Using Public Relations to Market Your Business Startup

Marketing a startup is one of the biggest struggles for any entrepreneur. You need to increase sales and grow your customer base, but effective advertising is expensive. While the internet provides significant opportunities for low-cost and no-cost marketing, many business owners overlook the value in establishing an in-house public relations system.

What is Public Relations?

Public relations encompass the work that needs to be done to get your company in the news. The efforts should include building relationships with appropriate news editors, writing effective press releases, and planning how to best use press relations to enhance your marketing plan. Of course, it is possible to hire a PR firm to do this work for you, but they can be expensive and do not have the same stake in seeing your venture succeed as you do.

In addition, a PR firm will have to be taught about your company — what you do, how you do it, what will be newsworthy, and who should be targeted. You will be charged for the hours it takes to get them up to speed. A better entrepreneurial option is to teach yourself all you can about effective public relations, then assign the tasks to your key employees as you grow.

Planning PR

The primary objective of public relations is to expose more potential customers to your company and product(s). You may have a secondary objective of exposing potential investors to your company, as well. Thus, your first step is to define what is and will be newsworthy about your business. Sending out sporadic press releases is far less effective than developing a steady stream of publicity. The editors who review hundreds of press releases per day are more likely to notice yours and hopefully become interested in your progress if they see your company name on a regular basis.

News events are fairly easy to come by with a startup. Consider planning press releases for:

– What your business will do

– Who will benefit from your product or service (consider seeking “testers”)

– Securing investors or financing

– Business launch or grand opening

– New product releases

– New contracts awarded (with your client’s permission, of course)

– Staff changes and additions

– Website content additions, especially freebies

– Events you sponsor or co-sponsor

Once your business is launched, every milestone that you noted in your business planning is an opportunity for a press release. Be creative and stay on top of the process. Interesting news is important, but consistency is critical.

Meet the Press

The best planned PR campaign is only as effective as who it reaches. Do your due diligence in finding the right news sources to reach your potential customers. Most newspapers and television stations have editors dedicated to business news. Find out who they are and make an effort to get to know them. Let them know that, as an expert in whatever it is you do, you are more than happy to provide information on your business, industry, target market, or whatever else they need. One great way to meet members of the press (local, anyway) is through networking events. If there is an important guest or popular speaker, chances are the beat reporter will be there. While everyone else is clamoring to make contact with the star, take that opportunity to get to know the reporter.

Building a good relationship with the right members of the press is invaluable. If they can count on you to provide informative and interesting quotes or sound bites, you will not only build your reputation as the expert in your field, but your company will garner free advertising every time you are used as a source.

Finding the right outlets, and knowing their editorial schedules, is critical. Don’t just randomly send out press releases, but do your homework so you know they are going to the right person at the right publication. Most magazines have a three-month advance requirement, meaning articles they write today will not be published for three months. Local newspapers and magazines tend to have much shorter news cycles. Keep this in mind when setting up your public relations marketing plan. Select the media outlets that are likely to meet your objectives. Whatever your target market reads, that’s where you want to be. Gather all the editorial information you can about these sources. Read the magazines (and subscribe), watch the TV shows. Pay attention to the details of how they present information. If a single, square, color photograph is standard with an article, be sure that is what you send. If articles are short, keep your press release short. Building these contacts takes time, but is well worth your effort. After a few distributions, you will establish a system for reaching your best opportunities and the time required will be significantly reduced.

Writing the Right Press Release

Press editors are flooded with press releases, often reviewing a hundred or more each day. The trick is to make your press releases stand out to the reviewer. Every news item you distribute should say “News Release” and your company name at the top. Avoid sending press releases on standard letterhead. The next line is your headline. Headlines can be the most difficult, yet most important line in the entire document. It needs to grab the editor’s attention and urge them to read on. Reporters and journalists are looking for news items that are important to their readers. Spend some time on the headlines, they are your first obstacle to getting free press.

The body of your press release contains two parts — the news item itself and a general company description. The news item should include complete answers to the classic questions — who, what, when, where, why, and how. Use an active voice — say what you do, not have done or will do. Include quotes from you or other key employees and be sure to make the information relevant and interesting to your target market.

The final paragraph of your press release should be “About the Company” — a good description of what your business does. Include media contact information at the end, with at least your name, title, telephone number, and email address so that the contact can reach you for more information. Excellent samples of press releases from within your industry can be found at PRWeb by searching your keywords.

Get Your Public Relations Started

Wherever you are in the startup process, get to work on developing your company’s public relations plan right away. Identify the media most relevant to you, and brainstorm newsworthy items that you plan to distribute. PR can be an effective marketing tool and it’s free. Don’t overlook the possibilities for your venture, get started today.

Public Relations for Hollywood Movies

It is amazing the amount of money that Hollywood spends promoting its movies and public-relations efforts and it seems they spend more money on public-relations and community goodwill then they actually do in advertising or marketing. Public relations, publicity stunts and getting the actors to go on talk shows very much helps the movie industry promote their flicks. But, public relations for Hollywood movies is not as easy as it looks, in fact, if it is done incorrectly it can actually hurt the movie.

Of course the right amount of controversy also helps sell tickets as long as that controversy does not cross into taboo and thus causing boycotts from family type groups. Public relations specialists for Hollywood movies make much more money than their counterparts in other industries and it is a choice job.

The insiders in Hollywood know what it’s all about and if they are able to promote the movie and get free publicity and public relations out properly, then they will win at the box office. Even if the film is not that good it still might reach the $50 million weekend mark simply through good public relations.

Of course if the movie is good there will be word-of-mouth advertising after that and even more people will see it. The goal is to get the first group of people to go see the Hollywood movie and then run around and say how great it was. Please consider all this in 2006.

Marketing Versus Public Relations – Yes, There is a Difference

Recently, a colleague of mine told a story about how management at his organization had arbitrarily decided to change the title of his department from “Public Relations Department” to “Marketing Communications Department.” Surprised? You should be, but not just because they changed the department title on a whim.

What’s surprising here is that management failed to realize that marketing and public relations are really two very distinct management functions, each ultimately having a significant effect on the organization as a whole. It’s an all-too common mistake in today’s business environment, and an easy one to make. Both are very similar in structure: they work to identify audiences, segment those audiences and set objectives. The purpose of public relations is not, however, to promote goods or services to increase sales, as marketing does.

This isn’t to say that public relations and marketing don’t work together. In fact, to achieve organizational goals, organizations should make use of both functions. Each makes its own special, but complimentary, contributions to building and maintaining the relationships necessary for an organization to thrive.

The Differentiating Factor Marketing always aims at an exchange, usually one that involves money. It is the management function that identifies needs and wants (consumer demand), offers products and services to satisfy those demands and causes some kind of transaction that delivers those products and services in exchange for something of value. It’s the exchange between two parties bit that distinguishes this function from PR.

It’s All Relative. Of course, public relations may, and should, assist in this process, but does so in a different way. Effective PR assists the overall marketing effort by maintaining relationships through gauging awareness, attitude, mitigating crises, controlling damage, enhancing opinions or through other specific objectives not directly linked to sales.

The Whole Picture. Organizationally, marketing is usually a line management function, the first level of management, with supervisory or team responsibility for individuals and tasks. Line management operates in real-time and works closely with the workforce to contribute to the goals of the organization. Public Relations, on the other hand, is a staff management function and one that provides counsel and other services to support line functions.

Not All PR Practitioners Are Spin Doctors. I know that when I said “enhancing opinions” you thought “Ah-ha! They really are only letting us hear what they want us to hear.” The fact is that most PR professionals subscribe to a code of ethics, one that truly values and promotes honesty. What true PR professionals do is work at establishing and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and its audiences, those folks on which the success or failure of the organization depends.

In the end, it’s easiest to say that while marketing focuses on exchange relationships with one public (customers), public relations covers a broad range of relationships and goals with numerous audiences, such as employees, investors, governments and special interest groups.

The point is, whether you think you need some really good marketing or a great public relations campaign, you can’t get away without using both.