Practical Public Relations
by Chad Rueffert

The public relations portion of the marketing communications mix can often be the most powerful, least expensive way to build awareness of your business.  Reading an impartial news or feature story about a hot new product or company has far more impact on the consumer than any advertisement will.  The unbiased third party endorsement is one of the main goals of a good PR campaign.


Public relations as a discipline has expanded and taken on a variety of aspects of its own, including media relations, publicity, special events, charitable donations, crisis communications, investor relations and employee relations.  I'd like to focus on the main aspect of PR and that is generating PUBLICITY for your product or company.


Starting a public relations / publicity campaign for your business, large or small, is a relatively easy way to begin creating awareness of your company.  Here's a practical outline of what you'll need to start a basic publicity campaign.


Create a media list 

You need a list of every news publication, radio station and television station in your marketplace.  Try contacting your local branch of the American Advertising Federation or the local library, either should be able to help.  Add to that list any trade publications, local or national, that deal with your industry.  Assign someone to call each station or publication to verify the address and contact name for press releases from your company.  Update your list at least every six months.


Find a good writer 

Press releases, even in their most basic format, need to be well written, professionally formatted and informational in nature.  If you've never seen or written one before, it's a good idea to ask some business or media colleagues for samples to work from.  You'll notice that a good press release usually includes a date, a contact name and phone number, a short summary at the top, and is written in a brief, informational and non-sales tone.  If you do not have a professional quality writer in-house, there are dozens of qualified freelance writers in almost every city.


Pitch the editors and writers on your media list 

Simply letting editors and writers know that you are available for expert information, opinions, quotes or guest articles on your industry may generate PR opportunities you didn't even know existed.  Smaller publications are almost always looking for good writers or consultants in specific industries or for specific topics.  This phone call will also make them more open to reading and publicizing your press releases.


Write at least one news release per month

You may be surprised at the variety of interesting topics you'll find within your industry, company and employees when you look.  Here's twelve release topics almost any company can use in a given year.  The first six are fairly straight forward, the second group may require some effort and creativity.


New products or services offered - Any time you invent, manufacture or distribute a new product, announce it in a press release. 


New employees hired or employees promoted - There are sections in almost every local paper and business journal highlighting people on the move.


Employee and company accomplishments - Be sure to publicize any time an employee or the company receives an award, designation or honor.


New locations opened or relocated - If you move or expand, make sure to let the press and the public know about it.


New contracts signed or accounts won - The public likes success stories and always wants to know who is doing business with whom.


New innovations in processes or technology - You don't have to invent a new product to be an innovator.  Business magazines are full of "tricks of the trade" stories highlighting how one company or another approaches and solves sticky business situations.


Charitable donations made - Corporate charity funds thousands of non-profits world wide.  On a local level, it shows you're committed to your community and generally makes a good human interest story.  If you are not already affiliated with a charity, find one that fits your corporate culture and donate because you want to help out.  Then milk it for all the publicity you can.


Offer a free service - Whatever your specialty, set a time and place to offer free advice or consulting in a non-sales environment.  Pitch it as a public service and it becomes a news story. 


Sponsor a seminar or speaker - This goes along with the free advice.  Rent a room, bring in a speaker and offer the seminar for free and it should be considered newsworthy.


Make a mistake - Every company makes mistakes along the way.  Explaining what happened and what your are doing to fix it in an up-front, honest way can turn a potential negative into an image booster.


Conduct a survey - Create a survey on your industry and send out a request for participants in the form of a news release.  Be sure to also publicize the results!


Give away something big - This or any other unique promotion may make the news if it is interesting enough to catch a reporters eye.  Your news release may result in a general story about purchase incentives, but they will probably interview you first.


I promise that if you find a way to write and distribute one press release each month, your customers, potential customers and just about everyone you know will begin to notice.  You'll be amazed how many people start conversations with you by saying, "I saw your name in the paper the other day."