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Getting started on your own PR

Growth start-up advisor, Andrew Nickeas, looks at how businesses can conduct their own successful PR campaign without breaking the bank, with tips on how to write a press release and harness the power of social media to get their message out there.

So what exactly is PR? According to the Chartered Institute of Public Relations it is: “the way organisations, companies and individuals communicate with the public and media. A PR specialist communicates with the target audience directly or indirectly through media with an aim to create and maintain a positive image and create a strong relationship with the audience.”

Put another way, it’s about how to handle your external profile and promote your business to existing customers and potential new markets.

And while PR isn’t rocket science, there are definitely a few dos and don'ts to bear in mind if you want your press releases to end up in the paper and not in a journalist’s bin.

PR that works

Every day publications and websites receive hundreds of press releases and emails offering article ideas and interviews. For yours to stand out, it must be interesting, topical and/ or different.

You need to send the correct message to the correct audience, so spend time reflecting on who you are trying to influence, and what is likely to capture their interest.

When it comes to writing the release, first of all you need to make sure it’s newsworthy. Is what you intend to send out really of interest to anyone but you? You need to be tough and disciplined and that way journalists will start to expect something good and ‘newsy’ when they see your releases.

The next step is to grab the journalist’s attention with a strong headline but don’t try and be too clever. It needs to be simple but informative, telling the time-pressed writer exactly what the release is about in just a few words. If the headline hook is effective, you have just won another 20 seconds of attention span.

Keep it simple

Now a bit on structure. Again, it’s crucial to remember that editors will be incredibly busy, so the opening paragraph of the release needs to sum up the whole story in no more than 20 words. No waffle just crisp, clear details.

Try and think of the five Ws – Who, What, Where, Why and When - for instance: “Audenshaw business Blogs and Co have won new contracts worth over £1 million that will help to safeguard 50 local jobs”  - tells the writer all they need to know.

It pays to keep the brevity going too. Press releases should be concise, covering four or five paragraphs with a couple of quotes, too. Feel free to use bullets if you’re including a lot of data, and remember you can always include background information on the company under ‘Notes For Editors’ at the end of the release.

With quotes, don’t just repeat what you’ve already said - they should offer insight, not detail. So in the case of Blogs and Co, it could focus on the jobs and how a local business is supporting the local community, or how the new contracts could be a springboard into new markets.

If you’re emailing press releases make sure you get a named contact at the publication and not the dreaded “info@” address, and paste the release into the body of the email rather than attaching it, as it may go un-opened.  It’s fine to attach pictures or graphics but make sure the files aren’t too big.

Be strategic on Social

Social media has become an important source of leads and potential stories for journalists. The growth of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and many others has been a game changer and a fantastic and cost-effective way for direct engagement with both customers and the press.

Good PR has always involved an aspect of human relations and social media has taken this to the next level. It now pays more than ever to develop a relationship with journalists rather than simply pinging emails to every publication you can think of.

Think about pitching your story more strategically, focussing on a few core writers. You could tailor it too, and avoid the pitfalls of something that is, so obviously, a mass email.

It’s worth contacting bloggers who write about your field or sector. Many are also followed by industry journalists, who may pick up on your company as a direct result of reading the blog. You can even offer to be a guest writer for them.

Make yourself available for interview too – it’s a great way to develop your media profile. If you show a bit of media savvy, and the fact that you’ve got something to say, journalists will pick up on this and come to you for comment.

Don’t miss the opportunity to latch onto someone else’s moment of fame either. This happens all the time in social media, hash tagging and retweeting gets your brand name out on the back of interest being shown in someone else.

Finally, you need perseverance. Not everything you send out will get used but follow these basic guidelines, and you’ll be one step closer.

If you need help getting started or want support developing your PR capacity the Hub can help. Start your journey today through Enquire & Grow.

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Andrew Nickeas

Andrew Nickeas, Growth Start-Up Advisor

Andrew has worked within Manchester Solutions for 12 years and has been involved in business start-up for the majority of this. He’s worked on STEP, a scheme which offered placements to second year undergraduates in work and project opportunities within the summer recess with companies within the Greater Manchester area. Andrew became Business Start-Up Manager responsible for a team of ten advisors and the overall control of the Start-up project. His experience within this field continued when he moved into a role as the New East Manchester Regeneration Advisor working with start-up businesses, to promote enterprise.