In my last column, I made the case for becoming your own best resource for public relations (PR). But now that you're intrigued by the possibility of getting more and better PR, let's amp up your strategy to the next level. Today we'll talk about the easy steps that every executive and company can master to provide themselves with a modicum of decent PR. We'll stick to basic tips today: the press releases and posts that will give you the advantage of being able to control every word. On your mark, let's go.
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1. Press Releases Still Count
Years ago I asked a financial analyst how we (i.e., my agency) were doing in communicating our clients' company news. Then I stood back, anticipating the chance to bask in his praise. It was not to be. "Throw us a [freaking] bone," he replied. What?
"An announcement once a month or at least once in a while," he said. "You have no idea how many companies I'd love to invest in or follow, but it will do me no good if I'm the only person who knows."
He had raised an interesting point. On the premise that reporters would want the information that press releases don't necessarily touch, we'd been too infrequent, forgetting that, to eager investors, many of the things we consider mundane are relevant news. So, write a strong press release, wire post it, and then email blast it to your circle of investors, followers, and closest editorial contacts at least once a month (as long as your release contains legitimate news. If you have questions about what constitutes legitimate news, you can catch me in the comments below).
2. Targeted Messages Only
Here's the thing about press release-style communications: the wire services and the internet spew them out to the world. It's up to you to direct your message to the 400,000 or so customers you're actually intending to serve. Make your headline clear and compelling. Remember that the Google search result box is only 64 characters long. You have that much space (less than half a tweet) to include the words that identify your market, your company name (please don't forget to include it), and a reason that compels the reader enough to make them want to click further in.
So, "The Utah State Supreme Court Today Ruled" is a terrible headline. We don't know who issued the news and we don't know if we care about the news. And, in this case (sadly, the story is true), the story is about a preliminary injunction in a battle between two vendors that went well the day of this particular hearing. But in the next go-round? Who knows? Press releases are better for messages that are evergreen as they will remain online pretty much until the end of time. "Zenger Folkman Research: How to Lead Like Steve Jobs" is a much better headline decision. (Disclosure: the company I named is a client, but this story was from a while ago and the headline is real.)
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While you're at it, be sure to tag the release with all applicable keywords and include the appropriate contact information. And remember that the headline, the subhed, and the first paragraph of about 149 words will produce your highest search engine optimization (SEO) gold.
3. Map the Message to the Medium
Back to that press release: If you have a sale tomorrow or a webinar on Wednesday, a press release is not the ideal method of communication, unless the predominant part of the message is evergreen. If I missed the sale or the broadcast, then what? If I can view the webinar later or get a deal at least as good as the sale you've provided, that's okay by me as long as you've provided a link.
The worst outcome of a press release would be to make your customers mad. Don't write releases that annoy reporters, either. Stick to the same kind of black-and-white informational language a reporter would use. Save the superlative claims such as, "It's the most extensible, scalable, revolutionary product ever!" for the quotes or, better yet, leave them out. Instead, think about providing the information you'd want your best friend to know. "It took me this long to install. Here's who I had to convince, what it cost, and these were my other alternatives." Perhaps you won't be that candid. But keep the information useful and real.
4. Alive and Amplified
The winners in the next era of media will be the executives and companies that find success amplifying their PR coverage. No, this wasn't one of the 10 Commandments but I am hereby declaring it as a media law. Put it on your social media properties. Put it on your website. Invite the influencers you cultivate (you are doing this, yes?) to share as well. Share it with your customers directly via the mediums they like to receive, together with your personal expansion and analysis on the reasons this news will matter to them.
5. Connect the Dots
Now that you're providing news to the world on a regular basis, you should think about the announcements you push to the web and aggregate on your site like they're a set of digital footprints. Over time, do they tell a story of progress? If I scanned only the headlines, would I see a story that is laying out the sequential pieces of a Grand Master Plan? Or does it look like spaghetti thrown on a wall? (Such as six press releases produced in a fit of exuberant energy followed by a six-month dearth of any information at all.)
In short, make your press release announcements meaningful and consistent, avoiding at all costs the sin I refer to as "random acts of PR." With these easy steps, instead of inspiring the mirth (or the wrath) of your audience, you can learn to accomplish PR like a star.