Monday, 4 August 2008

The Power of Good PR

We all know the typical representations of the PR industry, whether it’s Patsy and Edina heading off on their latest champagne-fuelled freebie press launch, or ‘PR to the Celebrities’ Max Clifford organising another kiss-and-tell leak in order to boost his clients’ publicity and sell a few more red top papers.

The reality though, is very different – especially in the much less frothy arena of West Yorkshire, where PR can still be a very useful marketing tool and an invaluable one when budgets are tight. So, what exactly is PR?

Public Relations is about reputation - the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.

So, what does that mean to the average small to medium business, and why should it bother to invest in PR? Perhaps the most important comparison between PR and other forms of marketing is in the reader or recipient’s perception.

For example, if someone receives a flyer from a business, or sees an advertisement in the local paper, the company advertising its wares will probably say something along the lines of:

  • We are the leading provider of ABC in West Yorkshire.
  • We have many years experience.
  • Our prices are fantastic.
  • We care for all our customers.
  • We guarantee satisfaction.

Which may indeed all be true, but then, they would say that, wouldn’t they? Imagine then if, instead of (or even better, as well as) the company itself saying these things, one of its customers said them, or a respected journalist wrote a piece about the company. This third party endorsement makes a massive difference to the reader’s perception of the company, because it is someone else saying it. Many businesses already rely on an informal version of PR – word of mouth, which is fantastic, but unfortunately limited in terms of how many people it can reach.

Of course, in order to make PR work for you, there has to be a story to begin with, some good news that you can share with your target customers, but everyone has something they can say. Whether it’s a significant milestone, a new member of the team, a major contract won or an award nomination, these are all good news stories.

In terms of putting your press release together, think along the lines of What, Where, When, Who and Why and you won’t go far wrong. Many businesses realise that they just don’t have the time, or perhaps skills, to put their own news items together, liaise with the press, arrange photographs etc, and appoint a marketing company to help them.

Even so, the cost of preparing and issuing a news release can often be less than the cost of an advertisement giving similar coverage, and when combined these mediums allow you to have the best of both worlds – an attractive, eye-catching introduction to your business, backed up by a positive news piece from a third party perspective.

As ever, in order for marketing of any sort to be effective there has to be a build up of momentum, so keep those stories coming, and good luck with building your reputation!

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