The secret to success in PR is to make life easy for journalists. PR, by definition, uses other people’s media, and not your own, to manage reputation and influence behaviour, so the thing that makes or breaks your campaigns is your relationship with editors and reporters.
Good PRs don’t try to woo journalists with flowers, chocolates and moonlit serenades. They know what journalists are really looking for, and they know just how to give it to them. Here’s how it’s done:
1. Check them out
Your chances of success are much greater if you know what media you’re targeting before you embark on your campaign. PRs should find out who writes about which subjects for which readers, who accepts contributed articles, and what they have planned for the months ahead. They should also read up on your products and markets so they can recognise a good news opportunity when they see one.
2. Look them up
The right contacts aren’t hard to come by: any PR agency worth its salt already subscribes to a comprehensive database of journalists. But nonetheless contacts are the first thing most companies look for in an agency. Your stories will only see the light of day if you know who the big players are and what they’re looking for.
3. Walk the walk
Before you even consider talking to a journalist, you should make sure your writing is up to scratch. If your writing is good, editors won’t need to change everything you’ve written. If your articles read well and make sense, editors won’t feel the urge to delete them. Unless you plan to write all your articles and press releases yourself, strong writing skills should be the first thing you look for when hiring a PR agency.
4. Make your move
Faint heart never won column inches. You are likely to get some attention just by issuing good news stories, but you stand to get even better results if you speak to reporters on the phone. Most are incredibly busy and stressed, and some of them really hate being interrupted, so make sure you have an excellent reason to call beforehand. Tell them something they don’t already know – hard facts and research make your story more credible and newsworthy, and case studies and quotations bring it to life.
5. Show them you care
Journalists tend to be far more open to your ideas if they feel you are open to theirs, so if their articles are relevant to your subject, let them know what you think of them. Your chances of success are much higher if you show some respect and can see their point of view, rather than just telling them what promotional messages you want them to print or broadcast.
6. Tell good stories
To get coverage, your stories need to be interesting. If your company, brands, customers, products and services already intrigue your audiences, you’re in luck: it will be easy for you to grab a journalist’s attention and rise above the thousands of ridiculously boring non-stories that other PRs issue every day...
7. Surprise them
PR is far more interesting when you have “nothing interesting to say”. Journalists already receive way too many stories about SMEs launching products, winning contracts, attending shows and supporting charities. These conventional stories can get messages and information across, but they might not get you in the news.
That’s why good PR people find other ways to tell their stories – fresh angles that will interest journalists and their readers. If you don’t already have a story to tell, you’ll need to be even more creative. Sometimes it’s good to start with a great idea for a story and then find a way to make it happen. And eye-catching photos are usually worth the effort.
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