Top tips to maximise the effectiveness of your company’s PR
Effective PR can impress potential clients and customers. Alastair Campbell of The Ideal Marketing Company explains how you can target your campaign.
For many people, sending out a press release and seeing the article in print, or hearing your company mentioned on the radio, is the end in itself – but in my opinion, that’s just the start.
A timely story about your company can gain good coverage in trade, local and even national media if everything goes according to plan.
Failing that, regular coverage in local and trade publications is certainly achievable – if you keep finding stories that are relevant and of interest. For most people, that’s where it all ends – and that could be why so many people say that PR doesn’t ‘work’ for them.
You may have spent quite a bit of time preparing an article for a local paper and were delighted when it appeared. But aside from your staff, a few friends and your parents, who actually read it?
It may be that thousands of people glanced at it, but perhaps only a few hundred actually read it. And out of those few hundred, how many were actually potential customers?
In reality, unless you are placed in a highly targeted magazine or radio station, fewer people will notice your company than you would like. Out of the few who do notice you, only a small proportion will make any effort to contact you.
Now I am not saying that PR is not a worthwhile means of raising awareness of what you do; no doubt it will conjure up some fresh leads and enquiries.
It may well open a few doors. PR can lead to interest from potential business partners or even end with your company becoming national news. You may even end up being mentioned in the House of Commons.
However, in my opinion this is not the only way that PR can work for your company. I believe it can work just as well at the latter stages in the sales cycle.
Creating favourable coverage for your company or creating stories about new product launches creates credibility. Most of your competitors, unless they are very large, will not bother with PR. They will probably not have the resources to create PR in house and they are unlikely to hire their own PR firm.
As a result, they will not be generating regular stories in the media. So if you are, you will instantly have a real advantage over them. How? By collecting and presenting the stories about your company when you are in front of prospects. Here are 6 opportunities that you may have to impress clients at crucial moments in the buying cycle.
Your office. If you are inviting a prospect a meeting in your office, make sure that you have news stories about your company in frames on the walls. The more stories the better (provided they haven’t yellowed with age).
What sort of impression does this create when they walk in? It’s impressive. It means that you are a ‘famous’ company – most people are at least a little impressed with celebrity.
Having a few press cuttings around doesn’t make you Terry Wogan, but it does make you newsworthy, and therefore a more exciting company to do business with. It also establishes credibility – which is so important in the eyes of a prospect at this time.
Your showroom. Have you ever been in a garage waiting to pick up your car from a service? Often you can be kept waiting hours. Perhaps there are times when your customers sit and wait around to be served?
Some garages will let you watch the TV or provide you with newspapers. Some dealers (the smart ones) will also let you read the latest (good) reviews of their cars.
You can read about all the latest models, compare their car to their inferior competitors etc. Being car magazines there are plenty of colourful pictures of the new models.
Does it make you feel differently about their cars? Quite possibly. You may not normally buy a car magazine, so you are amazed at how much coverage the new model has generated (there are a lot of car magazines, who have a lot of space to fill) and it could well influence your decision if you are thinking of changing cars in the near future.
What is true of car showrooms could be equally true of dentists, exhaust centre and anywhere else where your customer has to regularly sit and wait.
Your product portfolio. As a sales person, you are not expected to be an independent witness. I have never yet met a sales person who, at the end of the meeting, concluded that I would be better off buying a competitor’s product because it is more reliable and costs less.
You are expected to point out all the good things about the product and so, for that matter, is your company’s brochure.
But you can have a secret weapon – media coverage. “Of course you would expect me to tell you how well the system performs, but this is what the newspapers have said about us.”
It is at this point that you can unleash a pile of clippings – many of which will be articles which are more or less reprints of the press releases that you sent out, but some of which will be proper articles which really do report on what an innovative / money saving / compact / unusual products you have produced.
It is like taking an independent critical set of witnesses who can vouch for your character on every sales call.
In written proposals. You are expected to present your product or service in its best light when preparing a written proposal. But the more independent it appears, and the less hype that goes into it, the more believable it becomes.
The danger of course, is that it can become a very dull document. Direct quotes from radio interviews, TV stories or trade magazines can be a good way to back up the point you are making. In effect you are saying – don’t just take my word for this, listen to what the media have to say about it.
On your website. Whilst the article, when it was originally written or broadcast, may have been seen or heard by a wide group of people, most of whom had no interest in who you are or what you sell, people visiting your website are very different.
Many of them will be interested in who you are and may want to buy what you sell. I can’t think, therefore, of a more suitable place for the press release that you sent out to appear, enhanced by extracts from the magazines which featured your story. Not only will people be interested to read these stories, once again they increase your credibility, keep your site fresh and will help you to get picked up by search engines.
Steve Hawkins, Director of web design company ‘Caged Fish’ who specialise in website optimisation says, “The more current you can keep your website, the higher its rankings on search engines such as Google.
This is because the search engines rate the fact that you take the time to keep your site up to date and refresh its contents on a regular basis. If you include the name of the trade magazine that ran your story in the first place, you may also appear when people search under that name. “
Staying in touch with prospects. So you made your sales pitch and the prospect was interested – but not enough to buy today because they have to take it back to their board or maybe discuss it at the next staff meeting.
Perhaps even your most enthusiastic prospects take months or even years to make a decision. Newspaper cuttings about how the product is developing, detailing account wins and featuring expansion stories about your company can all help to reinforce the prospect’s feelings of confidence in your organisation, make them feel involved and even prompt their memory to take action.
So perhaps it’s worth going back through any recent media coverage and looking at it again. Could it help build your company’s credibility, keep prospects warm or build up the trust of a prospect?
If you don’t have a PR programme currently in place, perhaps you can now see how useful media coverage can be at building credibility and helping to close the deal.
Now is the time to start making a habit of doing more to gain PR coverage for your company, and doing more with the coverage once it has been generated.
Alastair Campbell is a Director of The Ideal Marketing Company which specialises in creating low cost PR and marketing for firms. The company also runs a seminar series: ‘Sales and Marketing on a Shoestring.’ See www.idealmarketingcompany.com, or call 01858 44 55 43 for more details.