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When setting up a new business, Public Relations is one of the many ways to generate interest for the newly hatched brand. Sharing insights, having set up a number of companies and now working in media is Stefan Pertz.
Wikipedia says PR “is the practice of deliberately managing the spread of information between an individual or an organisation (such as a business, government agency, or a nonprofit organisation) and the public.”
[pullquote]We all have that one friend that only calls when he or she needs your help. They are never to be found when you need them. When dealing with media, try not to be that one friend.[/pullquote]
There are several ways to do so and working with the media is one. Whether media is online or printed publishers will generate content derived from various sources: own research and interviews or press releases that have been filed with a publication. This content published may influence the public and thus achieve the objective of PR. As an editor, I sometimes like to use press releases as they are easy to integrate into the magazines we publish.
The issue with a start-up is that nobody knows about the business as it is a new company and doesn’t have a track record, exposure or even clients. One turns to the media to get the start-up in front of the public. Using media, one will quickly and efficiently reach the desired audience. Having published over 150 issues of our magazines, I have worked with many companies that are engaged in “Public Relations”. Here are tips on how to make your PR efforts work, based on my experience.
Build a relationship
[pullquote]There are always other ways you can return the favour to the media after they run your release or interview with your founder.[/pullquote]
We all have that one friend that only calls when he or she needs your help. They are never to be found when you need them. When dealing with media, try not to be that one friend. As I will discuss later on, media depends on income, and as a startup, you may not have a big budget for advertising. You don’t have to. There are always other ways you can return the favour to the media after they run your release or interview with your founder. If anything, one day, a journalist may ask you to help with a story, and then you can provide the needed input.
I hate one-way streets whereby a brand is only sending me their stuff to publish, but never even reply to my inquiries. It is also a wise investment of time to sit with a journalist and pick their brain on how they work. And it does not have to be a tech journalist. Anyone will do. From dealing with my colleagues and other publishers, editors and writers, I can say that the mindset is all very similar, no matter what topic they write about.
Same but different
[pullquote]Don’t tell me that you have to check with your management about this or let this take two weeks to get me the answer.[/pullquote]
If you state in your release to “contact me if you need further information”, I will. For two reasons. The first one is that I would want to know things that you have not addressed in your press release. More importantly, though, I want to get some information that I can use that other outlets don’t have. There is no point in me publishing the same thing as a dozen others. I want something that makes my story worthwhile for someone to reread it with a different slant to it. Sending out a press release and media just using Control C + Control V is easy and gets your message out there, but it is not sustainable. You are more interested in your message than anyone else, so you need to find ways to keep them engaged.
Come prepared with additional information you can share. Don’t tell me that you have to check with your management about this or let this take two weeks to get me the answer. The absolute worst answer I can receive is “Our management has decided not to disclose this information.” Remember: YOU sent out the release in the first place.
[pullquote]One client took me to Japan once during cherry blossom. As I said above, I do for you, please do for me. Said client got a massive story in return for that trip. [/pullquote]
Sometimes it cannot be avoided, and we copy/paste a release. But that is the last resort. If you want to get the best story ever, invite me to your launch and don’t just send a release. There are instances where I get to know about a networking night AFTER it happened. Had I been there, I would interview people, post on Instagram, Facebook and even Tweet. That is an immense return on your investment in a few beers and a pasta dish! One client took me to Japan once during cherry blossom. As I said above, I do for you, please do for me. Said client got a massive story in return for that trip.
Hitting it right!
Tech is telling me that today we can send out highly targeted messages that reach the right audience, based on profiling, AI and all the other gizmos that there are. Considering that, it is astounding what my inbox will receive when it comes to press releases. My magazine deals with trucks. Why would anyone send me a press release about baby strollers, ferry schedules or an airline having received new planes? Sure, SOMEONE will be interested in this, just not me. The problem is that I read EVERY press release to figure out if it is relevant for me. If I receive 100 releases and there are 80 not relevant, I will have spent a good feature film length in reading and deleting them before I tell the people not to send me such irrelevant material. What this achieves is the contrary of what PR is to do: your release will upset me because you waste my time and you haven’t done your homework.
[pullquote]PR companies want to show how hard they are working for you so often the number of media hits is more important to them than the relevance of the media to their product or service.[/pullquote]
Now, you might have hired a PR agency to handle this for you, and you could say it had nothing to do with you. It does, as the PR agency is just a forwarder of your message. You should insist on seeing the list of media titles that your release is going to. If in doubt, contact the media and check if the subject matter is one that they are interested in. PR companies want to show how hard they are working for you so often the number of media hits is more important to them than the relevance of the media to their product or service.
Also note that within a media outlet there might be different “desks”, i.e. different people handling different matters. Ensure that your release is sent to the right person. Again, if unsure, ask.
What is in it for me?
[pullquote]I have blacklisted brands that would constantly send me press releases via an agency, but never engage in a dialogue or rattle the client for advertising money.[/pullquote]
I saved this for last, but it is actually an important point. I need press releases and articles, whitepapers and news from brands in my circle. Other publishers may see this differently, but I maintain the attitude that “If I think it is of interest to my readers, I will publish this.” I am happy to see how brands recognise my channels as valuable and that I can excite them to send me their material. Up to a point. As I said above, it needs to be a two-way street. I have blacklisted brands that would constantly send me press releases via an agency, but never engage in a dialogue or rattle the client for advertising money.
[pullquote]… if you cannot place any ads, sponsor our events, at least have the decency to invite me for a meal every now and then. [/pullquote]
Here is the situation: the brand gets exposure and hopefully more business. The PR agency charges the brand a fee for their work (If the PR work is done in-house, then still someone is making money off it, in the form of a salary). I have to pay for the production of my publication, but the brand won’t place any ads. The end result is a win-win-lose situation, and eventually, I would have to close shop. A publication is, with exceptions, a business just like yours and depends on revenue derived from the sales of services. Sever that, and eventually, you will have no media to send your news to. If you haven’t got a big budget, never mind. I can offer you something from as little as 10 USD to USD 80 000. Within that framework, you simply cannot tell me that you have NO budget. Your RM500 for an online banner goes a long way in paying the coffee we drink in the office, or for the Internet.
And, if you cannot place any ads, sponsor our events, at least have the decency to invite me for a meal every now and then.
[pullquote]If a journalist has done something for you, it is “thanks”! It is amazing how few times we get to see this when we bend over backwards to publish something.[/pullquote]
- BCC: It may be hard to believe, but there are still people out there that don’t know how that works
- T + P: If you want something published, say “please”. If a journalist has done something for you, it is “thanks”! It is amazing how few times we get to see this when we bend over backwards to publish something.
- What’s in a name: The biggest disaster for a journalist is to get names wrong or to have typos in their article. Keep it professional by getting the names of journalists 100% right. And don’t give them cute abbreviated names. Chances are you never met in person and have not established that level of comfort with each other.
- Ease off: Do not call a minute after you sent the release to ask if the press release was received. I am not glued to the screen, and I have other things going on.
- Change is Inevitable: Be prepared that your article or release will be edited. There are house styles, and an editor will reformat your material to suit it. And unless you paid for an advertorial, it is up the editor to decide what they use.
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