Why you need PR and how to be good at it

I love writing down my thoughts and voicing my opinions – and the fact that my company has a blog on which I can do this is great. But every now and then, I come across something that says it all for me.

This piece in Venturebeat is one of those pieces, and answers that burning question I find myself addressing at every networking or drinking or socialising event.

Why on earth is PR beneficial to a business? People will ask this all the time. “I have my stickers, I have my website, I have my fliers, I even have my ad appearing in high-profile magazine. Why do I need PR?”

Or, “why can’t I just write a release and send it out myself?”

Well, when was the last time you opened a spammy email from a stranger talking about a new product, or shared a static ad on Facebook. When was the last time you wore a branded sticker on your lapel to support a brand you didn’t have a personal connection to? Unless the advertiser is running a multimillion dollar campaign employing the world’s top satirical advertising creatives, your stickers are unlikely to contribute anything more to society, than more non-recyclable waste.

Vivek Wadhwa, formerly of Seer Technologies and Relativity Technologies, relays his experiences of PR both with, and without a proactive strategy.

At his first company Seer, the team invested heavily in marketing, but was afraid of the media, extremely protective of their messaging and hesitant when it came to pushing their news. Result = no one had heard of them, despite incredible achievements that blew the big players like Microsoft under the water.

A few years later at Relativity, Vivek took a completely different approach, commenting on things the media were interested in, and responding quickly with honest, headline grabbing answers. The company’s products might not have been the sort of thing to stop press, but they provided a window into their world, and spun the fact that they had a team of Russian ex-military and intelligence programmers into a story about them being a James Bond-esque organisation.

Result = featured on all the major TV networks and achieved more than 1000 articles in major publications, including front page of The Wall Street Journal, and named one of the top 25 “coolest” companies in the world by Fortune magazine.

Here are Vivek’s tips for running a PR campaign, and they are very much in line with the way we work here at Mutant Communications, in building relationships, links and thought leadership across multiple media and audiences.

  • Read dozens of business publications. Understand what topics are newsworthy and which journalist writes about what topic, then offer them your insights.
  • Focus on the needs of the journalist and not yours. No one is interested in your product. If a journalist asks you a question, answer that, and don’t obsess with getting your product covered. Build a relationship over time, and it will likely pay off with your getting the coverage that you are looking for.
  • If you do have something to announce, put it in the context of a “news hook”.  Make your message timely and relevant to what is happening in the industry or the world.
  • Don’t ignore small or regional publications. You may want to be in The Wall Street Journal, but it is not likely to cover you until you have built great credibility. Your best starting point is small, industry-oriented or regional publications. They are a lot easier to approach and will likely be interested in breaking your story.
  • Be available—even when you are busy. Journalists on tight deadlines need sources to quote as fast as they can get them.  The first to respond usually get featured.
  • Be honest. You will find that journalists have excellent “bullshit detectors”. If you mislead them even once, not only will they never write about you in a positive way; they’re likely to tell their associates about their experience.  I confide in journalists all the time.  I have not had even one journalist report on something that I said was off the record or was on background.
  • Be yourself, and express strong opinions. If you’re going to hedge your bets or be diplomatic, your message will drown in caveats.
  • When all else fails, write your own story yourself. The blogosphere has democratized journalism over the past few years, and there are hundreds of blog sites where you can post your opinions. You can even set up your own.

Thanks Vivek, for beautifully summarising the slides I present my potential clients.

Why hire people to do your PR? Because more than anything, they are clever storytellers who know how to get the media and target audiences excited about you. Then, they help you craft your messages to best generate buzz, and ultimately boost your business.

To learn more about how a PR campaign can benefit you, and how to use blogging to your advantage, contact Mutant Communications. Joseph Barratt: [email protected]

Newspaper. image by James Yu is licensed under CC BY 2.0.