Mastering PR is one of the most impactful steps small business owners can take to grow a business. Through sharing your story, you can connect with your community and share your message with more customers, helping you stand out in a crowded marketplace.
As the founder and managing director of two successful PR businesses (O’Rourke Public Relations and The Halo Effect), PR expert Rebecca O’Rourke has worked with clients across a diverse range of industries and she understands how to place businesses in the spotlight. Here are some of the top takeaways from her recent webinar with Women in Focus, which explored practical insights and strategies for mastering impactful PR.
What is public relations?
“While some people think PR is about quickly writing a press release and sending it out to the masses, it’s so much more than that,” Rebecca says. “It’s about being of service to your community, offering them value, and being authentic at all times,” she says.
When done right, PR can:
- Raise the profile of people and their businesses
- Create exposure to new markets and clients
- Attract investors and buyers
- Foster credibility and trust
- Influence audiences
- Protect reputations
Increasing your brand’s visibility
As Rebecca explains, increasing your brand’s visibility means making a conscious decision to be visible yourself.
“Be the brand champion of your business, because there’s no one better than you for this role, and your passion and enthusiasm will shine through,” she advises. “Start by capturing your story – write it down and make it authentic and impactful, including those ‘ah ha!’ moments or times when things didn’t go right, because that’s the kind of thing people want to hear about.”
Understanding the purpose of your story (your ‘why’) is key, as is considering your audience and how your story is going to inspire people into action.
Once you have written your story, Rebecca recommends sharing it with a colleague or friend and practicing it over and over, so you know it off by heart. Remember, you might need to tailor it down the track depending on the context and audience you are presenting it to, and any time constraints that apply.
Media relations and seeking publicity
“To target your story to the right people, you’ve got to get to know the relevant media in your market – the journalists and the influencers,” Rebecca says. “Keep your brand in people’s minds by seeking media opportunities and going to networking events, speaking engagements and regularly posting on your social media channels with quality content,” she says.
When seeking out these opportunities, Rebecca recommends coming prepared with an updated professional bio, and three or four professional photos (including an up-to-date headshot).
Press releases and the key components of a media kit
While press releases might seem a tad redundant in today’s fast-paced digital world, Rebecca believes they are a timeless PR tool because they allow businesses to capture their stories in a concise and factual way. “A press release needs to be punchy, with an attention-grabbing headline and the news hook in the first paragraph,” she advises. The expert recommends keeping it short and snappy (no longer than a page-and-a-half), including quotes from the spokesperson, as well as any key facts and statistics. She also recommends avoiding the use of industry jargon, to ensure it’s considered relatable and relevant.
Your media kit should include:
1. Your press release
2. Any fact sheets, imagery or videos that will help journalists compile a story
As Rebecca explains, there are different options for how you present and send your media kit – and this will depend heavily on the client and industry you are targeting. You may like to present your media kit digitally so you can send it to media as a link, or you could invest in a creative send-out that arrives first, and is followed up with the link. “Recently for one of my food [industry] clients, we produced a kit in the form of a mystery box with ingredients and a recipe card, and the media response was amazing,” Rebecca shares. “It’s always good to think outside the square about how you can get noticed or do something different, rather than simply send out a news release.” Thinking of compiling a creative send-out? “If you are going to do it, it needs to be on-brand and it needs to be authentic,” Rebecca advises.
Writing a great press release and pitching your story go hand in hand, and as Rebecca explains, pitching to relevant audiences is key. “A health story shouldn’t be pitched to an entertainment reporter,” she says. “Know who you’re pitching to and understand their needs, including what their deadlines are.”
When in doubt, pick up the phone. “I’m a big advocate of sending a press release and following it up with a phone call to verbally pitch it in, as this is a lot more powerful and allows you to answer any questions,” she says. “Remember, the person will want to know the news angle, what’s in it for their audience, and potentially if they have exclusivity,” she says.
In Rebecca’s view, it helps if you already know the media contacts you are pitching to – but she also encourages those who are starting out to ‘cold pitch’, provided they have done their research and believe in their story. “It could be the start of a great professional relationship,” she points out.
Nurturing relationships, stakeholder and community relations
As Rebecca explains, creating impactful PR ultimately comes down to a ‘give-and-take’ approach. “Value the relationships you have with stakeholders, customers, your community and the media, and make time to understand and nurture them,” she says.
To help manage these relationships, the expert recommends creating a stakeholder mapping document that identifies your stakeholder groups and details how they relate to you and your business, including their field of influence and any associated opportunities.
Once you have a clear picture of who your stakeholders are, you can develop consistent communication channels to share information and connect with them, such as social media, eDMs, vlogs and blogs, and news releases.