When it comes to publicity, getting a mention in the media is priceless for any organisation.
It may not result in an immediate surge in customers, but it undoubtedly has enormous benefits – it builds awareness of your brand, helps you stand out from competitors and gets your name embedded in the mind of future customers or supporters.
Not only that, appearing in the media can give you an extra layer of credibility and enhance your professional reputation.
Spotting a story which will interest the media can be tricky and a good public relations expert will be able to help.
Of course there are the obvious stories – perhaps your company has come up with an award-winning new invention or created scores of new jobs.
But there’s plenty of other ways to entice the press into giving over some column inches to you. Here are just a few ideas to get you thinking:
Do something good: There’s nothing like getting involved in the community to spark a bit of interest with the local press. Think creatively – don’t expect a hoard of photographers to turn up just because you’re presenting a cheque to the local school. Hold an event to raise money for a good cause, give staff time off to volunteer at a local charity for the day or offer your skills to train local people – for example, an IT company could generate great publicity by lending staff to teach local pensioners how to use the internet.
Do it for the kids: Remember how your mum brought 10 copies of the local paper because your name was printed as coming 16th in the egg and spoon race? That’s why local newspapers love stories involving children. The more kids you can involve in your story the better – where there are proud parents, there are big newspaper sales. Just make sure you get written permission from parents if children are to be photographed (although most photographers will usually do this themselves).
PR Stunts: I’m all for PR stunts, but for it to work you need to be prepared to put some work into it. If it’s local press coverage you’re after, you need to come up with something quirky, photogenic and which genuinely involves the community. The more people you can get to come along the better, as these are events which make great photos for newspapers. Think carefully about how your skills could benefit the community and use them. For example, if you’re a landscape gardener and want to raise your profile why not organise a guerilla gardening session at a local landmark? If you want to raise awareness of a cause or raise debate, flashmobs always get newsdesks excited and can generate great publicity, provided they are lawful and well organised – social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are vital for this kind of stunt.
Get opinionated: Offer your skills for free to your local press and you may even land yourself a weekly column. It’s a sad fact that newspapers today are woefully short-staffed so your local rag may well bite your hand off if you offer to write 200 words each week on your area of expertise – for example, a financial advisor could give a regular commentary on the local economy, a vet could take time to answer questions from local pet owners or a garden centre manager could give horticultural updates. If you get offered this opportunity count yourself lucky and be professional – meet the deadlines set and don’t be offended when your lovingly-crafted text gets re-written.
Keep an open mind: Don’t presume you’re boring! Just because it’s a routine to you doesn’t mean somebody doesn’t want to read about it. A newspaper may well be interested in a village hairdresser who is being overwhelmed with demand from local women for the latest Victoria Beckham hairdo or how a farmer keeps animals cool in hot weather with home-made ice-lollies. Newspapers aren’t all doom and gloom and need light-hearted, quirky tit-bits to break up the harder news stories.
Once you’ve got some ideas for stories, it’s time to contact the press and the next blog will give you plenty of tips on what media to approach and how to deal with journalists.