Public relations, by it’s most basic and simplistic definition, is using media contacts and exposure to make a person or business famous. It’s an important facet of any marketing strategy, and is, unfortunately, also one of the least practiced and understood.
So, what are public relations? Well, it’s basically an effort to influence the public or target demographic in some way. This could mean drafting a press release, pitching media or coordinating media outreach for an event.
The key to an effective PR campaign is understanding what IS a story and what is not a story. This can be a tricky task if you have no experience working with media. But there are a few guidelines that, if followed, may help you better how to navigate these muddy waters.
First, remember that if you look at potential stories from a consumer standpoint, it may be easier to identify what media may be interested in covering. For example, if you or your client adds a new board member, it’s likely not a story that media would cover. However, if that board member were a volunteer firefight who helped battle the California wildfires, you may be able to pitch the story as a feature of that individual. The story would be a profile of that person, who may mention that they accepted a board member position. The story would not be about that position.
Second, remember that reporters are people. If you have an event or a tip that will touch on existing industry issues, they will likely be interested in hearing about how it affects their beat (the topic/industry they cover.)
Finally, remember that public relations are about building relationships with the media. If you pitch a reporter and they choose not to cover your story, keep that in mind. Continue to go to them with great story ideas and you will be branding yourself an expert that they may come to for future stories. PR also facilitates branding in a way that advertising does not. Consumers often trust what they read or see in traditional media channels more than they do an ad because it’s coming from a third party, and what they are being told/sold has been vetted.
It’s vital to define your target audience in your public relations effort. First, define the target market and sub-segments. Then do your due diligence and pitch (reach out with a clearly defined story idea you want them to report on) reporters and outlets that will appeal to your demographic.