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PR Tips: Beyond the Press Release

In these difficult economic times, companies desperately need the tools to stand out from the crowd. Public relations is probably one of the most cost-effective ways to increase your company’s brand identity and build your sales pipeline. Woman entrepreneurs are particularly well suited to public relations, because women are inherently good at communicating. With the right guidelines you can be off and running on a highly effective PR campaign.
There is a common misconception that PR is just sending out press releases. Nothing could be further from the truth. While media coverage can be important, it’s just one element in a truly effective visibility campaign. A well-rounded campaign will give you maximum exposure with your target audiences.

PR Tips for Success: Your strategy should include these eight key steps:

1.  Define Your Goals, Your Target Market and Your Messages
Before you even begin any public relations activities, you need to set goals for your PR campaign: where do you want to grow, which products or services do you want to promote?
Next, define your target audiences: whom do you want to reach with your marketing and PR efforts? In addition to defining your target audiences, it’s   important to understand what these audiences think about your company. Find this out by conducting a series of informal interviews with your clients, business associates, vendors, and the like.
With your goals in growing your business firmly in mind and your target audiences defined, it’s time to develop your key messages. These messages should be emphasized in all your PR materials and activities. They should clearly and crisply state what sets you apart from the competition, and the benefit that you bring to your clients and customers
2.  Present a Strong Visual Image
Your company should have a strong brand identity that your clients easily recognize. Professionally designed graphics support the branding of your company, make you look more credible, and help convey your key messages. This identity should be carried across all your print materials: stationery, business cards, brochures, folders, and flyers. It will also carry over to your website and direct mail efforts.
In terms of print materials, start with a well-designed company brochure. Then develop materials to promote specific services or products as the need arises.

3.   Use Direct Marketing to Stand Out
Communicate with your target market on a regular basis through direct marketing campaigns that make a strong impact. This is a great opportunity to publicize your products, your expertise and your successes. There are a number of email marketing services that make electronic campaigns quite easy.  Direct mail can range from a simple postcard to elaborate foldout mini-brochures.  
4.   Give Your Clients Valuable Information
A client newsletter is an excellent way to feature your company professionals as experts, while also promoting your services and products.
If you want your newsletter to be read, give your readers relevant and timely information that will be of interest to them, not just what you want them to know about your company. Give your clients valuable information that they want and need.
You can hire a graphic designer to create a newsletter template for you to follow or use one of the online email marketing services. These services offer a variety of easy-to-use newsletter templates.

5.   Host Client Events
Another great way to increase visibility and position your company professionals as experts is to host small seminars, roundtables, or panel discussions. These events also provide the opportunity for valuable face-to-face time with existing and prospective clients.
The most important step in organizing this kind of event is to come up with a topic that will provide a draw for your audience. Your event might enlighten clients about the hot issues of the day or new rules and regulations in your industry. Or you could offer valuable information on a particular area of expertise.

6.   Get Active
Becoming active in high-profile professional, business and civic organizations builds your firm’s visibility and increases networking opportunities. The trick is to pick and choose among all the organizations out there and focus on the ones that the key players participate in—the people who make the decision to hire your firm or buy your products.
Speaking engagements provide excellent opportunities to raise your company profile. To determine prospects for speaking engagements, research the conferences or major events in your industry coming up in the next year or two. Check out where your competition is speaking for ideas on future conferences.
Winning awards is another area where you can take a proactive approach. Research the upcoming calls for projects from your major associations to find out what awards might be a good fit. Winning an award makes both you and your client look good!

7.  Maximize Your Website
Your website is a great tool to showcase your products, services and projects.
In today's technological age, the Internet is the first place your business contacts will go for information about your company. It is the primary source of information for potential new recruits. Your website is also an essential tool for the media.

8.   Gain Media Exposure
Now it is time to talk about how the media fits into your overall PR plan. All the steps I have listed up to now are completely under your control. Gaining media exposure is more difficult.  But there is great potential to raise your visibility with news coverage, guest columns and bylined (you as the author) articles.
And that, in a nutshell, is the power of a fully integrated PR campaign!

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