Smaller companies don't always have the budget - or inclination - to retain a PR hotshot to tell the world about their business success, but that doesn't mean they aren't a ready source of news.
The problem is it's often dull news which is ignored by all except the industry press and quite rightly so in most cases. If you land a contract, you issue a press release. If you take on a new senior sales rep, you issue a press release. Attending an exhibition? Press release, natch. These are simply announcements that you are doing what you do, that it's business as usual.
With a little lateral thinking, however, you could be issuing press releases throughout the year which present topics and subjects that'll have editors from all disciplines chasing you for the full story. Below I've presented just five brainstormers to get the creative juices flowing.
Even though I know nothing about your company, the odds are that you have the time and resources to carry out a survey which could get you some coverage if it's implemented and reported properly.
Concentrate on your niche, whether that's your industry or expertise. Keep it relatively simple, but ensure the final results have the potential to grab headlines. For example, if you're a butcher, you could ask 100 people if they would give up bacon if their partner issued an ultimatum. '4 Out of 10 Choose Bacon Over Marriage' is going to get an editor's attention!
But be honest about your methodology. If you've simply polled a handful of your colleagues, don't try to pass it off as a six-month research project.
Some journalists won't touch a survey story with a barge poll unless it's been carried out with the kind of planning that goes into a Nasa shuttle launch, but others might find it useful, particularly if it's a fun subject and doesn't take itself too seriously.
Surf the major news sites - try Google News for starters:
Ask yourself what you or your boss would have to say about the main news stories of the day. Or perhaps a current event impacts directly on your industry. Pretty soon you're going to have a story to tell.
A property solicitor in Scotland did this and the resulting story is great - here's the intro:
"Scottish property solicitor criticises Gordon Brown's tax U-turn.
A leading Scottish property solicitor has criticised Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown's decision to abolish without notice the exemption for deprived areas from Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT), saying that the measure would have an adverse impact upon the commercial property market in Scotland."
While serving as editor of business magazines in the past, there have been times when PR companies have contacted me following publication with some kind of gripe regarding coverage of their company or client.
Disgruntled PR people are often being beaten hard with large sticks by CEOs and senior management who just don't 'get media', so their persistence is somewhat understandable.
But 9.98 times out of 10 the PR exec is simply not going to get what they want - some kind of full-page, front-cover apology and glowing testimonial signed by the publisher himself printed with a photo of the editor's public execution.
Every time I let them down I did say: "Write in - we're always keen to receive letters to the editor." I'd guess one in 20 actually went ahead and did so, but you know what? If every one of them wrote in I would almost certainly have printed them all. Good editors embrace transparency - if you disagree with them or their reporters they're likely to print your letter.
So pick up copies of your favourite industry - or consumer - publications and fire off some missives to the editors to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise in your space.
At the very most you're 364 days away from some company milestone and if you put your mind to it you may find a few anniversaries just around the corner.
Don't limit yourself to the xx years since the company was launched, how about the anniversary of the company's first profit, a look back at the day the company took on its 10th employee, or the date a key contract was secured.
Then tell the tale of how your company has developed since this date. Be sure to include some drama, the good times and the bad, and plenty of meaty quotes from the most senior talking heads.
Hunt for an angle based on some future date that is covered in one way or another by local and national press.
Browse some of these major online almanacs for inspiration:
What you're doing here is following the Happy Birthday strategy, but looking for external hooks on which to hang your news release.
Local newspapers in particular like to keep an eye on the calendar, so if you can provide your neighbourhood newspaper with a story, photo opportunity or news release and photo package related to a particular event, celebration or holiday, you could get some great quality local coverage.
Trawl the internet for reasons to write a press release and you'll come up with dozens of lists. Some of them provide 30 plus reasons to issue a release, but the vast majority of them require you to have "done something". They are reactive reasons, rather than proactive.
The reasons given above can be put into action today - you don't have to wait to secure a new contract or make a high-level appointment to get ink.
You might not have known you were sitting on those news stories, but there's no time like the present to tip off the press that you have them.
Copyright © 2005 George Hopkin
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