Making The Most of A PR Opportunity

It’s easy for me to recognise a PR opportunity as I’ve been working as a PR specialist and journalist for many years. I know what makes a good story and I know how to present it and write it up.

Not so easy for the novice or the business owner who has other priorities. Even those companies with Marketing Directors – or even Heads of Comms – don’t automatically seize every opportunity for media coverage, whether print, broadcast, social or online. They might be looking instead at the ‘bigger picture’ campaigns in which they invest vast sums of time and money, while a simple story related to a charity event can get your name in front of potential clients and customers, associated with your CSR goodwill.

Local papers welcome your stories because they are uniformly short staffed and you can help them fill the paper. They like to support local charities so if you are participating in a fun run, bake off, abseil or anything that can be termed weird and wacky in order to raise money for a good cause, here’s your chance to shout about it. It’s important to focus on the charity and not in personal back slapping and always get an approved quote from your contact at the charity as it endorses your efforts.

When I was in the Chair for my weekly business networking group Platinum Point I arranged for us to support a charity for the year and we chose Herts Young Homeless. Since then a sub committee has been formed and to date activities have included a guest speaker networking event in partnership with the St Albans Chamber of Commerce and a fundraising business quiz as one of the Chamber’s annual Business Week events.

As well as raising money for HYH, Platinum Point has helped to raise the charity’s profile amongst St Albans businesses and also in the Herts Advertiser, which has covered the first event and is due to cover the business quiz, which raised £1250. By doing this we’ve also been able to promote Platinum Point.

It’s always good to get to know the journalists you need to deal with in your industry trade magazines and in the local press. I find friendly lunches are a great way to get to know people in a relaxed setting and it helps you develop a relationship that is stronger than just by email or phone communication. The best way to open this door is not to bang on over lunch about your business. If the journalists asks you question of course let them know about your company but equally show an interest in them, their work and what they like doing outside of it.

Lunch with a journalist is a PR opportunity for you, an investment in your future. You might not get coverage immediately (and if you have a news story take a press release to give them at the end of the lunch) but remember you are opening a door. When I set up my business seven years ago I didn’t know any local journalists and now several of them have become close friends. At a first meeting, and subsequently, be relaxed and friendly. When I took one editor who had given me short shrift on the phone out for lunch, afterwards they said it was the best business lunch they’d ever had. Why? Because I didn’t talk about business or my clients once and made them laugh. I found out about them and they found out about me, it was a bonding exercise. Since then pretty much every story I’ve pitched has gone into the paper.

Make a habit of talking offline and online about every success, new product, new contract or any developments that you have. The more you do this, the more you raise your own profile and the profile of your business. Remember that awards are another PR opportunity and there are lots of local – or national – awards you can enter. Take time to fill in a strong nomination form in a relevant category, treat the form like an exam paper and do whatever you can to make your entry stand out. If you become a finalist, or even better, if you win, make sure you proudly make the news as public as you can.