In my cookshop business I was always being approached by people who wanted to use our business and products for PR purposes. I never went out of my way to solicit such offers but I received plenty all the same! Just think what could be possible if you made some time to be proactive in this area.
Every day businesses everywhere issue press releases announcing their news to the media. Journalists receive releases through news feeds and by email, but increasingly they search keywords online to pick up hot stories.
The trick for businesses is to ensure that their news is full of “buzzwords” – terms that the journalists will both recognise and respond to as being timely and relevant. Here are some ideas for planning, writing and distributing releases to maximise your chances of them getting picked up online.
1 Draft content with your customers in mind
Select the right topic. Here are types of content that are deemed newsworthy:
· Results of industry or customer research. People are curious to know what others are thinking or doing. For this reason, large companies spend money on hiring research specialists to produce glossy reports. You don’t need to spend a lot of money – a quick and creative customer poll held on your website or a free survey site can generate press interest if it is done in a timely and relevant way. Try to include informed comment from your business’s perspective.
· A new product or service. Here “new” must mean unique or novel in the market in some way – not just new to your business.
· An award or contract success.
· Items related to people or events in the current news agenda.
· Something controversial, funny or surprising.
Choose the right words for your title and content – identify the words that your audience and customers are using to describe your products and service – not those that you and your management team use. For example if you were in the holiday industry, it would be better not to talk about a “holiday let” if your customers were more likely to be searching for “holiday cottage”. It’s imperative to focus on the keywords that your customers and target media will be using to search.
2 Promote your content
Post your press releases on your blog. The competition for the attention of journalists has never been hotter, but don’t be disheartened if your press release fails to be published in your target media. Your press release can be published on your website and blog to generate interest and a positive picture of your company.
Your status in the search engine rankings will improve when customers search for the keyword terms you have included in your content. You can then maximise the value by linking to it from your social media accounts. For example, you could post links to your blog on your favourite social network. Alternatively. spend some time on a forum and identify a question you could help a potential customer or client with. Answer personally and then add a link to your article, saying, “Read our article for the full answer to your question”.
In this respect, more is more – the more you publish, the better you will do in search engines. You don’t need to talk to journalists first to see if they’re interested in your story and you can use different media including photos, video, company presentations and podcasts.
You can still email press releases to journalists but do beware of spamming them with too much content. Be selective about what is of real interest to your journalists, and which formats they can use. It can help to offer an “exclusive story” from time to time too.
3 Develop relationships with your audience and engage them in dialogue
Today strong relationships can be built online. You can still use traditional forms of relationship building, but if you combine this with social media connections you’ll be able to respond much faster to published requests for help with stories, case studies, views and comments. The key is to be responsive and interesting – remember the news agenda moves fast. Get ready to react to requests for help with information within 30 to 90 minutes – not several hours.
4 Monitor conversation and response
The term “media” used to mean intermediary journalists who would moderate press releases and generate the news. In the age of Web 2.0, the news media not only includes your print, broadcast and online journal contacts – but the whole “blogosphere”, and bloggers could include your friends, colleagues and customers. Do some research and make a list of the key journals, blogs and forums that are relevant to your customers and competitors.
Here’s a list of routine daily actions that could build momentum over a short period of time. This kind of activity will help your press releases get featured eventually – your target journalists will start to notice your contributions when they search for keywords, and you will be in the right place at the right time when they want information about your product/service.
· Check what people are saying about you by reading newspapers and magazines to identify any coverage. You can purchase this service – search for press cuttings or media monitoring.
· Search the internet for any mention of your company on blogs, social media and forums (you can purchase social media monitoring services to save time).
· See if you can respond to any comments or answer any questions.
· Engage people by inviting them to be your “friends”, and recommending their comments to your network.
· Check what people are saying about the issues that confront your customers. Look at your favourite industry newsfeed and find the top story of the day that relates to your services. Identify the main keywords and do a search to find postings online that you can respond to with comments and questions. Publish a short article on the issue on your own blog, and use the information to plan your next press release.
· See if anyone “likes” what you’ve written and leaves a positive comment. Respond to this and make another “friend”.