It's easy to do bad PR. That's another way of saying that it's easy to undermine your business and create a group of potentially influential people who dislike you while shooting yourself in the foot. Messy.

However, it is often just as easy to improve your PR, which is to say support your business and gain public allies. The biggest areas for quick improvement involve making it easier, or even just possible, for journalists to do their job. Yes, they can be lazy, but more often these are people under constant deadline pressure with a need to be efficient. Give them, and yourself, a hand.

List a PR contact on your webpage

Contact pages are common on websites. Far rarer are instructions on how the press can reach the right contacts, whether in your business or at the appropriate agency. Save reporters the time otherwise put into trying to find the right contact. Yes, you'll get people who aren't reporters who get in touch. Occasional inconvenience, my friends, is table stakes for business. Do what the smarter businesses do and include a note that if someone isn't with the press they should contact customer service -- and then give the appropriate numbers, emails, or links.

Always give a PR contact on your releases

Releases have undergone a transformation in recent years. Instead of documents intended only for journalists, they're placed on company sites and release aggregators and distributors to help influence SEO and catch potential customers and business partners. But you're still trying to get to the press at the same time, so include a PR contact.

Don't assume a social media address is good enough

Twitter and Facebook have become major communication routes for companies. But if you expect all reporters to look for you that way, you're making a mistake. You may miss an important message and chances are good that reporters don't want to alert competitors that they are interested in what you're doing. Consider using a press@domain-name.com type of email address.

Write one-paragraph pitches

Oh, the ponderous emails that come in. Unfortunately, too many PR people these days never spent time as working reporters, as once they did, so they don't understand the peculiar pressures. A rambling introduction will get your message tossed. Distill what you wish to say into a short summary paragraph and then invite reporters to ask for more. Many will, and for the ones that won't, a longer pitch isn't going to help.

Read your releases out loud

Reading material aloud helps you find errors, because you're concentrating on what's in front of your eyes rather than skimming it. As importantly, if you find it boring to read, so will reporters. Cut the length, get to the point faster, and improve your chances of coverage.

Have a response team

If a request from a journalist comes in and you do nothing about it, you get no benefit. There should be a response team, even if that is one person with a designated back-up, for email, phone calls, and social media contacts.

Keep a library of pictures journalists can use

Whether online or print, publications rely on visuals. Help them by having pictures they can use. That means you must have the rights to allow others to use the images, they should be of high quality, and you should have a variety of resolution sizes and formats. Have both vertical and horizontal images with both 300 dpi and 90 dpi resolution versions so someone can get what they need and not more or less.

Have b-roll video available

Just as you provide images for convenience, have b-roll video that allows production people to intercut parts into their coverage, which could mean broadcast or online. The more readily they can include you, the better a chance that they will.

Have PR people understand your business and products

Don't put someone on the phone with a journalist, whether in-house or through an agency, if he or she clearly hasn't the slightest idea of your industry and what you do. You're sending a bumbling, ignorant, and unsophisticated first impression and waste time. Invest in the training to make someone sound intelligent.

Published on: Jul 29, 2016
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