malfunctions or striking employees. Although still potentially destructive if not handled correctly, these occurrences were infrequent and fairly easy to address in the media. Things have changed. Today we have hackers, dissatisfied and careless employees, reporters and customers nursing grudges, all with numerous online forums they can use to spread false or negative statements around the globe in minutes.
In general, it’s probably better to spend a few months developing a crisis communication plan than a few minutes. The clarity of your initial response to damaging information may mean the difference between a crisis that can be defused, and one that spirals out of control. A company that knows how to manage its communications through an effective PR response can neutralize a potentially negative publicity situation, and even turn it into a favourable PR opportunity.