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With many marketing teams finding their budgets dramatically cut this year, paying for advertising space in magazines and other media may no longer be an option.

So now is a good time to consider using PR to your advantage as, when used effectively, it can help to raise awareness of your business and ultimately drive sales.

Listed below are some ideas to consider to promote your products and services using PR as the vehicle.

How can I develop PR stories?

Press releases can be drafted about new content and statistics, but also can be ‘hooked’ on to relevant calendar dates such as Easter, Summer holidays, Christmas, as well as the huge range of National Days and Weeks that run throughout the year. Be aware that magazines work about 3 months in advance so you need to plan well ahead.

Also look at ways you can promote your business to the local press. Local newspapers and radio stations are often crying out for stories to fill their pages and airtime and you could be it. Become a friend of the local media, invite them to see what you are doing, get them to come along to a charity event or good photo opportunity, or offer to become an “expert” in your own field. Persistence is the key to developing stories so email photos even if they don’t turn up to the event.

How do I put together a good press release?

The most important part of the press release is the headline- make it bold and interesting. It makes sense to write it in the style of the publication you’re targeting. Start with the date at the top and a short heading in bold. Include your company logo and an image too – but make sure this is low resolution so the press releases is a small file when you email it out.

Include the ‘Five Ws’ in the opening paragraph – Who, What, Where, When and Why.  Use simple, direct language and try and use ‘people’ words where possible. Don’t be afraid to add a quote from yourself, or someone in your company.  It breaks up the prose and is a better way of expressing an opinion. When finished type –ENDS-

Always include your contact details, name, telephone number and email address. If you are writing a release about an event your are putting on and wish to invite the newspaper to send a photographer, put this at the end of the release, after -ends- as a ‘note to the editor’.

Is there any particular story angle the press like and pick up on?

Surveys always work well with the media providing them with statistics about certain facts relating to your business. It is inexpensive to email your own database and ask for feedback that you can sue to provide facts for the press release.  An example of this might be a garden centre asking customers about buying seeds to grow their own vegetables, perhaps as a cost saving measure. Then, issue the findings as a press release called “Credit Crunch gives allotments a boost – over 65% now grow own fruit and veg.”

What other ways can I drive awareness of my business?

Consider using the internet to your advantage with many free business directories out there.  You could also offer to write articles for complimentary businesses’ websites and newsletters to get your website name publicized for free. If you have done any press releases, you could adapt these and use them as the basis of the articles – so no need to reinvent the wheel and create extra work. And be on the look out for the awards that are run nationally and locally and try and get your company or product nominated.

What about other low cost promotional ideas?

Competitions and reader offers are a good way of maximising editorial coverage.  They allow you a degree of editorial control, as you can ensure all your key messages are included, and are much more cost effective than advertising. These provide you with the opportunity of securing editorial coverage for the cost of providing products for prizes. The reader offers could be linked to questions whose answers are found on your website, to drive traffic and awareness of the site’s contents. It is also a good idea to offer all the non-winners a chance to get a discount of their first purchase if they make purchase by specified date (this could be in the form of a coupon you could email to them and they could print off).

Is there anything else I need?

It’s a good idea to include a media centre area on your website which includes your latest press releases and high-resolution images that journalists can download too.

If you haven’t got photography this is on are where it is a good idea to invest a little money to ensure you have good quality high-resolution product shots but also suitable images to accompany any press releases you do. For example if you are issuing a release about a survey highlighting the effects of all the packaging we throw away at Christmas, why not attach a photo of a family surrounded by hundreds of empty present boxes to show just how much wasted packaging there is out there to get your point across.

As with all limited expenditure, make sure you spend what you do have on getting the basics right, and remember that consistency and a strong logo make a lasting impression too.

Julie Wilson – Sore Thumb Marketing

Sore Thumb Marketing help raise the profile of your business, even on tight budgets, with real manageable plans, promotions and strategies that work for you. Making you stand out from the rest.

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