Daniel Gerrella

Contributor: Daniel Gerrella
I’m the national PR, marketing and communications manager at Rider Levett Bucknall, a property firm specialising in cost consultancy, project management and advisory services.

I have also worked in agency, delivering property and professional services PR for a number of developers, law firms and accountancy practices.

Tip1 Have a strategy: When companies plan to expand or add a new product or service they map out exactly how they hope to achieve it within a specified time frame. PR shouldn’t be any different. Ask yourself some key questions: what are the objectives? What’s the measure of success? Who is your audience and how do you reach them? Plan where the stories are going to come from over the year. What are you working on? Flag company milestones, such as reports, financial results and anniversaries and look at what’s going on in the news that you can comment on (e.g. if you’re an accountant, plan what you are going to say around the budget).
Tip2 Have a consistent message: You should always know what you want to say. What’s the story? What are you trying to promote? Try not to get drawn on other detail and keep it focussed – it stops the story getting lost and will stop the journalist losing interest. It’s tempting to talk to the market about every service line at once, but it results in a confused message. Look at what you are doing that is different from your competitors and start there. Remember that PR is just one part of the marketing mix. It’s important that everything about the company fits together; your brand, website and marketing brochures should all look, feel and sound like they came from the same place.
Tip3 Get to know the media outlet you are targeting: This doesn’t mean getting friendly with a couple of journalists; it’s about knowing what kind of story is suitable for the publication, broadcaster or website. Your story should be interesting and relevant to the audience – if it isn’t, why should they print it? Ask yourself if it’s something you’d be interested in reading if it was from one of your competitors.
Tip4 Know your audience: If you are aiming for a very specific audience, try to reach them in as many ways as possible and ditch anything unrelated. Talk to the dedicated trade press because it’s where your audience will be looking. Think about whether there is a campaign thread. For example, if you want to attract graduates start making noise about your career prospects. Look for interesting angles - unusual internships, travel, training opportunities, perks and benefits available, award wins (who wouldn’t want to work for a top, award winning company). It doesn’t have to be all media focussed either – look at events, guest speaker opportunities and sponsorship options.
Tip5 Don’t ignore new channels: It’s great when you open a magazine or newspaper to find your business name checked in the top story. People tend to like this kind of coverage because it feels more tangible. However, all too often, the value of online coverage is not fully appreciated or understood. It’s a cliché to say it, but the media landscape is changing and audiences are looking online. Web coverage has the benefit of reaching a wider audience and being timely and updateable. It can be archived and shared and stories can be packaged together in more interesting ways, with video, audio and social networking options all available, adding a new layer of interaction to news.
Tip6 But don’t focus all your efforts on new channels: The flipside to the above. This is particularly relevant with social media. There’s an element of the emperor’s new clothes here – not every company needs a Facebook or Twitter page. As with all business decisions, you should ask why you are doing it and what the value of it is. Personally, I think Linked In should be an easy choice (contacts network) for most businesses. Twitter works if you have something interesting to share (not inane chatter) and Facebook is great for the retail and leisure sector - not so much if you’re in construction or manufacturing…
Tip7 Leave the office: Encourage your team to get out and about to make their own contacts, speak to journalists directly and go to events and network. It stops your organisation being a faceless company and gets you recognised in your market.
Tip8 Be aware of timings: Journalists have deadlines. Be aware that if you miss them, you miss out and could risk damaging the relationship. Also bear in mind that it’s not a good idea to phone a journalist with a story or idea just before they’re about to go to print with the latest issue of their publication – they’ll be too busy to talk to you. Remember that online news is immediate, so make sure that you’re ok to release something as it can potentially go up straight away, which leads onto…
Tip9 Confidentiality: If you’re talking to the media make sure you know what you’re allowed to tell them. Be aware of confidentiality issues or stepping on someone else’s toes - is it your announcement to make and are there any embargoes in place?
Tip10 Be prepared for it not to work: Sometimes, your story or pitch won’t hit the right buttons with the journalist. They (rightly) have their own ideas about the pieces they’re pulling together and it’s important to recognise that other items of the day might take priority on the news agenda. There is no guarantee that everything will be printed and no right to coverage – sometimes good stories don’t make it. Also, be prepared to recognise that big news for your company might not be big news for everyone else.
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