PR on a shoestring budget

PR on a shoestring budget

Written by: Gerard Doyle, Fractal– The Startup Marketing Agency 

Like every business, your own has a story to tell. PR can be a great way to build your brand, help establish credibility, enhance your reputation and assist in boosting your sales. While PR is often perceived as a dark, difficult and mysterious art, you can easily succeed if you keep a few basics in mind. 

A great way to start looking at Public Relations (PR), is by thinking about what it’s not. PR isn’t about buying column inches, airtime or producing advertising – although you may sometimes allocate some marketing budget to a PR professional or campaign.  

This is not about getting journos to write stories for clients either. Instead, PR makes use of industry relationships and media insight, cutting through a saturated news environment, for the purpose of bringing positive attention to your cause.  

At its core, PR means getting a message out to the world by using persuasion – and without spending money. PR can position you, or your business as a credible authority on a subject, in a way that advertising just can’t. 

Helping the journos to help you

When we think of a newsroom, most of us probably  have very Hollywood-tinted vision. The packed open-plan office, phones are ringing urgently off the hook and papers flying everywhere, amid hundreds of stressed out journalists, gesturing and shouting. Whilst that’s probably not too far from hectic reality, there’s been a significant change to the newsroom in recent years – the size of the workforce. 

The media industry has undergone extensive job cuts and staff recruitment freezes. Journos in 2019 are an overworked bunch, and they can always do with a hand. There are some great ways you can help them to help you, and making the relationship mutually beneficial is critical. 

It’s helpful to think of your participation in media as being via one of two avenues: ‘Reactive’ and ‘Proactive’.  

  • Reactive media is when you join the conversation. 
  • Proactive media is when you start the conversation.

Reactive media comes into play when a hot item is in the press, and a journalist needs a talking head to provide an expert opinion. Becoming the expert in a hot news item is a great place to be because the journalist needs you, and you’re positioned as the expert. 

Proactive is when you pitch your content to the media. Proactive PR is equally as valuable, but you’ll need to work a little harder to persuade an editor or journalist that your material has merit. 

Approaching the media: Being Pitch Perfect

Remember, whenever you do pitch,
make sure it’s news: Think about the target audience, and consider what the content will mean to them. 
Before making contact, make sure your angle is relevant and newsworthy. Keep it interesting, valuable to the reader or viewer, and make your pitch relate to your viewpoint or idea – not just to whatever you happen to be working on at that time. 

Establishing contact: Email is great for the initial approach, but it’s important to consider your subject line carefully and make it count. Write to inform and grab attention – it might be all a busy journo initially reads when they’re deciding what to keep or delete. 
Don’t be a time waster: Keep that hassled journo in mind throughout your email. Don’t forget; Journos receive lots of pitches. Introduce the story idea and make sure you define your angle clearly, with no fluff. 
Establish relevance: Concisely explain why your idea is of interest to the audience, and to the journalist. Be an expert on the subject you are pitching, so you can answer any questions on the spot.
Format: Think about which format works best. Identify a specific section most relevant to your story, then make the effort to find out who edits that. Pitch directly to the relevant person, don’t rely on a general email.
Reflect: Before you click send, take a moment. Step back and reflect on your approach. Do your research to find out if the angle has been covered before, and if so, ask yourself how you can add new insight to the existing storyline.
Fill in the gaps:  Try to seek out media who haven’t already covered the topic, or find a question left unanswered, that only your brand can address.
Be evergreen:  While your story might not be front page news today, pitch it as being a piece with legs. Weave data, trends and other insights, to present something that can maintain relevance.
Be compelling: You may be an expert in your field, but you should still sound like a person! If in doubt, use the ‘over the fence’ method – pretend you’re talking to your lovely, old but switched on neighbour. Remember to be informative but conversational, and to keep the language simple.  

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