Marketing and public relations are vital to growing a business and to sustaining its profitability over the long term. Without either, your firm can quickly disappear from the public consciousness, and your sales and profits can plummet.
Not everyone can afford to hire a PR firm, but that doesn't mean you can't develop relationships with important influencers, generate more awareness about your company, and stand out from the crowd. The truth is that you can--and in very cost-effective fashion.
I recently asked Amanda Van Nuys--vice president at the Bateman Group, an agency that integrates PR, social media, content marketing, and analytics--for her advice on how anyone can do PR like a pro. Here's what she told me.
1. Identify what makes your story remarkable
Interesting stories will always be the currency of effective public relations programs. The trick is figuring out what about your company will most likely appeal to journalistic instincts: Do you have an unusual founding story? Do you have a truly innovative, externally validated product? How do you fit into the larger market landscape, and what makes you different from everyone else?
2. Define a brand voice
Before you start your PR and social media engines, consider the tone and voice of your brand. Think of your brand as if it's a person. Is it irreverent? Thoughtful? Funny? Friendly? Formal? Decide on a voice and stick to it so your customers and fans know what to expect when they engage with you. By clearly articulating a brand voice, people get a sense of what your company stands for--beyond your products or services--and can develop an authentic connection with you.
3. Ask your customers to the party
It's one thing to say that your company has created value for customers, but it's quite another thing when your customer says it. Make sure to mention the possibility of future PR opportunities early on in the relationship (even bake it into your contract), and then do everything you can to make and keep a customer happy. Once a customer is willing to talk to the media and value has been realized--especially when the return on investment can be quantified--then you have a great story hook that reporters love.
4. Make data your best friend
Reporters and influencers love data, particularly if it makes a counterintuitive or surprising point. If you have the opportunity to do a survey or glean data in other ways, then use it to your advantage, as Bateman Group recently did for client Animoto. You can use stats to validate a market shift, emerging trend, or changing buyer sentiment. Once you have data, repackage it into an infographic or other visual content, which generally gets high social shares.
5. Focus on reporters that matter
It's often said that if you can influence the top 10 voices in a given market, they'll influence everyone else. Identify the reporters or bloggers who will make a difference for your business. Follow them on Twitter, read the articles they write and share, and understand what they consider newsworthy. Reach out in a targeted, personalized way to start a meaningful conversation.
6. Be social for an hour each day
If you're going to engage with customers, prospects, and reporters on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and other social media, then dedicate at least an hour in your day for social time. Post timely and thoughtful content, acknowledge comments, and be responsive to questions. Start conversations with your content and social posts rather than just broadcasting your opinions.
7. Follow and DM reporters on Twitter
We're all bombarded with emails, and who has the time to check voice mail anymore? Sometimes the most effective way to reach a reporter is to direct message (DM) him or her on Twitter. Many reporters have their eyes on Twitter all day long looking for breaking news. If they're active on Twitter, engage them there.
8. Make LinkedIn your new publishing platform
LinkedIn is becoming the place for executives and thought leaders to post their professional content. If you post something on your blog or write a contributed article, then repost the same content on your personal profile and your company's LinkedIn profile. Write a catchy headline and use a friendly tone, focusing on helpful, relevant content--practical tips and tricks work particularly well. This is a great way to build credibility with customers, prospects, and reporters.
9. Ask employees to help spread the word
Consider every employee at your company an ambassador for your brand. Set some basic professional ground rules, and then encourage your team to spread the word about an article featuring your company, or a LinkedIn post that you've published. Beyond creating internal enthusiasm, it's an easy way to amplify your PR success and help reel in new business or top talent.