Do you read stories in newspapers and trade magazines about your competitors? Perhaps you know your company is as successful as they are with just as many positive stories to tell, but none of the articles you have submitted have been published.
The first thing to understand is that journalists are not in the business of providing free publicity. Their role is to produce articles of interest to their readers, so you need to provide relevant information which they genuinely want to publish. Different journalists write in different ways for different audiences and it is essential to develop an understanding of their requirements before submitting any information to them. A newspaper distributed in one city, for example, is unlikely to be interested in your new office in another city -- but it may well be if you explain that you've had to recruit specialist staff from the city the newspaper is published in, to address local skills shortages.
Efforts to secure publicity need to form part of a strategy which supports your broader commercial objectives. Hold a meeting with your management team -- perhaps with guidance from a PR consultant -- to explore the rationale behind the publicity drive. For example, you may have expansion plans which rely on being able to attract and retain high caliber staff. You therefore have two priorities: Firstly, to position yourself as a highly successful employer that looks after its staff, and secondly, to ensure that customers know who you are, what you do, and why you are the best.
Know your Market
It's important to develop a realistic understanding of your target audiences: Who are the decision-makers? What size companies do they work for or run? Where are these companies based? How are they influenced? What publications do they read? You can only hope to make a meaningful impact on people if you know what makes them tick.
Focus on the Message
Once you've established what you want to create 'noise' about and you've prioritized your target audiences, it's worth considering how you want to be positioned. Seeing your company's name in print can be immensely satisfying but if the article does not communicate specific aspects of your service and expertise, it's unlikely to have the required effect. By consistently describing your company in the same way and communicating three or four unique selling points you are more likely to get your message across.
Spread the Word
Press releases are a useful means of providing journalists with information and a good proportion of business articles begin their life in this way. However, journalists are bombarded with hundreds on a daily basis so it's essential that yours stands out. A powerful headline and first paragraph clearly identifying the news angle are fundamental. Avoid jargon at all costs and remember KISS: Keep It Short and Simple.
Press releases are by no means the only way. Pick up the telephone and discuss your story with the journalists you want to target. Don't lose heart if you get an indifferent response: think of the discussion as an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the type of commentary most likely to impress.
Remember that pro-activity, and perseverance, are essential. Good luck!
This article was written by Kelly Davis, director of NB! Public Relations. It originally appeared in the All About Public Relations Web site.