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Public relations (PR)

    Public relations (PR)

    Public relations (PR) means getting people to talk and think about your business in a positive way. It can be an important part of your marketing plan.

    It’s a way to get good publicity without advertising. Also if there’s ever a problem facing your business it helps you deal with it effectively.

    You can use PR to attract and impress people such as customers, suppliers, distributors, banks and other lenders, potential employees and possible business partners.

    PR isn’t just for big companies using national newspapers or television. Even the smallest business can use publicity opportunities to catch the eye of its local audience and promote itself online to reach a wider customer base.

    This guide will help you generate positive media coverage and identify the media you should target. It will also tell you how you can go about writing a press release and give you tips for dealing with bad publicity.

    Develop your public relations plan
    To make the most of public relations (PR) in your business, you should develop a strategic plan. Your plan should include:

    Aims and objectives – consider what you want to gain from your public relations activities. Set measurable objectives for your campaigns. For example you may want to increase brand recognition among a specific audience or generate one piece of media coverage per month. See your marketing objectives.
    Target audience – think about the people you want to reach with your messages. This could be potential investors, the local community or your customers. Refer to you market strategy to define your target market.
    Target media – once your audience is defined, how will you reach them? Consider news media they consume and online channels they use. See identify your target media for public relations.
    PR tactics – decide the kinds of tactics you will use, eg: press releases, opinion articles events, online PR, corporate social responsibility (CSR). Think about the kinds of stories your business can release and ways to raise your profile in your local community or industry.
    Schedule ­– plan your media and other PR activities with a schedule. This will help you keep track of media deadlines and topical content themes.
    Resources and budget – plan how much time and money you can invest in PR and what will get in return. Consider if you should be using a PR agency.
    Evaluation – work out how you will decide how successful your PR activities have been. Use this information to improve future campaigns. The results of PR can be tricky to measure. Some ways to evaluate campaigns include surveys and social listening tools.

    Identify your target media for public relations
    The first step to getting media coverage for your business is to decide who your target audience is and which media you should use to reach them. Ask yourself who will be interested in your story and which publications or media will reach these people or businesses? Your target media list may include:

    your local paid-for newspaper
    your local free paper
    local magazines
    local radio and television
    trade, technical and professional magazines covering your type of business or expertise
    national newspapers
    consumer and lifestyle magazines
    local bloggers or those with an interest in your industry
    online news media
    national radio and television – but usually your local station will feed your story to the network if it’s good enough
    See write an effective press release.

    Build media contacts
    News media (including newspapers, online news and radio stations) will normally have a number of journalists. Communicating directly with a particular journalist can be more effective than sending a press release to the news desk.

    Research the type of article particular journalists write. Identify those with an interest in your interest or the type of story you have.

    Make things easy for journalists by sending them press releases in a convenient format (eg email), written in a suitable style. Make sure you are available to answer any questions they may have about the press release. It can help to offer accompanying photography with a caption. Be aware of copy deadlines.

    When you have sent a press release, follow up with a phone call to ensure it has been received and check if they anything else.

    Try not to bombard journalists with stories that won’t be of interest for publication. What may be big news for your business, may not be newsworthy to the general public.

    Keep a record of journalists you have worked with in the past and try to develop a relationship with them.

    Public relations opportunities
    Once you have identified the right media outlets, you can target them with press releases. Press releases are usually news stories that convey positive messages about your business. They should be written in a journalistic style.

    You should try to tailor press releases for each different media outlet.

    For example, if a small engineering company wins a big Italian order with a new manufacturing technique, the press release for the trade and technical press should highlight the success of the technique and the company’s use of innovation.

    The press release for the local paper however, should be about increased employment and the prestige for the town in beating foreign competition.

    Potential PR stories
    There are many natural PR opportunities:

    a new product launch
    new premises
    new members of staff
    an important new order
    business expansion
    involvement with a charity
    significant anniversaries, eg your 1,000th customer
    business partnerships
    changes in business structure such as mergers and acquisitions
    And you can create publicity opportunities:

    submit articles, such as opinion pieces, for publication
    commission a survey on serious or fun issues and send the results to the press
    suggest a competition with your product as the prize
    give expert opinions and volunteer quoteson current affairs

    How to enter and win business awards
    Winning a business award is an excellent PR opportunity. It raises the profile of your business and highlights your expertise.

    Types of business award
    Awards may recognise excellence in a particular industry sector or in business practices across all sectors. There are local and UK-wide business awards for industries and areas such as:

    consumer products
    tourism and hospitality
    food and drink
    corporate social responsibility (CSR)
    employment practices
    individual staff eg ‘apprentice of the year’
    Benefits of entering business awards
    Winning, or being nominated or shortlisted, for an award has a number of advantages:

    raise brand awareness
    highlight areas of excellence
    boost staff morale
    networking opportunities at award events
    The application process can help you reflect on your business practices and identify strengths and weaknesses. Even if you aren’t successful, this can help you consider how to improve your business and make useful comparisons with your competitors. See measure performance and set targets.

    Business award entry dos and don’ts
    Avoid these common pitfalls when completing award applications:

    Not following the rules – make sure to carefully read the terms and conditions before you start your application. Does your business fit the criteria? Be sure to adhere to rules like word counts and deadlines.
    Using internal jargon – many businesses use abbreviations and terms that won’t make sense to outsiders. This could make your application confusing to the judges. Try to write your entry in plain English that is easy to read. Ask someone who doesn’t work with your business to read over your application and check it makes sense.
    Making assumptions – award judges may have different levels of knowledge and expertise in your industry. Be cautious about going into complicated, technical details.
    Follow these tips for a completing a successful award entry:

    Deadlines – check when your entry must be submitted and make sure you give yourself plenty of time. Other people in your organisation may want to read over the entry so factor this in.
    Provide evidence – be sure to back up what you say with measurable evidence. For example, did your activities increase sales or reduce sickness absence? Include meaningful statistics. It is better to present hard facts about your business than subjective opinions.
    Structure your answer – make sure to explain the context, the action you took, the reasons why you did it and the outcome. Respond to everything the specific question is asking.
    Explain the context – give the judges relevant information about your organisation, the environment and the situation.
    Objectives – compare measurable objectives with actual outcomes. This will help demonstrate the impact your initiative.
    Presentation – check your spelling, grammar and layout before submitting your entry.


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