Public Relations Is Your Most Powerful Marketing Tool. Use it Wisely.

Public Relations Is Key To Marketing Success – Make It Work For You

By Lisa Porter

Image of Lisa Porter, CEO, Porter PR & Marketing

Public relations is one of the most powerful marketing tools available. There are myriad ideas of its meaning, but after 20 years of owning a marketing agency, when a company wants PR, what they are really saying is they want to be in the news.

The world of public relations marketing is dynamic. With its expansive growth on the digital stage, companies have more opportunity than ever before to get coverage in print, online publications and influential blogs, and on the air. But having more opportunity doesn’t make it easier; it just increases your odds of getting publicity. Pitching to a top-tier newspaper or magazine requires the art of persuasion. PR professionals are storytellers that, through the media, help companies build brands, promote products and services and outshine competitors.

The great thing about public relations is it not bound to any type of business or organization. It is open to any company or organization that has a good story to tell. That said, there are specific criterial that need to be met if a reporter is going to take your story idea seriously. 

Public Relations Marketing Tips to Help You Get Media Coverage

The tips below are aimed at working with the print media. Following are some of what you need to think about before attempting to approach a reporter or editor to write a story based on your idea:

#1. Why would anyone care?

If you can’t answer this question and come up with a solid answer, then the media will surly reject your story idea. A quality news outlet cares that its readers are getting the information that matter most to them. You may have a great product or service, but is it something worth writing about? What would you write about it that is not a sales pitch? Would it matter to the publication’s audience? If you believe your idea is the foundation for a good story, then think of all the reasons why. Now ask yourself, is this truly news or marketing? Remember, you are competing against real news for that small section of print or that 10 minutes of TV time, so whatever you are saying to convince the reporter your story is newsworthy, it better be good.

What’s newsworthy? Here’s an example. An architect that designs a hotel in Manhattan is not news. However, that this is the first hotel in NYC to use solar paneling throughout to adhere with the city’s Energy Efficiency Plan, which launched this month on the national stage makes it news. Get the idea?

Which, brings up the next criteria.

#2. Is it timely?

Make sure your story is timely. For example, Vacation Pet Friendly (formerly Pet Hotels of America), is a travel website for people that own pets. Here you can book hotels and find pet friendly parks, beaches, restaurants, veterinarians, expos and more in every city in the U.S. During the heat wave that blasted through the nation two years ago, we pitched the fact that Vacation Pet Friendly had listings and maps to every dog beach in America. The story, along with other ideas on how to keep your pet cool, was picked up by the Associated Press and ran in more than 100 newspapers nationwide. It wasn’t breaking news, but it mattered to the people reading their respective newspapers and it was timely.

#3. Is it unique?

One of the first things the reporter of a prestigious newspaper will ask is, “Have you pitched this story to other newspapers?” or “Has any other newspaper picked this up?” If your answer is yes, they will not be writing about it. No top-tier media outlet likes to play second fiddle. While there are exceptions, especially with large prestigious companies whose news breaks over the wires and gets same-day news coverage in national and international newspapers, most companies are pitching a story that was well thought out and developed specifically to capture the media’s attention. Handle the media gently. Remember, they are a competitive bunch and want to get across the finish line first.

#4. Know the difference between an advertisement and public relations

Many company executives do not understand why the media will not write about their company. Before you approach the press with a story idea ask yourself: is this information geared toward being an ad or an article. There is a huge difference between the two: advertising is paid media whereas public relations is news. It is much harder to get an article published than an ad placed, making editorial much more credible. To do this, you must convince the reporter or editor that your idea is worth writing about. Remember, the reporter may or may not know anything about your company, its products or services so don’t expect them to. Once you have made your pitch and it’s being considered for publication, that reporter typically will pitch it to her editor. Below are the five major differences between advertising and public relations so you don’t bother a reporter needlessly.

Public Relations

Advertising

Unpaid publicity

Paid

Trustworthy – 3rd party endorsement (newspaper, magazine, broadcast).

Promotes skepticism because you are manipulating the message and proposing for them to act

Produced to provide information

Produced to sell

Objective (at least in top-tier publications)

Subjective (always)

Builds a brand

Should adhere to a brand

Uses words to convey a story

Visual

In terms of marketing dollars, the question is which is more cost effective: public relations or advertising? In general, public relations marketing is much less costly than advertising and much more effective. When a newspaper, magazine or broadcast station writes about your company or conducts an interview with your firm’s executive or covers a corporate event, that media outlet is basically asserting that your story is credible. Prestigious media outlets are liable for the news they publish. They check their facts and protect their sources. Unlike advertisements, you pay, they play. If you are trying to build your brand, public relations is the definite way to go.

#5. Pitch your story to the right reporter

These guys are busy. They literally get hundreds of press releases, phone calls and email pitches a day. While trying to sort through what is news and what is not, they are working diligently to interview people, write stories, check facts and research relevant information. It’s not an easy job. Your ‘interruption” better be worth it. You need to do your homework beforehand and make sure the person you are interrupting is the person you want to write the story. Once you have the correct reporter and are lucky enough to get them to listen to your pitch, you typically have less than one minute to convince them that your idea is worth writing about. There are no rehearsals here. This is why it is so important to hire your public relations team wisely.

#6. Always tell the truth

A good public relations marketing professional is great at creating story angles that capture the media attention, putting a spin on an activity or event to make it newsworthy and knowing how to pitch to the press so the story gets picked up. What they are also good at doing is telling the truth. Never, never, never lie to a reporter and always be able to support your assertions with facts. It’s a small world and once you put a reporter in a volatile position by lying, misquoting or including information you are not sure about which later surfaces as untrue, you might as well nix that reporter from your contact database. Plus, your company will need to regain the trust of that publication and that is extremely hard to do.

This article as intended to provide an overview of what public relations marketing is, why it’s important and how to work with the media. If you are considering hiring a PR firm, read “The One Thing That Matters Most When Hiring a PR Firm.”  We would love to hear from you so contact us for more information on public relations and marketing.