6 things that will help you generate more free publicity for your business

PR isn’t advertising, but it is one of the best promotion tools at your disposal.

By Cian Connaughton President, PRII

IF PR ISN’T on your company’s radar, you’re missing out on one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to promote your business.

While there are loads of ways to shout about your business, one of the advantages to PR is that consumers take more notice of news articles and stories put together by journalists.

Why? Well, if you think about it, don’t you put a higher value on a recommendation from a third party than someone telling you about how good they are at something? It’s a bit like that with PR.

At the Public Relations Institute of Ireland (PRII), we’ve recently relaunched our diploma in PR, and in the course of redesigning the syllabus we’ve had to assess what works and what are the key lessons for communicators.

So, what are the top things you need to consider before you kick things off in your own organisation?

1. Clear up what PR is

Let’s get it straight – PR is not paid-for advertising and it’s not paid-for sponsorship.

It’s about finding bits of information or stories about your business that are going to be of interest to your chosen audience and then developing new and interesting ways of telling those stories.

Is your story as an entrepreneur or founder one that will be inspiring for people to read about? Will you be able to provide some stories and give a bit of your wisdom?

Has your business a different or exciting story to tell? Are you growing strongly, taking on more staff, launching into a new area or expanding abroad? All of these are going to be of potential interest to the media and their audience.

2. Get your team on board

It’s all very well pushing a new PR plan, but if no one else is on board, you’re going to miss out on their ideas and suggestions.

Your colleagues will be one of the best sources of material that your business can speak about, so the best thing to do is to let them know about your plans and have regular updates with them.

Why not put discussion of PR onto the agenda for your weekly or monthly meeting? As everyone knows, if something’s not prioritised, it’s quickly forgotten about. Even more motivating, build it into your staff’s annual appraisals.

3. Know your target audience and their media of choice

If you’re in business, you’ll already know who your target market is for sales. Chances are they’re going to be your target market for your PR activity too. The trick is to find out which media they like.

Ireland has a lot of different media outlets: local and national online news websites, local newspapers, local and community radio stations, trade magazines, national newspapers. Read and listen to lots of these media to see where your story would fit best.

Working with an experienced PR professional who deals with media daily will ensure your plans are better-informed, but there is nothing stopping you from investing your time in researching and planning out your ideas first.

4. Don’t be a one-hit wonder

Rather than having one or two really big splashes of PR during a year, why not go for a piece of PR every one to two months? Some can be job announcements, some can be smaller local or targeted announcements.

Consistent mentions of your business in a variety of different outlets will work better for you than one big splash followed by silence.

The best way to do this is to talk to your team, get an idea of what is happening for your business over the next year and then put a programme together.

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5. Keep an eye on what the competition are doing

As businesses are increasingly recognising the value in PR, every sector tends to have a couple of standout companies that do it well. Keep an eye out for these guys.

What are they talking about and how are they doing it? What channels, such as videos, photos or social media, are working best for them? Do you have a more interesting way to tell a similar story?

6. Don’t forget video

With the abundance of smartphones and fast broadband, Google says that video content will make up 80% of material viewed online by 2020. So you’re missing out if you’re not considering telling your story on video.

Your video content doesn’t have to be over-produced or cost a fortune. The secret is to make sure your output is going to interest your audience.

It will also need to be reasonably short and snappy – most people decide whether to watch a video in the first five seconds and generally stay for no more than a minute watching the content.

Cian Connaughton is president of the Public Relations Institute of Ireland (PRII) and a guest lecturer on the PRII diploma in PR. He is also a client director in MKC Communications.

If you want to share your opinion, advice or story, email opinion@fora.ie.