What does public relations (PR) have to do with your and your business? It deserves to be more than just an afterthought. It should be an integral part of your business and has quite a bit to do with how your prospective customers perceive you and your products. Also, it is a way for you to practice your messaging in order to see which messages or concepts resonate with the media and ultimately with your customers.
Over the last 19 months, I have been quoted or featured by 20 different news organizations in such publications as The Washington Post , MSNBC, AP (Associated Press ), Spirit (the In-flight Magazine for Southwest Airlines), Better Homes and Gardens , Monster.com, Shutterbug Magazine Radio , and The Washington Business Journal . Many of these publications are national in scope and have increased my recognition and the ability to attract more business.
How did I get access to these media organizations? First I was able to sign up with an on-line publicity firm called PR Leads. PR Leads allows me to pitch the media when they need help completing a story with information in my area of expertise. However, this only gets me half way to getting quoted. I have learned that having a consistent message that resonates with my media contacts is the other half of the equation. I have a consistent message albeit one for my photography and one for my professional speaking.
During this time, I have responded to 112 queries in the following categories ... work/life balance, creativity, presentation skills and photography. The reason I chose these categories is simple. I work with people and organizations to increase their communication power through my unique photography angle. I do this through my creative keynotes (work/life balance, creativity and photography) and through my powerful presentations skills.
Out of the 112 queries, I was able to garner 34 responses for a 30% response rate (nearly 1 in 3). A good first step to a query is getting a response of any kind. It's much like a positive phone call might elicit a prospective customer to ask you what you do. Sometimes the media contacts have plenty of information from other sources. Other times I find out that my expertise or my angle isn't quite right for the story. Also, many of the pitches to the media are often to freelancers. These freelancers in turn pitch their stories to their media contacts. This adds another layer as to whether or not you will get quoted by a news organization. All of the potential rejection keeps me trying harder. The results speak for themselves.
Out of my 34 positive responses, I have been able to achieve nearly a 60% quote rate in newspapers, magazines, and on the radio, or 20 total quotes in 19 months. To put it another way, for every query I do answer, I have approximately an 18% chance that it will result in a quote in a regional or national media outlet. This is a fairly good response rate compared with the average direct mail response rate of one to two percent. I have found that there are some tips and techniques in dealing with the media.
Seven Media Tips & Techniques
Be Personable - writers and reporters like to talk to somebody that makes it easy for them to do business (or at least quote in an article). Reach out and attempt to make a genuine connection.
Make It About Them - reporters are on deadline most of the time, so have the attitude of helping them first. Do your best to provide them with as much information as possible. Suggest a time to talk on the phone and be prompt. If they don't call you back, call them - all in the spirit of helpfulness. I will usually say, "I know you're probably on deadline, but I wanted to call back and help you finish your article."
Get to the Point (Briefly) - let them know why you are responding and tell them how you can help with a few tips. It's good if you can include a few references right from your website since it makes working with you easier. This should take a maximum of 5-10 minutes per query. Also, group paragraphs into 2-3 sentences maximum for easier reading and always save your responses. You can use these to answer similar queries.
Reduce Their Risk - reporters like dealing with people who have been quoted by other reporters. It reduces risk and this is important in the media. Always reference your past performance with respect to the media. I have a section on my website called Press Room, http://www.staashpress.com/Press%20Room/inthenews.html . While it can be challenging to get your initial momentum with the press, keep trying. You will have to go through a few obscure publications to make it into the more recognizable ones.
Follow up - Reporters are writing many articles at one time, so you need to follow up. You want to make sure that they send you a copy of the newspaper, magazine or web link. Put these on your web site for it's an integral part of your business and helps to increase your expertise.
Add to Your Database - after you have dealt with the reporters, add them to your database and keep them informed on your expertise areas when appropriate. This is one of the best ways to get additional quotes in other magazines. Keep thinking of your reporter contacts as your customers. Again, make sure you save your responses to reuse or to use as fodder for your newsletter, articles or books.
My investment during the time I have been using PR Leads has been $1,584 or approximately $80 per instance of being quoted. The bottom line is that for $80 per lead with the kind of national exposure I am receiving is more than worth it! This modest investment is a fraction of what medium to large PR Agencies charge their customers for similar results. In the past, I had paid more for one month of PR at a larger firm than what I have paid for PR Leads over the entire time (19 months) I have been using them!
Also, the great thing about responding to queries is that it helps me generate lots of writing, understand local and national trends and develops a connection with my customers right away, as in "Mark's been quoted in The Washington Post. " Can I make a clear connection to getting quoted in a magazine like Better Homes and Gardens and additional business opportunities? I believe it's a little harder to show a direct connection with PR (public relations). It's more of a subjective relationship.
I do believe that PR has added to my momentum much like a pebble is thrown into a pond making larger and larger circles. These larger and larger circles are access to regional and national media. Eventually I believe that I will be able to reach a wider audience. Why? Because reporters and other members of the media like to work with people that have already been quoted. Reporters also like to work with people that can help them attract readership (in the case of magazines) and sell more copies. It is my desire to make it onto national media like television on a regular basis with my speaking and photography. PR like PR Leads has and will continue to lay the foundation to make this happen.
Once I get more national exposure, I have the systems set up to take advantage of the opportunities presented. This means that my web site is professional, I can receive and respond to enquires, and I have an automated shopping cart so customers can purchase my products. Louis Pasteur defines luck as "when opportunity and preparation meet." I am constantly preparing and believe that the 'lucky' opportunity will present itself eventually. A recent example of how luck has played a part in my business is with my recent book.
Specific PR to Business Examples
PR is a long-term strategy. I needed 18 out of the 19 months to get quoted by the Associated Press (AP) and MSNBC and used this exposure for Snap . If I would have 'cut and run,' then I would have missed out on key media that I have been using to help promote and sell my latest book, Snap . Plus this has had a positive effect on speaking at two association conferences. Within days of announcing my digital photography book, the National Speakers Association asked me to present at their Annual University. The NSA Annual University attracts 300 of the top speakers in the United States and will allow me to further establish my expertise of simple yet powerful communications using a unique photography angle.
One week later, I got a web query from another association about speaking to key members on photography. I was able to show the conference decision-maker my recent book and pointed out my expertise as is written on the back cover. She was very impressed with the amount of information contained in the book, the quality of the printing, the cover and back cover design and yes, where I have been quoted. This entire package eased her 'risk' and helped make her decision to hire me that much easier. I can definitely say that PR is a very important part of the packaging, both for my book and for my business. I highly recommend PR Leads to anyone who is looking for a great way to get media exposure for an incredible value.
Some people wonder if they can afford public relations. I wonder how they can live without it. While you need to determine your appropriate PR spending level in relation to your revenue and expected outcome, I believe that working with a media resource outlet like PR leads has boosted my expertise and subsequently my business opportunities in the marketplace. I will continue to make PR a key part of my business strategy. Also, I have found seven key benefits to PR from my perspective.
Seven Key Benefits to a Public Relations (PR) Campaign 1. PR is an important component to my business packaging.
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