We have created a comprehensive guide for public relations pros to learn the best practices and tips of the PR trade. The first section deals with media relations and media monitoring, the second section with content marketing tips, and the third section covers data and how to utilize insights and PR analytics. The future of PR is bright and we hope this guide gives you many tools of public relations that will help you master the centuries-old craft we all love.
How to Research and Pitch Media
Your company likely has a compelling story to tell the world. All you need now is someone willing and able to tell it. Getting the right kind of PR can give your company a healthy boost of visibility, generate buzz, and potentially attract qualified leads and customers. Matching the right story to the right reporter is key to landing a media placement that will benefit all parties involved.
Don’t waste time throwing as many pitches as possible to a blanket list of reporters. Instead, choose a reporter with an interest or specialized knowledge about the subject and beat that your story falls under. This way, the story will get in front of the audience your business is targeting.
Finding the right reporter takes time and research. You will also have to craft persuasive pitches and be responsive to reporters’ needs in a timely manner.
The following five effective PR strategies will help you find the right reporter and get your story in front of your target audience.
1. Do your homework
Before you can start pitching, you need to figure out which reporters are worth reaching out to about your story idea. Immerse yourself in reading an enormous amount of different publications — magazines, newspapers, trade journals, blogs, etc. Read every relevant publication that pertains to your industry. Doing so will give you a good sense of which media outlet would be best suited and most likely to feature your story. Eventually, you’ll start to recognize the names of reporters that cover your beat.
2. Track similar stories
Create a spreadsheet to keep track of links to articles that are similar to the kind you’d like to see written about your company along with the authors’ names. Update your journalist database or list regularly so that you’ll be able to keep things organized once you start sending your PR pitch to various publications.
3. Make contact with reporters
Once you pinpoint the reporters whom you want to cover your story, send media a pitch note through email, phone, or a direct message on social media. Their contact info (email and/or twitter handle) will often be featured on the article or publication’s website. Otherwise, a quick Google search will likely dig up what you need. For reaching out to those who may be harder to find, consider investing in a journalist database like Cision, Meltwater or Trendkite — PR tools with extensive media contact information.
4. Emphasize the benefits the reporter will gain from writing the story
Good PR pitching is not just about asking a reporter to write your story. Rather, try to establish a rapport. Be courteous and friendly. It also helps to compliment the reporter or talk about something the reporter is interested in, such as a topic they recently covered. Show that you have done your homework and understand what they’re all about. Next, demonstrate in your pitch note how the story aligns with the reporter’s interests. Be wary of coming off as only trying to advance your own cause. Explain why the story is not one of the hundreds of PR pitches the reporter receives every week. Show them why your story would interest their readers and emphasize that publishing it would be mutually beneficial for both you and the writer.
5. Be responsive in your correspondence and respect your reporters’ time
Reporters often work on tight deadlines. Once they commit to your story, they will depend on timely correspondence to get it done. Make sure to supply them with all the relevant information they need and address any requests for additional information promptly. After you’ve done your part, it’s important to follow up with the reporter, but be careful not to become a nuisance.
Solidifying good relationships with reporters you trust is an essential part of aiding your PR efforts. By establishing a good reputation with writers, you’ll likely receive continued coverage for your company well into the future.
How to Write a Press Release
A successfully executed public relations strategy rests on good press releases. These brief, informative documents share announcements about company events, product releases and updates, and other newsworthy items about your organization.
Press releases do more than keep the media, the industry, and the public informed about your business’s recent developments. They are also intended to pique the curiosity of journalists and inspire them to do further research on the topic. Crafting a press release is often the first step toward landing a feature story in a magazine or a television interview, which can provide a company with greater visibility, awareness, and new customers.
Journalists are flooded with potential stories and pitches on a daily basis. Therefore, it’s crucial that your press release stand out from the pack of people doing PR outreach. While the basic format of a press release is simple, the content should be compelling and interesting.
Here are eight tips for how to write a press release that will help your company stand out, look professional, and attract writers looking for juicy stories.
1. Grab their attention
About eighty percent of readers don’t make it past the headline. A good press release headline should give the reader an idea of what the rest of piece is about and interest them enough to read further. Make sure you use a captivating headline for your press release and in the subject lines of your email when you send the pitch.
2. Get to the point
Respect that reporters are extremely busy and, if you’re lucky, will only read the first sentence and skim the rest. Therefore, be sure to get the message of your press release across right in the beginning. All of the important points should be addressed in the headline and the first few sentences. The subsequent paragraphs should only feature supporting information. Think of it as an inverse pyramid where the information that is of greatest importance is at the top and items of lesser importance are at the bottom.
3. Include data
Avoid excessive hyperbole and embellishment. Reporters are not interested in fluff. Your job is to pack your press release with hard, cold data and relevant statistics that back up your claims and demonstrate the newsworthiness of your company, story, product, or announcement.
4. Proofread carefully
This cannot be stressed enough. Carefully proofread and edit your press release, always! Have a third party look it over before sending it out. Even a seemingly minor typo or grammar mistake can turn off a reporter and convince her not to take you seriously.
5. Include quotes if possible
Including a good quote from someone in the company or close to the product, event or story can add a dash of color as well as a human element to the press release. Reporters can include the quote in the eventual article and will appreciate not having to ask you for one. A quote also breaks up the facts and stats that can make a press release seemingly dry.
6. Include your contact information
Although it may seem obvious, neglecting to include contact information is an unfortunately all-too-common blunder that can sabotage a good press release. Without your contact info, reporters are unable to follow up with you. Don’t forget to include a phone number and email where you or someone else at the company can be reached.
7. One page ideal, two page maximum
Like everyone else, reporters don’t have a lot of time to read, so shorter is usually better. Try to keep your press release down to one page. You can allow yourself a maximum of two pages if necessary, but try not to go over that limit. Imposing such brevity on your press release forces you to keep them cogent — something reporters will appreciate.
8. Provide additional resources for further information
Although you should limit your press release to one or two pages, there is still room for including resources for those would who would like to know more. Feature relevant links where reporters can access additional information. Also, include a link to your company’s website so prospective writers can learn more about you and what you’ve accomplished. Including this additional information is an essential part of the press release. Don’t expect writers to go through the trouble of searching for it on their on their own.
Follow these eight steps and you’re well on your way to writing a readable press release that will catch the attention of writers and encourage them to do a story about you or your business.
How to Write & Submit a Guest Post
Guest posts, or bylined articles, are fantastic for gaining credibility in your industry. Without promoting your company itself, you demonstrate your knowledge and expertise on industry trends and news and even get to show off your superb writing skills.
There are some steps you can take to increase the quality of your byliner and the chances it will end up in one of your desired publications.
1. Know which media outlets you want to pitch
Determining this will help you set your writing style, which should complement the writing style of the publication.
2. Review writing guidelines provided by publications
Do this before and during your writing process to ensure that your piece will qualify as a guest post or article for for the publication.
3. Check whether your topic has been written about before
Doing this will help you decide whether your article idea is fresh and relevant or stale and overdone.
4. Be concise and sharp
Choose your words wisely. An article that is too wordy may lose the attention of the reader.
5. Write a memorable headline
You know as a reader that if the headline doesn’t grab your attention, you likely won’t open the article. The same applies here. Think punchy words, symbols, catch-phrases, numbers, etc.
6. Use stats to back up your writing
Especially in this day in age, where most can google and gather information quickly, it’s crucial to provided research that backs up your ideas.</p><p>While there’s no guarantee your article will be well-received or even published, going through these steps will certainly up those chances!
Blogging is one of the central pillars of content marketing and a great way to increase brand awareness and leads. But, like any other marketing channel, a blog will only be successful if you first define the goal, purpose, and target audience before you start. You also need to have a strategy in place for promoting and driving traffic to the blog. Here are 4 steps to help you run a great blogging campaign:
1. Set goals
What do you hope to achieve with the blog? What is its purpose? The goal(s) of your blog should align with you or your company’s overall goals and mission.
Goals might include:
Promote a company, product or service
Generate interest among investors
Attract talent for your company
Increase brand awareness and reach:
Generate subscribers to your email list
Gain social media followers
Increase profile, stature, and influence
Create a community of people who share a particular interest, such as technology, art, religion, food, health, etc. that relates to your brand, product or service.
2. Identify the message you want to convey
Align your blog content with the strategic messaging you or your company want to convey in a way that speaks to the interests, passions and needs of your target audience.
3. Target your audience as carefully as possible
Before you can have success with blogging, you must first determine who the blog is for. Therefore, identify your ideal audience and create blog content that will appeal to it. While you have your own particular goals and mission, keep in mind that your content needs to actually be interesting and provide value to your audience. A successful blog often solves problems, informs, entertains, or emotionally engages.
Note: Selecting a target audience doesn’t mean you won’t also be able to reach other audiences, but it will help you in crafting a tone or consistent brand voice that your target audience will especially appreciate.
4. Promote and distribute the blog
No matter how awesome your content is, a blog will not be successful if it can’t be found. Keep SEO best practices in mind when creating your blog content so that your audience will be more likely to come across your posts when searching for relevant keywords. Select topics, themes and keywords, including long-tail keywords, that are of interest to your target audience and include them in your posts. For example, if your intended audience is people who are interested in technology innovation, research which keywords and phrases are most commonly searched for by people with that interest and subtly weave them into your blog content.
Share blog posts to social media alongside enticing images and compelling captions to drive more qualified traffic to your blog. There are many useful tools, both free and low-cost, that can help you optimize and share your blog more effectively. Don’t be afraid to spend money on advertising, such as Facebook ads, to get more eyeballs on your blog posts. With so much content competing for our attention, a little bit of ad spend can go a long way toward gaining momentum for your blog. In addition to publishing on your “owned” blog, try publishing directly on various blog publishing platforms, such as “Medium,” “Linkedin Pulse,” and other platforms that your target audience might be on.
The key to good blogging is having a plan. Setting specific, measurable, and realistic goals, establishing a consistent message, catering to your target audience, and promoting your content so that your audience will see it will position your blog for maximal impact and success.
Incorporate Content Calendars Into Your Earned Media Strategy
It’s time to start tackling those content marketing goals that you may not have gotten around to yet. The first step to achieving these goals is to make a solid plan.
A survey of B2B content marketers published by the Content Marketing Institute found that the most effective marketers are more likely to document their strategy, have a documented editorial mission statement and hold regular meetings. However, only 32 percent of those surveyed have a documented strategy.
Every content marketing strategy needs a calendar, which is used to plan and track content marketing efforts throughout the year. It allows you to plan content around key dates, see gaps in your strategy and align your content with overall marketing goals. A content calendar is crucial to any successful content marketing campaign. Here are 6 tips to get you there:
1. Know your audiences
You have different stakeholders and customer types, with different interests and content needs. For example, if you’re publishing content to promote education technology, your different audiences could include administrators, educators, parents and other decision makers.
Identify your various audiences and determine what’s most important to each. Then, set content themes for each group based on these interests.
2. Set goals
Your goals will serve as the cornerstone for your content calendar. They should influence what you publish and when. The goals dictate content themes, the types of content you create and which media outlets you target. For example, if one of your goals is to attract great talent, create a piece of content that showcases how fun it is to work at your company. If another goal is to attract customers, highlight the great work you've done for current clients.
3. Identify mediums
Your content creation doesn’t have to start from scratch. What do you already have that you can build from?
Turn interesting data you have into infographics and reports, and whitepapers into a series of blog posts. Refurbish old blog posts with new information and recirculate. Explain or expand on all the above with videos. Interview in-house experts for authoritative opinion-based pieces. Your company has a wealth of knowledge – utilize the various resources you already have to create a nice mix of content!
4. Make the plan
Use an excel spreadsheet or other tracking tool to keep your content organized throughout the year. For each piece of content, include the date it will be published, the theme or working title, the content medium, the target audience, who will write the content, the goal it relates to, and its status throughout the process.
To keep organized, you may also want to track where the content will be published, images that will be used, and keywords and other SEO information. The more details you include in your content calendar, the easier it will be to draft each piece of content throughout the year.
5. Plan for change
Leave some room to adapt to new ideas and strategies as the year goes on. Breaking news and current events in your industry should be covered as they occur and may require you to change your plan. Keep an eye on your metrics throughout the year as well as certain types of content and topics may not perform as well as you expect -- which means you may want to adjust mid-course.
In addition, watch your competitors. What are they doing in terms of content marketing? Are they doing anything new or groundbreaking you can make your own? You may need to change your content calendar to stay on top of the competition.
6. Work ahead
Your plan is set, and now it’s time to act on it. Stick to your calendar by staying ahead of dates and deadlines as best you can. Plan and draft content one to two months in advance of the publish date. This way, deadlines don’t snowball and posts aren’t backlogged.
Creating a content calendar seems like quite an undertaking, but it can help set up your PR and marketing efforts for success throughout the year. The results are worth the effort. Wishing you luck and happy planning!
The Future of PR: How to Use Data in Your PR Strategy
While the Internet has only been mainstream for about twenty years, we are now utterly saturated and bombarded with online content. The amount of information out there is overwhelming!
Using insights mined from big data, PR pros can sift through the noise and break up vast amounts of information into manageable chunks that will help them make smarter business decisions and craft compelling brand narratives.
The measuring sticks of big data are volume, variety and velocity. The rise of social media and other data-capture methods has provided organizations with an almost frightening amount of information about their audiences. This allows companies to thoroughly understand their target markets and message in a way that will be more likely to appeal to them.
For PR pros looking to turn big data into big public relations stories that catch the attention of prospects and inspire them to engage with their companies in a meaningful way, here are three types of data to look for:
1. Curated data
This is information culled from pre-existing studies and reports around the web. These studies usually come from large organizations that produce reports about consumer behavior, such as Nielsen, nonprofits, government agencies, or academic institutions.
PR pros can utilize these reports to their advantage and by analyzing the aspects that are important to their businesses. Accessing this data will only serve a practical purpose if an organization knows how to interpret it and implement accordingly.
2. Proprietary data
This information comes from numbers collected in-house through technology, surveys, focus-groups, or an internal user base. Since this data is gathered internally, it’s not available anywhere else (unless the organization chooses to publish it). Organizations can use this data to better understand what is working, what is not, and how to optimize their performance going forward.
3. Commissioned data
Sometimes an organization will require data that is more specific to its purposes than what is available through curated data, but has not gleaned any meaningful insights through proprietary information. That is when it may make sense to use commissioned data, which is information generated through partnerships with third parties, such as market-research companies, polls and customer surveys.
While data can help companies come up with stories worth telling about their brands or their products, here are some other ways entrepreneurs can utilize big data in their PR efforts:
1. Understanding target markets
Big data has made information about consumers and their behavior more widely available than ever before. PR professionals can use this information to better understand their company’s target audiences -- their needs, concerns, and what products or services are of value to them. When coming up with a story angle that will resonate with or be of interest to the target market, it’s essential to understand the audience.
2. Predicting and preventing crisis
Using various tools that collect and sort vast amounts of data, entrepreneurs can gain a solid picture of how their companies are perceived in the marketplace. Studying things like brand mentions gathered from around the Internet, customer reviews, and social media comments, companies can find out who their satisfied customers and users are, and identify pain points or potential PR disasters before they happen. This allows companies to better manage their reputations and more easily diffuse crises. Paying attention to the data can also help entrepreneurs keep tabs on the competition and remain one step ahead.
3. Following and analyzing market trends
Using information crunched by big data, entrepreneurs can stay abreast of industry trends as well as trends in the wider market. This allows PR professionals to keep up with changes, adapt in real time, and formulate strategies that use current trends to their advantage.