Although there is never a substitute for using an expert when it comes to brand building and reputation management, it is a fact of life that many start ups do not have the budget for PR & marketing when the business first launches. It’s a serious issue considering you need profile to grow profits and it is compounded by the fact that any funding that was previously available to support this type of activity has pretty much dried up with the recent public sector funding cuts. Nevertheless, all is not lost because there are a number of steps virgin entrepreneurs can take to get them off to the right start, giving them a firm foundation to build on with a specialist when the time comes.
When embarking on media relations, the place to begin is by understanding what makes news, which involves reading the publications you want to appear in so you can see what type of story makes the cut. If you’re also keen to achieve broadcast coverage, research the TV and radio programmes you’d like to appear on – news teams have different requirements and often take very different approaches.
Then apply what you’ve learnt to your business – what news have you got to share that would interest the readers, listeners and viewers? For example, are you planning to double your turnover in the next year or take on 20 new staff? Will you be looking for new premises or exporting to new markets? Are you doing a lot of charity work or leading the field with your green credentials? All these things and more are of appeal and by talking to the relevant journalists could secure you column inches / air time.
When you have a shortlist of potential hooks, think about how you will substantiate your claims (after all, you don’t want a paper-thin story or to be exposed as a fraud) and also how you will illustrate them with strong photography. If a news angle is strong enough, sometimes a paper will send a photographer out but resources are low so the likelihood of that is much smaller than it used to be.
If you decide to organize a photoshoot, be clever with the photographer’s time. You’ll be charged by the hour so rather than secure just one shot, get a range to keep on file. A good selection would be pictures of any key spokespeople and the management team, employees carrying out their work and imagery of the premises - with branding in, if possible. Don’t be tempted to shoehorn branding in however because if the photo looks too salesy, it will be placed straight in the bin rather than in the paper. If your story is a contract win, get an image of your happy client – venture capital companies do this really well with deal stories so follow their lead.
When you read target publications, you’ll often see profiling slots, which introduce you to a person or business, for example platforms like ‘My Dream Job’ or ‘A Week In The Life Of’. Some are free and some are paid for but these can be great opportunities to explain what you do and make key employees more accessible so it’s worth a conversation with the editor to see how you can feature. This is often a better option to placing an advert as you can say more and there is no production cost involved.
Social media can support and supplement your work so don’t forget to utilise your website, blog and outlets like Twitter and LinkedIn. Stories that are of interest to your customers but that don’t make good news stories are perfect for your blog and you can tweet links to updates and any coverage you might have secured to make your online presence work even harder.
Don’t forget that when you’re implementing all this activity, it’s waste of time if you’re not speaking to the people that will buy from you so make sure you’re using the right mediums to target those that matter, ie you’re appearing in places that your customers will see.