PR Means More Than ‘Press Release’: What Entrepreneurs Need to Know

There’s no denying that the Internet is allowing more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and effectively market their new products. However, there seems to be an increasingly common misconception when these businesses try to generate media attention and publicity for their products.

Over the past several years, more than a few clients have come to me seeking “a PR” to get people interested in their companies and products. But contrary to what many of these folks think, PR is not an acronym for “press release.” PR — public relations — is much more than that, and it’s important to understand the distinction.

Often, I cringe when I see articles from well-intentioned “marketing” experts that say, in effect: Simply write a press release, “pitch” it to the media and then sit back and reap the benefits. In reality, it’s far from being that simple. That statement presupposes that the media release is written well — meaning it contains all the right elements and news pegs to catch an editor’s eye — and that it is pitched and maintained in the correct media market. which is often the downfall of many amateur PR campaigns.

Of course, a press release is an integral part of a public relations campaign. But a press release alone does not a PR campaign make. A successful PR/publicity campaign for your business, your products, your Web site or whatever you’re trying to promote should include many, if not all, of the following:

1. Newsworthy Product

An interesting, quality, newsworthy product in which the media (and its audience) will find merit.

2. Concise Pitch

A concise, articulate media release or story pitch — not just a glorified advertisement — detailing the benefits of your product/business/Web site and what effect it will have for users.

3. Supportive Material

A supply of media “supportives” — product photos (both digital and hard copy), possible review samples, and the like. Here, a PR section on your website, where such item exists, will do the magic.

4. Extensive Research

An extensively researched media list detailing all applicable media outlets whose editorial profiles match your product/business profile.

This is an important detail — the media targets of your pitch should be name-specific, not title-specific. By that I mean the media market research you compile should include the names of editors you need to reach.

5. Trustworthy Contacts

A solid, trustworthy media contact vehicle that gets your release/media kit directly into the hands of the appropriate reporter/editor/producer and allows him or her to respond easily to your pitch. Beware of press release distribution services that indiscriminately spews your release to hundreds of untargeted media outlets with little or no results. This means doing your homework to determine the preferred method of receipt of your media targets, whether it be snail mail, e-mail, fax or phone. Of course, the fact that an editor received your story doesn’t guarantee it will be used — but they certainly can’t publish it if they didn’t get it.

Meticulous media relations to immediately fulfill media requests for such items as photos, product samples and/or personal interviews and extensive media contact follow-ups over several months to generate as many placements as possible.

Many times, media outlets can’t respond immediately to a pitch, especially if it’s made during tight editorial deadlines and when editors are wading through a multitude of similar pitches. I have found, without question, that media interest continues to increase as you re-introduce the pitch and — gently — “rattle the media cage” over the course of the next several weeks and months.

Some sort of media tracking capabilities — whether it’s your own follow-ups, Internet research or using a professional broadcast/print clipping service. Having hard copies of the placements generated by your PR campaign can be invaluable in the further marketing of your company or product. Media placements are a unique validation of the market acceptance for your company or product and can help you convince new customers of that fact.

Conclusion

Think of launching a public relations/publicity campaign as flying a kite. The press release — which appropriately details your product or company — is the kite. But if your kite doesn’t have the proper amount of string, a good tail, a strong wind and expert manipulation, it has little chance of getting off the ground. But if all theses elements are in place, a PR/publicity campaign can send your business soaring like a kite on a breezy spring afternoon.