Monday, 30 April 2012

Public Relations - Start with the Basics!

PAt the risk of sounding boring and repetitive, can I just say that PR is NOT free advertising!  I have lost count of the number of people that have sat in our meeting room and said that they are thinking to embark on a PR campaign because it wont cost them anything, whereas advertising will.    PR is a whole skill in itself, and when carried out well it can be enormously effective.    However, as you will see as we go along, I am a big fan of the ‘drip, drip, drip’ approach to marketing/PR, and I think it is important that all of your different marketing tools work in tandem; so, in an ideal world, the PR supports the advertising, the advertising supports the website, the website supports the social media, and so on (and by drip, drip, drip, I mean that one day you read something about a company in the paper, a couple of days later you see an advert about the same company, a few days later you meet someone from that company, etc, etc, etc, until you appoint them!).

Sticking to PR for the moment, let’s look at what is involved and how best to do it: first, ask yourself what the purpose of the PR campaign is.  Now that might sound a bit strange, but it is a question that I always ask a new client before we get started, ever since I asked the boss of a big, international company here what he would regard as a success at the end of the campaign (assuming he would say ‘a huge number of sales’) and he responded ‘I want to see my photo in a magazine at least once a month’!  Knowing what you want to achieve from the campaign, will help you to define what you are actually going to do; if you want to see an increase in sales, your PR activity should focus on the business and trade media that relates to your products/services; if you want to see pictures of yourself every month, then you might want to talk to the media that will be interested in your hobbies and achievements.   You also need to be realistic – yes, we know that you would all like to be on the front page of Hospodarske noviny each week (imagine my surprise when one of our clients tells us that!) – but unless you are doing something that is headline news, you are probably going to be disappointed.

If you are prepared (and able) to write articles yourself on topics that are likely to be interesting to specific media, then it might be possible to get them published.  But before embarking on hours of drafting, it is worth doing a bit of research first; try and speak to the journalists at your targeted magazine/paper and find out the sort of stories that they would be interested in – better to write about something that they want, rather than what you want!  Similarly with interviews; some journalists are happy to do interviews (but there is no guarantee that such interviews will be published), but they are not going to interview you just because you want them to.  You need to come up with a good reason why you could be just the person that they want to speak to about a given topic… and then make sure that if you get the interview, you give them what they want.

Press releases.  No, not everyone can write a press release.  And yes, everyone will have an opinion (sorry to be rude, but I can often be heard to say that if you put a group of Czechs in a room and ask them to translate ‘please see attached’ the conversation will go on forever).  Quite honestly, if more people worried about the ‘substance’ of the PR rather than where a capital letter should or shouldn’t go, they might have more chance of getting it published!  PRs should be short (ideally one page), the first paragraph should grab the journalist immediately – what is it, when is it, why is it newsy – and you need to include in it a few ‘hooks’ that will ensure that a journalist that receives thousands of press releases on their desk each day, actually reads yours.  Once upon a time there was some research undertaken in the UK which asked what the most popular words were to have in a heading of a PR that would ensure coverage.  The words were David Beckham.  So use the David Beckham technique … try and get into your heading/first paragraph something that you know will grab the journalists immediate attention – more on that soon.

And finally….. don’t forget to monitor the media!!  Not much point in banging out press releases and organizing interviews if you never actually check whether something has been published (no, that is not a joke….!!).

More soon.


Thursday, 19 April 2012

An Idiot's Guide to PR

I have been asked to write a regular article on public relations for one of the English language portals here in Prague (  I thought it would be easy – maybe it will be once I get started properly - but coming up with a topic for the first article – i.e as an introduction – was a bit more complicated.  In the end I decided that the first ‘edition’ should be something along the lines of an ‘idiot’s guide to PR’.  Here is an excerpt.

1.    What does a PR agency do?

That might seem like a strange first question, but I have to say that a good percentage of companies that come to see us do not really know what a public relations agency does.  The difference between marketing/advertising and PR is not always understood, and it is  not unusual for someone to say that they need some help with public relations and then start talking about advertising and other marketing tools. 

Generally, I would say that the term ‘public relations’ relates to the tools that a company can use to promote themselves to the public generally through talking ‘through’ the media – whether print, on-line, radio, TV, etc.   Of course it is a lot more complicated than that, and I will talk more on the subject as we go along, but hopefully that is enough for starters.

2.   Do we [public relations agencies] ‘have contacts’ in the media?

You would be surprised how often a company asks us this, particularly since we have been in the business for more than 20 years!   Bearing in mind the definition above, it would be a little strange if we didn’t have contacts in the media.  However, see next point!

3.   Can we use our contacts to get an article/interview/press release onto the front page of whatever newspaper is requested?!

I am afraid that this is also a regular assumption, and, sadly, if it was that easy, no-one would need us (plus every paper would be full of rubbish - bear in mind that most journalists receive hundreds of press releases and interview requests every day!).   Having ‘contacts’ does, however, mean that we can discuss articles, releases, interviews with the journalists in question, etc, and, in turn, they can tell us what they are interested in writing about.  There are very few journalists that, just because they are friends, will automatically place something in the paper for us.

4.   Who is the best person to handle the public relations for a company?

Another frequently asked question, to which I usually respond ‘who is the best person to handle the accounting, legal, IT for a company?’  You wouldn’t normally trust these things to someone that has absolutely no experience in the field, so why trust your PR to such a person….?  But if you don’t have such a person, then use an agency, in the same way that you go to an external supplier for other professional services!

5.   Should we use a PR agency/person?  We don’t really have anything to talk about….

You may be surprised, but most companies/individuals think this, and actually they DO have something to talk about – but that is where the PR expertise comes in.   Nearly every company that we deal with worries that they don’t have enough interesting news to carry out a PR campaign, but then we start discussing what they get up to each day, and endless possibilities spill out.   

6.   I have tried doing some PR before but have not had any results, so why could an agency help?

Many smaller companies have told me this over the years.  And I always respond that PR always works… it is what has been done that doesn’t work!

I could go on… and in the next few articles I probably will.  But for now, I hope that the above is enough of a taster to start you thinking about how you might use PR to support your business, and then read on to see how you, yourself, can start to get results!