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PR 101: A Guide for Startups
I am regularly approached by businesses, some on the cusp of existence, others barely launched, and a few even celebrating their ten year anniversary, all wanting to know how to do PR; how to do it better and when to get someone else to do it for you. The below offers a few guidelines for those who need a little help in their approach to PR for their brand or business:
- Journalists are people too. Sure, they know they need you just as much as you need them, but that is no reason not to take some time to get to know them. Any PR consultant worth their salt will take the time to treat a journalist like a fellow human being, not an email address on a list of hundreds. If you are looking to build fruitful relationships, make a note of the editors most relevant to you, and drop them a note to introduce yourself, and every now and then say hello. Take a minute to find out if they have kids, or where they’re from, and remember, no one will ever say no to a cupcake hand-delivered to their office. No action is too small, and they will certainly remember you the next time they get an email from you.
Always personalize emails – no exceptions! No email is worse than one that starts with “Dear Editor”, or more recently, “Dear Editor/Blogger”. Don’t. Do. It. Ever. Many PR pros might be guilty of this unforgivable sin but the difference in the effectiveness of a personalized email is unmatched. Go a step further and mention their last article, or ask them how their holiday was if you remember seeing an out-of-office reply from them the previous week. Of course, at the eleventh hour, this is sometimes hard to remember or stick to when putting those final touches on a press release and uploading it to an email with over 500 addresses in BCC. Stop. Think. Imagine you were about to receive this email… don’t deny it, it’s probably going to your Junk folder.
When you are a small company, everyone you do business with is a spokesperson. Nothing is stronger than word-of-mouth PR, so spread the word wherever you go. The power of association is on your side, especially if you are a small and virtually unknown business. Pick a company that shares your values and reach out to them to collaborate on a project, campaign or perhaps a simple Facebook competition; you have much to gain from joint exposure. Always take the time to maintain business relationships; make sure you get the message across to anyone you speak to, and most importantly, never burn bridges. You never know where your next customer will come from.
A newspaper is not always the answer. There is a general misconception, which is unfortunately perpetrated by many PR agencies in the region, that getting your news in the local paper will lead to fortune and fame, but unfortunately this type of PR is missed by many; especially in today’s fast-paced media life cycle. Public relations is no longer synonymous with media relations; we are now in a sophisticated media age where it goes far beyond that. Are you a sports brand? Maybe collaborating with a group of personal trainers is the answer. Are you the newest pizza place on the block? Flood people’s Twitter and Instagram feeds. Are you a corporate company with something important to announce? The evening TV news might be your answer. Be ready to think outside the traditional paper, and reach your target audience where they are – the right channel is not always the obvious one.
Memorize your story, and learn how to tell it well. People remember stories, not products, not company missions and rarely faces or names; but they will always remember a story. Not dissimilar to an “elevator pitch”, made popular by yuppie movies from the 90s, your brand’s story is the essence of who you are and what you do; this is what will hook people, draw them in, and make you memorable when it matters. It will take a few redrafts before you get it perfect. Practice on friends, practice on strangers, say it out loud in the mirror. Look yourself in the eye and repeat it until you are totally convinced. Make your story catchy, make it brief, make it personal and, most of all, make it sincere.
Serene Touma is Chief Communicator and Co-Founder of Purple PR. Spanning 5 years' experience in FMCG, consumer technology, property, telecomms, fashion & beauty Public Relations in both Beirut and Dubai, Serene has developed strategic expertise, social media savviness and strong copywriting skills across industries in the region.
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