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To conduct a successful public relations campaign, it helps to be familiar with some of the basic PR tools. Choose any of the following "elements" of a PR strategy to learn more about what they are, how they're used, and when you might want to use them.
A press kit is essentially an "information kit" that will provide a journalist with background information about you and your company. Basically, it is a folder (preferably one with your company's name and logo on the outside) or an online document that contains many of the "informational" elements described below. Remember, it is not a sales brochure -- it should be a real help to reporters in writing their stories.
You will need to have press kits prepared when you are holding a press conference; when you go on a press interview; and whenever you are pitching a story to someone who does not know anything about your company. You also might want to send out an updated press kit once a year so that people following your company will have the most up-to-date information. The contents of your press kit should change depending on when you're using it. In general, it will include some or all of the following:
Recent press releases
Background material about your company
A one-page fact sheet about your company
Biographies of your top executives
Photographs of products (be sure to include captions)
Photographs of your executives (essential for an interview)
Pertinent product sheets/brochures
Contact names and numbers
A press release is the primary way you communicate news about your company to the media. Reporters, editors and producers are hungry for news, and they often depend on releases to tip them off to new and unusual products and companies, trends, tips and hints, and other developments.
As the name suggests, a media alert is used to inform the media about a press conference, special event, demonstration, or other newsworthy event. It is a one- or two-paragraph "release" that focuses on what will occur, and why the media would be interested in it. You might want to think of it as a way of inviting the press to attend your event. Here are some situations when a media alert would be effective:
Your company is exhibiting at a trade show and will have a celebrity at your booth
A busload of elementary school students are coming to your company for career day
You're holding a press conference
There's a special demonstration inside your store
You're presenting a keynote address to a local organization
You're having a groundbreaking ceremony
Your company is sponsoring a charity event or making an important donation
Be sure your media alert includes:
What is happening
Why it is important
Where it is happening
When it will occur
Who to contact for more information
An invitation for the press to attend
And don't forget to say that photo opportunities are available!
A "backgrounder" tells your company's story. It should include all pertinent information -- about your company -- its products or services, its market/industry, and its management team. It should be written in such a way that it holds a reporter's interest. Keep it focused on benefits and information... once again, this is not a sales piece, so keep the hype to a minimum.
You can create a workable backgrounder by writing a paragraph or two about each of these elements:
What your company does
When and why your company was started
A brief history of your company
Your products or services
Your key personnel
You might also want to create a one-page corporate fact sheet. It is briefer and more "bare bones" than a backgrounder. A fact sheet lists the basics about your company, including:
Your company name
Your address and phone number
The focus of your business
Your products or services
Your management team
Contact names and numbers
It is important for you to have up-to-date biographies of all your top executives. These are particularly critical when you are planning press interviews and press conferences, since reporters will want to know about the person they are interviewing.
Focus a bio on the person's current responsibilities. What does he or she do for your company? That's the most important information you include, and should be at the beginning (i.e. John Smith oversees Anycompany's sales efforts). In other words, write it in reverse chronological order -- with the most recent information first, and the oldest last. You can also be creative -- talk about what sets a person apart from the crowd, what makes him/her different. When you're writing a bio, think in these terms:
What does this person do for my company?
Why does he/she do that job well?
What other qualifications does he/she have?
What did he/she do before? Is it pertinent to his/her current job?
Is there anything else about this person that would make me stop and think "hey, that's really interesting?"
Just as it is important to keep an accurate database of your customers and prospects, it is crucial to make sure you are targeting the right people with your media message. Many small businesses make the mistake of sending press releases to "Editor," assuming it will be forwarded to the right person. That rarely happens. You need the name of the right editor or reporter.
Getting the right name is as simple as calling and asking who the right editorial contact is. Then get to know that person. Editorial contacts can be the most important element of your PR campaign. Think about it this way: a reporter is more likely to write about a company or person he/she knows about... and is MOST likely to write about a company or person with whom he/she has a relationship.
Editorial staffs change on a regular basis, and reporters often shift "beats" (what they cover). Be sure to review your media list every 4-6 months to keep it up to date.
To qualify your media contacts, ask yourself these questions:
Is this a publication I want publicity in?
Do my customers/prospects read this publication (or watch this TV show)?
Does this person write about companies such as mine?
Does this person assign articles that would include a news event like mine?
Is there another writer or editor at this publication who would also be interested in my company?
A news conference (or press conference) is a formal event to which you invite the press to learn more about an important, newsworthy announcement. For the most part, unless you have something truly momentous to announce, news conferences should not be used by small businesses. You probably won't have the drawing power to justify putting together this kind of event, and other PR methods will be more effective.
The operative word in news conference is "news." You will attract the press to a news conference by promising to deliver a real news story to them. It is important to keep that promise. If you don't, you will be like the boy who cried "wolf." Waste a journalist's time once, and you will not get that time again. And you won't be doing any good to your company's reputation.
A news briefing is a less formal get together -- you might bring together four or five reporters to give them an update on your company or fill them in on some new product information. You can also use the time to answer questions and let the press learn more about what you and your company do. You can hold a briefing in your company's conference room, over lunch at a restaurant, or another comfortable location.
Here are some situations where a news conference or briefing might be appropriate:
Your company is announcing the launch of a new product or service
Your company is acquiring a strong competitor (or is being acquired)
Your company strikes a major joint venture deal with a large corporation
To announce the findings of an important poll or survey
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