Public Relations is Not a Vending Machine For News Coverage, Despite What Some Prospects Imagine

Using Public Relations to Market Your Business Startup

Marketing a startup is one of the biggest struggles for any entrepreneur. You need to increase sales and grow your customer base, but effective advertising is expensive. While the internet provides significant opportunities for low-cost and no-cost marketing, many business owners overlook the value in establishing an in-house public relations system.

What is Public Relations?

Public relations encompass the work that needs to be done to get your company in the news. The efforts should include building relationships with appropriate news editors, writing effective press releases, and planning how to best use press relations to enhance your marketing plan. Of course, it is possible to hire a PR firm to do this work for you, but they can be expensive and do not have the same stake in seeing your venture succeed as you do.

In addition, a PR firm will have to be taught about your company — what you do, how you do it, what will be newsworthy, and who should be targeted. You will be charged for the hours it takes to get them up to speed. A better entrepreneurial option is to teach yourself all you can about effective public relations, then assign the tasks to your key employees as you grow.

Planning PR

The primary objective of public relations is to expose more potential customers to your company and product(s). You may have a secondary objective of exposing potential investors to your company, as well. Thus, your first step is to define what is and will be newsworthy about your business. Sending out sporadic press releases is far less effective than developing a steady stream of publicity. The editors who review hundreds of press releases per day are more likely to notice yours and hopefully become interested in your progress if they see your company name on a regular basis.

g every time you are used as a source.

Finding the right outlets, and knowing their editorial schedules, is critical. Don’t just randomly send out press releases, but do your homework so you know they are going to the right person at the right publication. Most magazines have a three-month advance requirement, meaning articles they write today will not be published for three months. Local newspapers and magazines tend to have much shorter news cycles. Keep this in mind when setting up your public relations marketing plan. Select the media outlets that are likely to meet your objectives. Whatever your target market reads, that’s where you want to be. Gather all the editorial information you can about these sources. Read the magazines (and subscribe), watch the TV shows. Pay attention to the details of how they present information. If a single, square, color photograph is standard with an article, be sure that is what you send. If articles are short, keep your press release short. Building these contacts takes time, but is well worth your effort. After a few distributions, you will establish a system for reaching your best opportunities and the time required will be significantly reduced.

Writing the Right Press Release

Press editors are flooded with press releases, often reviewing a hundred or more each day. The trick is to make your press releases stand out to the reviewer. Every news item you distribute should say “News Release” and your company name at the top. Avoid sending press releases on standard letterhead. The next line is your headline. Headlines can be the most difficult, yet most important line in the entire document. It needs to grab the editor’s attention and urge them to read on. Reporters and journalists are looking for news items that are important to their readers. Spend some time on the headlines, they are your first obstacle to getting free press.