What is Public Relations?
What is Public Relations? Many of us probably think we know a bit about Public Relations (PR) and it’s fair to say that in the age of the spin doctor, it’s come in for some hefty criticism. However, PR campaigns remain a tried and tested method for gaining publicity for your company, its products and services, and still have a significant role to play in marketing campaigns; in fact, even more so in the digital age.
Sarah Ross, our PR account manager, recently presented a webinar on ‘How to Boss your first PR Campaign’, covering topics such as what PR is (and isn’t), understanding what makes a story newsworthy and how to research, develop and release your story. Sarah has been with Anicca for over 5 years and has spent more than 10 years in PR, so she knows her stuff. She has worked on a variety of accounts specialising in PR strategy, campaign delivery and SEO content.
View the Webinar Video and slide deck
Click below to view the webinar in full or to see the presentation slides. Alternatively, read on for the overview of the webinar’s key points.
What PR is and isn’t
- The strategic management of communication between a company or organisation and the public
- Used to build and maintain a positive public image on behalf of a brand
- A way to increase brand awareness through earned media
- Used to defend a brand’s reputation during times of crisis
- A support for SEO activities through online citations and link building
- Free advertising or advertorial – make it too ‘salesy’ and it won’t run
- 100% controllable – your standpoint may not be the one published
- Guaranteed – events happen fast and agendas change quickly
Why you need a PR campaign
92% of consumers trust earned media as opposed to 56% of those who trust advertising
How to gain coverage – you need a PR campaign plan
- Understand what journalists look for
- Create a newsworthy story
- Present that story in a way that appeals to journalists
What makes a story newsworthy? – Digital PR tips
Journalists use a range of criteria to decide whether a story is worthy of publishing, pursuing or promoting. They won’t necessarily use all of them on every story, the timing and impact of a story may be sufficient on their own to justify a story’s use, but it’s useful to know the benchmarks against which a story will be evaluated.
Understanding news values – how journalists judge the importance of a story
An initial assessment of a story or press release will consist of two key factors: is it of interest to the audience and does it warrant coverage. The second part of these breaks down into a list of values:
Timeliness – the news cycle is growing ever shorter, so a story will benefit from hitting the spot at just the right time. You can’t control that cycle, of course, but it’s important to be sensitive to it and it might influence the exact point at which you put your release out.
Proximity – this applies both physically and culturally. How close, relevant and meaningful the story is to the channel’s audience will be a key factor in the decision to publish or not.
Impact – this is measured on both breadth and depth. How many people are affected by the consequences of the story and how long-lasting or profound are those effects. And don’t forget that impact can be either negative or positive; something to bear in mind when composing your press release.
Prominence – news is about people and how events affect them. Consequently, the profile and stature of people who feature in a story will have a bearing on how likely it is that a story will be picked up. It doesn’t have to be about social media influencers etc. It might be industry or thought leaders, or regional champions.
Oddity – a story that is a bit quirky or out of the ordinary can often provide an antidote to the normality or routine of daily news. We can all think of examples of such stories and we often see them go viral on social media, especially. But don’t try to force it; people will see through that very quickly.
Relevance – this is a term that varies widely, depending on the channel and audiences; it also touches on many of the other criteria in this list. It is most easily applied by flipping the outlook and thinking about how your story might relate to a current trend or news wave, rather than writing a story that is more stand-alone.
Conflict – we may be living in tumultuous and extraordinary times but the truth is that disagreement, debate and discord are an integral part of life. Consequently, stories that feature some form of conflict will often catch the eye. As with other criteria, it can take many forms, such as parents fighting school rules, or individuals tackling council rules and so on.
How to research your PR campaign ideas
To ensure that you’re writing the correct stories in the right way, you’ll need to perform some research to give yourself a foundation on which to write.
Firstly, know your audience. It might sound simple but you should ask, who are they? What are their interests? And, which media do they consume and which stories within those media? Answers to these questions will ensure you’re on the right path.
Secondly, follow the news. We’ve already mentioned making your story relevant and monitoring industry news as well as general interest news will help you to tune your own story to current topics, trends and timings.
Thirdly, follow the competition. You may well already follow your competitors on social media through hashtags but have you also set up Google alerts to be notified of new coverage as it occurs. Competition doesn’t necessarily mean confrontation, of course, you might spot opportunities to contribute to industry discussions and provide some thought leadership.
Lastly, finding inspiration. Stories don’t simply appear out of thin air and knowing where to look for insight that sparks a story is vital. Fortunately, there are many sources that can help get you started. Your own colleagues and data may well have many tales to tell.
People and product success stories can work well if there’s that hook. Sites such as Answer the Public are a great insight into trending questions and Help a Reporter Out provides links with journalists looking for feedback on topics. And, of course, there’s Twitter with individual and company accounts. Look out for @DigitalPREx and @DigitalPRInspo for showcasing campaigns and ideas.
Building a media list
A list of contacts, kept in a spreadsheet, will help you to track who works where, the audiences they serve and the stories they’re drawn to.
Free – a trawl of social media, media websites and Google should provide a good haul of names and contact details. Furthermore, for harder to find contacts, simply applying an organisation’s email address format to a contact might also work e.g. [email protected]
Paid – a number of websites perform the tracking and monitoring of the media for you. Some examples are Vuelio, Gorkana and Response Source. They charge for the service, of course, so it will be your call as to whether that cost can be justified or is necessary.
Create your first PR campaign plan
Developing a story
Making your story newsworthy – it’s useful to undertake some ‘sense checks’ along the way as you develop a story, to ensure that you’re on the right track. For example, does the story have value outside of your own company and, if so, to whom? Check against the newsworthy criteria list and consider how your story might fit into the current news cycle. You can always re-assess your approach so that the story passes these tests on a second go.
Creating a news hook – hopefully you’re reading this blog because the opening couple of paragraphs grabbed your attention and encouraged you to read on; the same will apply to your press release. Journalists won’t read through every word of every release they receive, so you need to make yours stand out and grab the attention quickly
Drafting your press release
Research has shown that there is a distinct hierarchy of factors to make your press release more effective:
- State your news hook clearly
- Tell your story as a conversation and avoid jargon
- Use quality quotes to add depth
- Include multimedia elements
Use a simple structure to present your story
- A clear and concise heading
- A summary headline
- Open with the story hook
- Tell the story
- Include quotes
- Add a website link
- Finish with further useful info e.g. contact details
Aim to answer as many questions as possible; who is the story about, what is happening and where, why does it matter etc.
How to issue your press release
- What makes a good press release?
- Get your release approved internally
- Include a high quality image (approx. 1MB)
- Note a time when you/a spokesperson will be available to answer queries
- Include your release in the body of the email as well as an attachment
- Use a 3rd party such as Dropbox to make further images or files available
Preparing your pitch
Include a short pitch that covers the subject of the story, why it matters to their audience and that references the journalist’s other work.
- Use a short and snappy subject line
- Personalise your pitch
- Tweak your pitch according to the channel/journalist
- Don’t use ‘all capitals’
- Do follow up
- Track subject lines and styles that work well
Your PR campaigns will benefit greatly from getting journalists onside, which take time and effort but pays dividends in the future. A few tips to do this:
- Provide journalists with quality stories
- Don’t bombard them with irrelevant stories, less is more
- Make your stories stand out from the rest
- Work to journalists’ deadlines and accommodate their requests
- Back up stories with facts and statistics
Hopefully, this has given you a great start in how to create a PR campaign, getting you started on your PR campaign plan and maybe some PR campaign ideas but above all else, answered the question: what is Public Relations?