Let’s take a different approach to public relations

PR people cover their butts by saying, “We can’t guarantee placement.”

Okay. Maybe that’s true, but your agency should guarantee value.

Here’s how we do it.

A while back a local company engaged us to put out a release on a new company achievement. We advised that it might be tough to get it picked up in the news. But we gave it our best shot.

When our prediction proved correct, and the release did not run, we said, “No charge, but next time, let’s try a different approach.”

Since then we’ve re-thought local press releases because a lot has changed in the world of local public relations.

CLARIFICATION: For this article, we’re not talking about strategic corporate public relations (which we also do). That is best handled with the continuity of monthly retainers to guide long term results. This little treatise is about small businesses and non-profits that need occasional press releases on a project basis.

We had The World’s show producer Jason Margolis in town and hooked him up with chef Jody Morphis of Blue Denim to talk about catfish.

The first thing an agency should do for you when you think you need a press release is due diligence – an hour or two. And you should not expect to pay for this. We often “soft pitch” the story to our media contacts just to gauge the likelihood of being picked up. We don’t bill for this because it’s part of sales. Like lawyers we need to ask ourselves: do we have a case? If we do, if we know we can deliver value, we engage.

All print media is under-staffed now. Where there used to be several layers of editorial personnel, with the newbie journalists dutifully reviewing company press releases to go on those “business milestones and achievements” pages, those people are all gone today. Broadcast is doing a little better, but not every client lends itself to exciting visuals.

Sometimes you have to deliver good photography to get placed, which is what we did here for the local non-profit Be Great Foundation.

While press releases may not be what they used to be, they are still valid. We’ve just had to re-think the value proposition and our approach.

Here’s how…

Half of the press release job is placement–getting it into the media. But the first half is writing it. You still need an objective writer for this to make sure the copy both presents the news factually, while accurately positioning your brand in the market

Spectrum News does a good job covering community events, if you’ve got interesting visuals. Here Hirsch Wellness Netowrk is hanging art for auction.

If your news release copy opens with something like this:

Acme Framis, a global leader in innovative flange and widget technology, is proud to announce five new sales team managers,

…nobody is going to care. And that’s a way-too-common mistake when you’re not used to writing news. But if you say something like:

Noted smart ass Dave McLean joins King’s English to shake up the firm’s aging creative product,

…you might raise some eyebrows.

Okay, you probably don’t want to be that brash, but our point is you want a press release that grabs the editor and suggests it will get people interested while advancing your brand in some way.

Therefore, you definitely want to rely on your agency to write the release. Give the agency some creative latitude.

earned media is all about story placement

Business Journal reporter John Joyce interviews Stephanie Lischke of Franklin & White over coffee at Cheesecakes by Alex in downtown Greensboro.

Now, for the placement half of the press release job, we need to look at media differently.

For example…

• The local business newspaper currently runs business announcements for a cost of a few hundred dollars. Paying for a placement used to be considered bad form among PR people (prostituting the art!), but today, for this “PR people” it’s perfectly fine. You’ll get your message and photo in print and online where search engines pick it up. (See an example at the bottom of this article.) Nobody cares anymore that it’s a paid placement.

• Our local daily still runs business news and achievements, pretty much verbatim to the releases we provide. And it’s free. So do that, too.

• If your website doesn’t have a blog, rethink that and get one set up (or let us do it). Think of this as self-publishing, but it’s still media. Blogs boost SEO performance and give your site a feeling of being current. Your blog becomes a repository of company and product information that is as good as any brochure. This is where you can self-publish your release and push it out on social media and, ideally, on your company e-mail blasts. Example: Jamesson Solutions blog.

• If you have a decent LinkedIn network, you can probably get a few thousand impressions there, alone. I love LinkedIn for this. Of all the social media, it can be the most boring, but it also DOES get viewed by career minded people who make business decisions.

Remember, “impression” just means people see it. It doesn’t mean they READ your story. That goes back to having a good copywriter to help make sure people decide it’s worth their time.

• Don’t overlook Facebook and Instagram. We’re well acquainted with Meta’s organic (free) capabilities, as well as its paid advertising, and can help you get traction there. It’s a good place to publish your placements, too, like this:

• King’s English also has expertise in website development and social media management, so we can take that off your plate, too. Definitely share your release on all of your platforms.

• We work with some of the area’s best photographers, and we can help you and your staff look great in the media. Good photography is more important than ever in today’s digital environment.

We no longer say, “We can’t guarantee placement,” because we can! And we can improve the value of both your content and your reach by using the above new strategies.

This Business Journal has a decent product that puts your news online forever, as well in one its print editions.