Public Relations

Understanding The Why And How Of Public Relations

Marketing and promotions focuses on selling the products and services a company provides. In most cases, for marketing to succeed, companies need to find ways to stand out from the crowd — which may explain the $1 million-plus spent on 30- and 60-second Super Bowl commercials showcasing some of the most outrageous and creative work in advertising. The real value, though, comes from the after-buzz in the media and hits on YouTube. In other words, it comes from the publicity generated. While a majority of business owners cannot afford to run an ad during the Super Bowl, they can afford public relations to promote the company’s attributes.

Public relations can be utilized to strengthen a company’s image and develop public perception showing how the company is credible, active and innovative. It can help differentiate a company from its competitors and highlight its benefits. Public relations can also be an economical way to reach a target market to stimulate awareness of and demand for a company’s products or services.

But how does it work? Many start-ups and small businesses start with Facebook and Twitter, but this alone is not likely to do the trick. Building buzz, attracting followers on social media sites and new customers through your doors can be done with ongoing coverage in the media in the form of news articles and interviews. Then, when a company receives press coverage, they can utilize social media platforms they have in place to expand that coverage and to reach an even larger audience. Think of how many media outlets discussed Super Bowl ads in the following days and how many companies posted their Super Bowl ads or articles about their Super Bowl ads to their Facebook and Twitter pages. In addition to reaching a larger audience, social media can leverage publicity to help drive traffic to a company’s website by increasing its search engine visibility and organic results.

Securing media coverage starts with a well written press release or story pitch. Although simple in theory, getting the attention of the media can be challenging as they are inundated daily with emails and phone calls from many people pitching various story ideas. To help both the media and the public take notice of you and your business, consider the following:

  • Think about what your business has or does that may be newsworthy. Have you hit a new milestone? Are you introducing a new product or service? Are you hiring someone new to head up one of your departments, or are you doing something significant in the community? The media won’t publicize information if it is too promotional — that’s what ads are for.
  • Make yourself (or someone on your team) available to the media as an expert source. The media is always looking for business experts to comment on topics they are writing about. Letting writers and editors know who you are, what you do and how your knowledge and expertise may provide credibility to an article they are writing can be an effective tool for getting press.
  • If you haven’t done so already, consider adding a blog to your website and keeping it current by posting to it at least two to four times a month. A blog provides a platform for educating your target market about your industry, services, products and other related information that the public may want to know. Integrating your blog with social media can increase your exposure, support SEO and help expand your reach. It also helps establish your company as an expert in the industry and tell your company’s story.
  • Become a guest writer or radio guest. If your industry has a trade publication or radio show, find out if you can be a regular contributor.

In order to successfully launch a public relations campaign of any magnitude, it requires dedication from the company and expertise from someone within the organization or an outside consultant to lead and facilitate. In essence, a business owner or company leader needs should expect to be involved in the public relations process, but much of the writing and legwork can be done by a public relations specialist. Although a business owner can take on these responsibilities, it is usually more effective to hire a professional to advise and execute.

Juliet Straker is president of marketingworx, a Phoenix-based public relations and marketing communications firm founded in 2002. For more information on marketingworx and its services, visit www.marketingworxpr.com.