DIY PR – the dos and don’ts

This Blog has been written by our friends over at Izzy PR, after a conversations with Neil and Izzy PR Founder Sarah Hawes.

I’m a big believer in the adage that if you want a job done properly, hire a pro. That’s why my accountant looks after my tax returns, my web designer takes care of my website, a graphic designer takes care of my branding and my PA keeps my diary in line.

But I also believe that as business owners, we’re used to being a ‘jack of all trades’ and can make a pretty good fist of the fundamentals of most jobs.

The same goes for PR. There’s no replacement for the skills gained through my years of experience in journalism as a reporter and news editor, then within communications teams. Knowing what makes a great story and how to pitch it, building solid media contacts and being an expert wordsmith, as well as having access to invaluable tools such as subscription media databases all give me an edge. But I certainly think that most people are capable of carrying out some PR basics – namely, identifying a story and pitching it to a journalist. 

But before you dive in, let me share some important dos and don’ts:

Don’t disregard your start-up story 

The background to how your business came into being might not seem particularly interesting to you, but people connect to personal stories so it could be gold dust to a journalist. Think about why you started your business. Maybe it involved a complete career change – you were a lawyer who wanted a slower pace of life so you became a florist. Perhaps having a child inspired you to invent a product that plugged a gap in the baby care market. Or maybe you were an employee for years and realised you could do a better job of it so started your own business in the same industry. 

Weave your start-up story into any pitches you send to the media. If it’s drastic and interesting enough, it could make a strong story on its own.
You can also use it in your own PR too – on your website and in your social media…also within any articles you write or talks/interviews you give.

Do ask yourself if it’s really news

It’s easy to get over-excited about changes within your business and want to tell the world but before you get on the phone to your local newspaper to tell them that you’re changing your logo colours from sky blue to pillar box red, be honest with yourself about whether you can see it as a story on their pages. Ask yourself – if you were reading it about someone else, would you be bothered? Perhaps write out the story briefly using another business’s name – does it still sound like fantastic news? If you’re not sure, flick through the publication you’re hoping to appear in and see if you can find a similar story – would their readers really be interested? Unless yours is a truly iconic brand, the answer is very likely to be no.

Don’t forget trade publications

Your daily paper might not run the story about your logo change but your industry titles might. Getting news into trade magazines might not excite you as much as a story in a local or national paper but regularly featuring in these types of publication can help you to gain recognition among your industry and peers on a wider scale – invaluable for building your name and reputation. It could also help you gain B2B business.

Do invest in high quality photography

You’re launching a brilliant new product, you’ve got media interest but…the only picture you have of it is a blurry, poorly lit shot on your iPhone. This could seriously impact your chances of coverage. A good picture could mean the difference between a full page, a few lines or no coverage at all.

If you make products, be sure to have a library of professionally shot branded images as well as price and stock information to hand. All business should have profile pictures of key members of staff and depending on the industry you’re in, lifestyle shots, or imagery that illustrates your services are a great investment. 

Don’t send poorly written press releases

A good press release should consist of no more than two pages, a great headline, the who, what, why, where and how up front, a quote or two – one from your business and one from a third-party if relevant – and most importantly, an interesting story! It should definitely not contain jargon, waffle or typos.

Alternatively, you could ditch the press release altogether. A brief email outlining your story is just as likely to pique a journalist’s interest, if well-written and informative, sticking to the main points of what the news is and why it should be covered.
If a journalist can’t understand your story from the headline or first few lines, it will get ‘spiked’ – that’s deleted to you and I. How do I know this? I used to do it…daily, with badly written stories where it just took too long to work out what they were going on about!

Do send targeted press releases

Don’t be tempted to take the ‘spray and pray’ approach to sending out a press release or news story. Journalists receive hundreds of pitches every day. Any that are not relevant to their area of interest are destined for the trash folder. Repeatedly sending irrelevant stories to a journalist is a sure-fire way to get your email blacklisted.

Instead, take some time to look through the relevant media and pick out those who write about similar subjects to the news you want to share.
See if you have something new for them or an interesting follow-up story, to build on what they have already written about.

Don’t expect feedback

Unfortunately, if you don’t hear back from a journalist after sending them a pitch, the chances are they aren’t interested. It can be disheartening not to get feedback but don’t take it personally – most journalists have so many emails to read, they simply don’t have time to go back to those whose stories they’re not going to use. A follow-up call or email is ok but approach with caution – some journalists don’t appreciate being chased!
They also won’t let you know if and when they use it – it will be your job to look out for the coverage.

Do respond quickly to further requests

Most journalists are working to very tight deadlines so if they do come back to you with requests for further information, a quote, or a picture, be sure to treat it as urgent and get back to them as soon as possible. Your quick response will be appreciated and you’re more likely to be called upon in the future.

So, if you are taking a foray into the world of PR, these pointers should stand you in good stead. Good luck and if you’d like further guidance, take a look at some of our other blogs or get in touch at [email protected] 

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