How PR has changed and why it’s good news for start-ups
Most start-ups and small businesses decide that hiring a PR company is something they can afford to live without but that can leave the nagging doubt that you’re missing out on opportunities. Thanks mainly to the Internet, PR is changing. Gone are the days of paying an agency to ‘do’ PR and measuring results in the number of press releases issued and ‘column inches’ gained. PR is getting back to its roots – being actively involved in conversations about an industry or product.
Here are 5 things you should know about how PR has changed and why that’s good news for start-ups with limited budgets:
1. PR is not about ‘he who shouts loudest and most often’
It’s about what you say and to who. Scampering around, waving you arms, trying to attract attention by sending out streams of poorly targeted, promotional press releases (sometimes referred to as Push PR), rarely gets taken seriously and can do more harm than good. Clever use of the web, blogs and social media to publish useful and relevant information can involve you in conversations that are already taking place about your industry or market. In this way you receive attention on merit and become an integral part of the market your business operates in. This is referred to as Pull PR.
2. You become the Media
The Media is no longer the preserve of a select group of journalists and publications. Thanks to blogs and micro-blogs like Twitter, the media is now made up of anyone commenting on your industry and could even be YOU.
In several high-profile cases, members of the public have broken stories using Twitter (Examples: Mumbai attack, UK Earthquake) before the journalists could publish a word. Today people pay attention to whoever they consider to be clued-up insiders. Most industries have bloggers and commentators who are not professional journalists, but are seen as ‘thought leaders’ (Murray Newlandsis someone I often read and a great example of this). You can interact with these commentators via their blogs or setup shop as a commentator yourself. By ‘becoming the media’, using blogs and social media to publish your own news and comments, you can become an influencer in your field.
Why does this work? It might seem obvious but the media reports on the media, both professional and amateur. If you write something useful, there is a good chance someone else will use it. If you need an example, look at how many other blogs I’ve referenced in this article.
3. Journalists are easier to contact
Professional journalists have been quick to grasp that the web, and in particular social media is often the source of the freshest, most relevant information. They monitor industry blogs for information, use Google for research, update Twitter accounts (check out this excellent list of UK jounalists on twitter) and maintain Linkedin profiles. Many of them write blogs, either for their employers or for their own reasons. Because of this, you can comment and communicate directly with them on their articles. A word of warning : don’t think this new era of access means you can spam them with anything. Remember PR has changed, so useful, relevant information is appreciated. Scampering and hand waving is likely to beignored at best and most likely met with disdain.
4. Press Releases help you get found on Google
Whilst you shouldn’t robotically email dozens of mundane press releases to a huge list of tenuously relevant journalists and publications , issuing press releases is still a valid activity. Search engines like Google love press releases. Google even have their own site for them: news.Google.com You can write a release about anything relevant: new customers or products, solutions for problems, events you are running. Best of all, you don’t need a PR company to issue a press release. Use a service like www.prlog.com or www.pressbox.co.uk and preferably several at once. Many of these are free and they will all get a release on news.Google.com as well as plenty of other sites that syndicate news. This does wonders for your search optimisation. For more insight in to how this works take a look at this Guide to SEO through Press Releases.
5. You can research and measure results like never before.
Good PR involves listening and planning before communicating. Previously the listening part could cost a packet in research, polls and analyst reports, and the planning was fraught with gaps in knowledge. Now it’s much easier to get answers. For example, you can use Facebook or Linkedin to gather information or publish a survey or poll for relatively little cost. Free tools like ubervu and socialmention can be employed to monitor ‘buzz’ about your company on social networks. If you are able to research and monitor, you can use the same methods to find out very quickly if your PR is having an impact.
A final point
It’s free! You might have noticed that all through the points above I’m talking about free social media tools, free monitoring tools, free press release services. Adopting ‘new PR’ will probably cost you nothing except your time. Don’t underestimate the commitment in terms of time, but once you get into the habit of tweeting, writing blog posts and issuing releases it can take less than 30minutes a day.
Don’t forget, you can use the comments box to tell us about the techniques and tools you use to get your PR message out…