A PR Campaign Can Boost Your Visibility and Showcase Your Knowledge

You just won “Dealer of the Year” from one of your manufacturer partners. Or you got named to the INC.  5000 list of fastest growing businesses. You lured a top-notch Director of Sales away from your competitor. Or you and your team just volunteered for a “Build Day” at your local Habitat for Humanity chapter.

You get the idea. You just did something you’re happy about. It’s exciting news. So why keep it a secret?

Most businesses (dealerships, distributorships and others) do a lot of great work, but owners are often too busy with the day-to-day details of running the business to dedicate time to marketing their services or “tooting their own horns.”

For certain, there are many ways that a business can promote itself. And they should! No business should be among its industry’s best kept secrets.  One particular marketing strategy that can really help a dealership, a business, or an IT firm promote itself is a public relations (PR) campaign.

PR is the process of working with the news media to have them publish/post a company’s news, with two objectives for the business: (1) increased brand awareness and visibility for the company and (2) showcasing the company’s expertise.

For the business owner, a PR campaign can let hundreds of readers and viewers know who you are, what you do, and (hopefully!) why they should utilize your services. For the participating media outlets, it’s a way for them to provide news and content to their readers or viewers.

One question I sometimes get is this: “Isn’t print media on the decline? Do people still read newspapers and magazines?”

Yes, people still do read print. And, almost all content that appears in print is also online (think “searchable links.”). So a good PR campaign aims at a wide range of media outlets: online, print and TV/radio.

PR is a unique form of marketing. For the most part, the news coverage comes at no cost to the business (other than the fee to an in-house marketing person or outside PR provider). The second difference (and this is really important!) is that public relations carries with it a third-person validation; that is to say, an editor, magazine writer, or webmaster deems that the story about a particular business is important enough to be included in their content. That’s a big credibility booster.

The major elements of a PR campaign include:

  • News releases: announcements about a company’s ongoing events: new hires, promotions, conferences or trade shows attended, awards, new products offered, and charitable “good works” that a business does in the community.
  • Source letter: Introduction of a business owner as a resource to writers, bloggers, webmasters, magazine editors, radio/TV producers. This acquaints media people with good sources for when they are working on a story and seek to round it out with the opinion of someone in the industry.
  • Features/profiles: Articles about a company or interviews with a company owner or decision-maker. These can be in business journals (most major cities have at least one!), industry journals, regional daily newspapers, websites, or interview on a radio or TV station.   
  • Thought leadership or guest articles: Articles in industry or business journals which showcase a company’s knowledge or position on an issue. The president of a company specializing in Managed Print Services might offer a piece, “Ten tips on how to reduce your use of paper and your cost of doing so” both to the local business media and to the industries he/she seeks to influence. For example, an MPS provider who has a lot of customers in the construction industry should seek out the names of magazines read by people in that industry in his/her market area and approach the magazines about just such a column.  These articles make excellent content for the business website, Facebook page and LinkedIn content.
  • Events: If a business opens a new office, celebrates an anniversary or has some other major occurrence going on, having a ribbon-cutting with local and community officials is a great way to introduce the business to a new audience. And it makes a great post-event press release.
  • Utilizing these placements on social media: Every time a business secures publicity, that link (whether it’s a thought leadership article, an interview, or a press release) makes a great opportunity to post the link to a LinkedIn profile, as well as Twitter, and Facebook. Also, placements are great conversation starters in a company enewsletter or email blast.

A couple of points to remember:

  1. Because media does not charge to post or publish news, it is their choice – unlike advertising – when to use it. Or whether to use it.
  2. However, the chances of a company’s news getting used are greatly enhanced if the information is truly newsworthy and is geographically relevant. Your dealership offering 10% off at the holidays is advertising; your dealership serving meals to the homeless is news. Content should be clearly written and get to the point quickly. Remember the 5Ws: “Who, what, when, where, why.”
  3. With most media outlets, there is a firewall between paid advertising and PR content. Phrased differently, a business that advertises in an outlet theoretically has no greater chance of having its PR published. Both are important components of marketing but they are different.

Securing publicity is a great first step toward a higher profile. Once published or posted, be sure to have it posted to website and social media platforms. The more posts, the better. It helps with Search Engine Optimization. When a company is googled, the viewer will see numerous links to articles and it will serve to elevate the company on search engines plus provide a sense that the business is a leader.

PR is one of the least utilized forms of marketing. But it is a powerful way to communicate a company’s message, get the name of the business out there for all to see, and help boost a company’s name recognition and reputation.

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Jim Farrell is the president of PRfirst, a public relations/marketing company in the Boston area. For additional information, call (781) 681-6616 or e-mail jfarrell@prfirst.com.

Jim Farrell

Jim Farrell is the president of PRfirst, a public relations/marketing company in the Boston area. For additional information, call (781) 681-6616 or e-mail jfarrell@prfirst.com.