This weeks blog is from my old colleague Kath Swinglehurst of Apple Tree Communications. Here she shares her wealth of knowledge on the industry.
The PR landscape has changed hugely since I started out in the 1990s. Back then I could be stuffing press releases and image transparencies into envelopes one day, measuring the column inches of press coverage with a ruler the next, or phoning up journalists three seconds after we’d sent a fax to ask if and when they’ll cover the story. (If it was a timely news release we were allowed to use the fax – the dream!)
Like many PRs from that era, I’ve have had to upskill to keep up and get ahead as the world evolved first into the noughties and then into the brave new world of 2021. The internet and digital techniques may have completely transformed the media industry – and subsequently how we approach B2C and B2B PR – but there are some key fundamentals that are still as relevant today as they were back when our eyebrows were tweezed to oblivion and the Spice Girls were topping the charts.
I’ve shared a few below that might help when you’re planning your own PR campaign:
1) Know your audience
A key part of effective B2B and B2C PR and marketing communications is to get to know and understand your audience. Building a persona of your ideal customer will help inform your overall marketing strategy, and allow you to pinpoint the media you should be targeting as part of your PR activity.
2) Find the story
Take a close look at who you are, what your business is and what you can offer your customers. Turn journalist yourself and ask what you are offering, when and how, and most importantly, why? Your own back story and the motivation for setting up your business could be the gateway to coverage, so don’t hide your light under a bushel. Additionally, scrutinise your offering, determine your unique service proposition and work out what you’re doing that can make a real difference to your end customer, whether that’s meeting a need, or filling a gap in the market.
3) Build your journalist network
There is a host of media databases out there, which you can tap into to help you find and create media lists of your target publications and journalists. There are also some useful tools like Press Plugs and Response Source to connect you directly with those journalists putting out requests for products or stories. Whether you choose to go down this route (it can be pricey) or have a go at building your own list (brush up on GDPR rules when it comes to storing data), it’s also worth following the titles/journalists on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn and keeping an eye on #journorequest and #prrequest.
4) Press releases and features
When it comes to developing your press release or feature, define your key messages and plan your story using what, when, why, where, who and how, then get this across in the headline and first paragraph. Journalists are busy and hitting them hard with a catchy header and the story in the first few lines is crucial. It’s also worth creating a few case studies of your products or services in use (with your customers’ involvement and permission), which you can share with journalists in response to callouts.
When you send your press release paste it into the body of the email and use We Transfer or Dropbox to send accompanying images – it helps busy journalists and reduces the chance of it getting lost in the ether. I’ve just started using a nifty tool called Ace Media to analyse my coverage and host clients’ press releases and images –it can even track who downloads them. To help track coverage, use tools like PressReader or set up Google or Talkwalker Alerts. Just remember to have the correct licences in place with NLA Media Access and the Copyright Licensing Agency if you’re looking to share any coverage with anyone else, internally or externally.
5) Do’s and Don’ts
I was given some great advice from a friend in the late 90s and it still holds true today. Firstly, never lie to a journalist – if you don’t know the answer to their question say so, then tell them that you’ll get back to them with the information they need. Secondly, remember nothing is ever off the record, so don’t say anything you wouldn’t want to see in the press.
Kathryn Swinglehurst runs Leicestershire-based PR and copywriting consultancy, Apple Tree Communications