How to Increase Consumer Awareness and Cut through the Clutter Using PR

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In this article, we’ll discuss how to write your own press release, cover how you can get your news release in print, and how to become the “go to” person in your market for interviews and commentary. In the last column, we defined PR, discussed the various types of PR, and covered how to use them. We talked about the return on investment possible with a structured PR program, how to get your own news releases published and we talked about the benefits of hiring a professional PR writer to refine your message to get the most out of your budget. If you missed that article click here to read it.

The key to seeing your release in print is to make it news worthy. Does it have impact; is it a major announcement that affects the community or the company? Is it an unusual occurrence, a major milestone like 25 years in business, or a $1 million contract? Is it controversial or does it concern a major conflict? Have you just settled a labor dispute? Is the main person in the story widely known in the community, and, is the story of local interest?

Write and organize your press release anyway that is comfortable for you. The goal of a news release is awareness, and it has no call-to-action as an ad would have. After you have written your story, take the most important point or keywords of your release and develop them into an attention-grabbing headline. If you have not already done so, arrange the body copy into a logical sequence. Include a background paragraph of information about your company and provide your contact information at the end.

When writing your news release, keep the message clear and simple. Use the five “W’s” and the “H,” “who,” “what,” “why,” “where,” “when,” and “how” to get your message across to the reader. Who is the story about? Is it about your company, or is it about a person in your company? What is the story about, what have you done, what are you going to do? Why are you doing it? Where is this story taking place, is it in your hometown or the next town over? When is this story or event taking place? How did you accomplish this feat or activity? If you can answer these six questions, using one paragraph per question, three sentences per paragraph format, you can write a decent news release. It is also a nice touch to add a quote from the owner or president of your company.

News releases typically follow a standard Associated Press (AP) format that positions headings and certain contact information in specific locations that make it easier for an editor to quickly scan the release and find pertinent information. The Associated Press sells a stylebook that you can order here: http://www.apstylebook.com/. And, there are several websites that have good information on writing your own news release; here is one site that you can explore: http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Press-Release. If you would like an MS Word template to help you properly format your release, email me [email protected], and ask for the “News Release Template.”

Keep in mind that local media or trade publications are more likely to publish a news release if it’s about a high-ranking member of an organization, it has a human-interest element, it touches on an emotional issue, or it’s about a charitable activity. Media organizations receive hundreds of news releases per week. Help them select your news release by providing a well-written news release with newsworthy content.

As you start using news releases to create awareness, you may want to consider taking your publicity efforts to the next level. Since you already are an expert, create even more awareness of your company; become known as industry expert in your market. Put yourself in a position to have local newspapers and TV and radio stations interview you when they need input for a story.

List the different publications in which you want to appear. Select the type of media in which you would like to appear on a regular basis. Study those publications and get familiar with them, then create a “pitch” email, and send it to your chosen media outlets. You may have to reach out to them three or four times before you get a response, but if you provide good story ideas with each email, the journalist will eventually come to view you as a valued resource. The trick is to break through the clutter without becoming a pest.

Reporter Connection is a free Internet service that connects journalists with subject matter experts. Click on this link to register as an expert in your field www.reporterconnection.com/. This site sends you daily emails that list subjects for which reporters need input or want a person to interview. You select the topics that interest you, send a response, and a reporter will contact you. After you register, you will receive a onetime offer for PR training for $69. You can ignore this offer and within a day or so, you will begin receiving emails from Reporter Connection with requests from journalists for interviews.

Another site similar to Reporter Connections is PR Leads, www.prleads.com a service that costs $99 per month to participate. This site gives you access to the higher end publications and network reporters. It might be more beneficial for a national company that is trying to reach mainstream media outlets.

A great public relations campaign doesn't just happen. It requires knowing your objectives, careful planning, strategic use of tools (in this case your words), and deliberate execution. Launch the program at the right time to achieve maximum impact. Monitor the results and keep a log of what works and of what doesn’t work. In this way, you will learn what works best for you in your community.

If you like the idea of using PR, but writing isn’t your strong suit, you may want to consider a professional that specializes in public relations. Hire a professional to manage your PR campaign so you can get a larger return on your investment. If you have a small budget, you can look into hiring a PR intern from a local university. On the other hand, you could place an ad on Craig’s List to locate a retired journalist or to find a reporter who has decided to stay home to raise children but wants to keep a hand in the PR field. Any of these would be good choices to assist you. Of course, if you are good at writing and you like to do it, go for it.

Andy Fracica is president and CEO of Fracica Enterprises, Inc. He has over 30 years of sales, marketing, technical training, and product management experience in the heating ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) industry. He concentrates on helping manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and startup companies find their voice in an ever increasingly crowded market place. He can be reached at 260-338-4554 or [email protected].

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