I’ve been invited by the FSB to give a talk at a local event about what makes a good news story, how to attract media attention and make it easy for reporters to cover your story. Obviously I’m biased but I do believe that PR can be a very cost effective way of getting your brand to market and in front of the people you are trying to attract.
Although it’s a subject I can cover easily, I’m going to follow my own advice to others and make sure I’m well prepared so that the attendees come away with at least a couple of useful tips that they can implement for themselves.
I’ve been doing PR for my entire career and of course I’m well versed in engaging with the media but even now I still get a bit of stage fright before I plough in to pitch a story to someone I don’t know, especially to a national newspaper or a national broadcaster. In general, the bigger they are the snottier they are so you have to be quick on the draw to get someone interested in your subject.
Is it easy? Sometimes you might have a bit of beginners luck or you may be pitching a story that they are looking to cover anyway (yay!). The main thing is not to be put off by rejection because if you are turned down by the first person you speak to always keep the door open with them as contact has been made and make sure you can get back to them with another story in the future.
Even when I worked with big stars (not much rejection there admittedly) I never got shirty about it if someone said no. Always be warm, polite and conscious that the person you are talking to is busy – if it’s a local paper it’ll be a short staffed office.
I also never set myself limitations. Sometimes I might not know immediately how I’m going to achieve something for a client, I just believe that there is always a way. Last March I started to work with a client who set up and runs a commercial plumbing company with her husband. They have been very successful in just 3 years by any SME standards but are still relatively small in the construction industry where they work.
The client had set me a target for her to appear on BBC Breakfast – a big ask by any standards. I said I’d need at least a year to achieve this and with the client’s backing I proceeded to implement my PR strategy which encompassed media, speaking opportunities, entering awards, copywriting and a variety of other PR services.
One of the first things I did was arrange a speaking gig for her seven months hence at Construction Week, a massive exhibition for the construction industry at the NEC. She was one of a panel to speak on the subject of Diversity. Just before the event as part of the speaker pack we received information that BBC presenter Steph McGovern was hosting the panel and I thought no more about it.
However, once we met Steph backstage in the ‘green room’ area before the panel was on stage I saw a great opportunity to get the name of Steph’s BBC Breakfast producer. She has a very natural and open manner and she said I should send an email to her as her producers change all the time. I did this the day after, with Anne’s information and suggestions on topics she’d be good at discussing.
A month went by without a response, which isn’t unusual and I knew that being pushier than I had been already wasn’t the right option. Instead I sent Steph the press release I did about my client become a finalist in a national award – more as a reminder about the client. On the same day I picked up a message from a BBC Breakfast producer about the client being part of a panel to discuss the implications of the autumn Budget.
I was so excited and immediately rang the producer who said that they were overbooking guests and they couldn’t confirm until the key subjects in the Budget had been revealed the day before. I pitched my client a bit more and kept my fingers crossed. I sent another email to the producer with the client’s details as I was about to go on holiday for 10 days. I let the producer know when I returned.
The result was that instead of a year, I got my client on BBC Breakfast in eight months. It was well worth going up to Manchester with my client at short notice and arriving at my hotel at 11.30pm, getting up at 4.30am to do her make up and standing for 3 long hours in arctic conditions for the outside broadcast.