Contrary to what many may assume, public relations is not limited to only media outreach—it in fact encompasses many forms and channels of communication with your end user. Once you’ve mastered the art of writing a press release and media pitch, your DIY efforts in the public relations arena don’t have to end. In my opinion, that’s just the beginning.
1. Social Media
One of the best ways to expand your PR repertoire is something you are most likely already doing: social media. The major goal of PR is to communicate with your target audience—and there is no easier or faster way to do that than via social media, for better or worse. Social media breaks down barriers and makes communication instant and often filter-less, so always triple check your posts, tweets or videos. That being said, log on and let’s begin.
You’ll find the following activity quite familiar, and that’s a good thing. However, you need to adapt your style slightly—so all I ask is that when you utilize social media for PR practices, please slip on your publicist hat before you begin follow one of my first rules: think like your target audience.
What would they be interested in? Don’t simply post links and focus on boosting your fan numbers; engage your audience. Ask and answer questions, seek feedback and join relevant conversations. Social media platforms also provide you with a forum for (free) focus groups. I’ve often had clients share ideas for new logos or products on various social media channels. Consider your social media platforms a direct link to your current and future customers, and act accordingly.
2. Events & Sponsorships
The moment I signed the papers to incorporate my business, I started getting phone calls from people who wanted me to buy ad spots or sponsor an event. And I would guess you have been bombarded by requests that usually have an attached price tag, as well. The truth is that the majority of these “opportunities” won’t even be a fit with your business. But with a little sleuthing and asking the right questions, you can find sponsorships that will lend PR credibility.
When a sponsorship opportunity is presented, always ask these three questions:
- Will you reach your targeted audience?
- Does it make sense for your business to be connected with this event? (Example: If you own a bakery, why should you sponsor an event at a gym?)
- Can you afford to participate if this doesn’t drive new business and the only benefit is the tax write-off?
If you can answer “yes” to those three questions, you may well have a viable opportunity in front of you. But before you sign your name on a check, ensure that you will have the following to get the most out of your sponsorship:
- Inclusion in press materials, website and any other documents.
- Logo representation on any signage, including T-shirts, banners, brochures or flyers.
- Mentions on Facebook, Twitter and other relevant social media platforms linking to your accounts.
- Inclusion in media outreach. No media outreach planned? Ask if you can do some of your own— you know how!
- Copies of all photos taken (if applicable) and photo usage rights.
3. “Celebrity” Endorsements
With an onslaught of 24/7 tabloid coverage, the term celebrity applies to more than just movie stars or musicians. Housewives, doctors and even pre-teen beauty pageant queens are considered famous today, as the term “celebrity” can be applied to anyone who holds public interest due to a prominent profile.
I’m not suggesting you run after Julia Roberts to be your spokesperson—that is not only unlikely to happen, but it is also probably beyond your budget’s reach. Ask yourself: Is there a “celebrity” that may help your brand through an endorsement, either implied or actual? Maybe you own a small business and there is a local star, such as a mayor or hometown athlete your customers admire. If so, why not use the power of PR to develop a relationship with that person and introduce him or her to your brand and/or product. Do some research, find an assistant or a representative you can contact and build a relationship if possible. Being able to list this person as a fan or user (and not a paid spokesperson) will help you harness the power of “celebrity” to help build your brand.
4. Media Tour
As entrepreneurs, we all know and appreciate the advancements technology has provided us, especially in our businesses. Yet nothing trumps the all-important, in-person meeting, especially in the world of public relations. So don’t simply rely on email or phone correspondence with your media. If time and budget permits, consider embarking on a “media tour,” which is a series of in-person meetings with your key press targets.
Also, take advantage of your business trips. If you’re already traveling to another city for other business, say hello to that blogger in Seattle who you have been pitching. Take the new producer in Chicago out for coffee. Sometimes, these media meetings will come in advance of a big product launch; Other times you may just want to check in and provide the state of the union from your perspective. My point is to make personal contact whenever possible.
As you see, there is much more to PR than writing press releases and securing media coverage—we’ve only just scratched the surface of how you can utilize it to build your business. Just remember that not only does PR actually work, but in true entrepreneurial spirit, you can and should do it yourself until your company and budget is big enough to bring in the professionals.