If you’re in business, you’re dealing with the public. Even if your business is strictly online and you never see a customer face-to-face, the image your business projects determines how the public responds. The process for creating and managing that image is called public relations (PR), and it always involves written communication of one sort or another.
Understand that PR is always about choosing the best words to communicate the information you want to share. Where people read those words doesn’t matter—a local newspaper, international magazine all aim to inform. And whether the words they read form a press release, an informational packet about your company’s products or a print ad, you need to make every effort to use the best, most appropriate words possible.
To get some how-to advice about how to get the word out about your company in the most effective manner, Tomorrow’s Trends went to PR guru Henry Stimpson, owner of Stimpson Communications in Wayland, Massachusetts.
Stimpson, who describes himself as “one-man show,” opened his own shop in 1984, after working for several years as a spokesman, writer and editor with Commercial Union Insurance Companies and as an account executive for Schneider Parker Jakuc Public Relations in Boston.
Though initially he worked on a pay-per-job basis, the quality of the PR services he provided soon enabled Stimpson to charge clients a monthly retainer instead, thus providing him with a more dependable income stream.
Now, demand for Stimpson’s services is so high he has to limit the size of his client list—which includes some key players in the financial, insurance and legal services sectors, in order to get the work done!
Here are four PR tips Stimpson says will help built your company’s public image and media presence:
Focus on the positive: Tell a success story
Everyone loves a story, and that’s why customer success stories—when written with flair—can be so compelling, says Stimpson. Use such stories in your press releases ads, print and e-newsletters, mass mailings and more.
“A good story combines the dramatic elements—tension, human interest—of any good story with sound business and technical detail,” he says. “It answers the question: ‘Wow, how did you do that?’”
The “that” can be boosting sales, cutting costs, improving efficiency or some other business goal, Stimpson explains. Just be prepared to either put in the time and effort it takes to write a story well, or hire a good writer to write the piece for you!
How to find readers
There’s no point in writing something that never gets read, so the next step is finding a place to publish your success stories.
Developing and sending out story ideas and news releases regularly will draw readers. “Email targeted, provocative story ideas and news releases regularly to selected media,” Stimpson says. “Make sure they’re concise, information-packed and puff-free.”
Business and trade publications—print and online—are always looking for contributed articles, notes Stimpson. “Writing and publishing bylined articles is one of the best ways to position you and your organization as industry leaders and thought leaders,” he says. “Maximize the impact of published stories with reprints and Web links.”
Get to know the reporters, editors and bloggers who cover your industry, Stimpson advises. “Learn what they’re interested in and stay in touch,” he says. “Listen—don’t always pitch your story. Be friendly and helpful.”
Be aware of editorial calendars. Publications schedule when they will focus on a certain topics. Find out the publishing schedules for those publications in which you want coverage. Then contact the reporters and editors to whom you can offer expert commentary or articles.
Many reporters locate expert sources through two services: ProfNet and HARO; both are excellent sources to learn more and expand media coverage of your company. Then monitor those services three times a day follow up promptly when you or a colleague can fill the bill.
Don’t be afraid of long stories
When Stimpson began proposing story ideas to the media, he stuck to a short-but-sweet approach that included only a couple of sentences.
“Over the years—despite my preference for short communications—I’ve lengthened them,” he says. “Now most story ideas I sent out for clients are around 400 words or more.”
Remember, the news media are always looking for new story angles to pursue, Stimpson points out. They have to fill up their pages—both print and online—with new content every hour, day and week. So, every time you provide media with a fresh story ideas makes you more valuable to them.
Like press releases, story ideas can be mass emailed or sent individually. “That’s one reason why they work—you can reach out to hundreds of reporters and editors at once,” says Stimpson.
Facebook and Twitter aren’t news
There’s so much excitement about the social media that it seems many people think that all you need in your PR tool chest is Facebook and Twitter. “Television and radio didn’t wipe out print. The Web didn’t make broadcast media obsolete,” Stimpson says. “It’s the same with social media: they’re supplementing traditional media.”
Guess what? Most people don’t get their news from Facebook, Stimpson points out. And Twitter isn’t the sole communication channel in America. “Most people still read trade magazines and Web sites, still watch news on TV instead of YouTube and still read newspapers, whether the inky or digital variety,” he says, and those venues are the ones that increase business.
This point was brought home to Stimpson when he recently spoke with a new client who offers an online vocabulary-building service. “He said he chose us because we were the only one who offered a detailed plan to get them coverage in the news media,” Stimpson says. “All the others talked only about ‘going viral’ and the like—but this young company already knew how to do that quite well, thank you.”
“Traditional PR was what they didn’t know how to do.”
Article by Julie Crawshaw