PR Tips & Techniques

One of the areas of PRMG’s business that is least understood is our public relations and media services. While it takes years to develop media contacts and experience in handling these matters, here are some of our favorite techniques to obtain media coverage as part of our comprehensive PR/marketing strategy. 

METHODS

Press Release v. Press Conference — A press conference is effective for crisis management, and to address an issue affecting your organization. While you hope you never need to address such critical issues, you definitely need a PR agency to help you defuse any explosive situation. 

To ensure more exposure for a press conference, media advisories are used. These are invitations to the media which succinctly describe the “who, what, where, when, why and how” and what photo opportunities (also known as “photo ops”) are available. 

If your announcement is not sufficient enough for a press conference, you can simply use a press release. A press release draws attention to yourself, giving media outlets the “who, what, where, when, why and how.” Press releases can be used for just about anything — announcing a successful merger, a new hire, your organization’s recent accomplishments or the publication of your article in a peer-reviewed journal, to name just a few.

Media Availabilities — This is an effective way to get the added exposure your organization needs. The trick is to keep an eye on the issues of the day and stay “ahead of the curve” so that, by the time the media availability is sent out, it is not a dead issue. Such media availabilities have garnered coverage for our clients in daily and weekly publications and on local TV stations.

Photos and Captions — These highlight the good your organization does, and provide positive publicity. It can be your organization making or receiving a donation in the form of a mock check, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, the celebration of a successful inaugural event or the hosting of a local youth group at your office.

It is always better to have the photo op take place in a location that resonates with what you are doing, and to invite elected officials whenever possible to present certificates of appreciation or proclamations to you. Having elected officials come to photo ops helps in a two-fold manner: it makes the politicians look good, and it gives the impression that your organization has a strong ally in local government.

If your organization has opened up a new office or an additional office, let everyone know! Send out the announcements, and follow up with the media. Invite local elected officials, as they like to be involved in ribbon-cutting ceremonies. After the event, send out photos and releases for added exposure. It can also be posted on your organization’s website.

Op-Ed Pieces and Letters to the Editor — An op-ed piece or a letter to the editor focuses on important issues in the news; it can also be a message to raise people’s awareness about certain issues such as environmental conservation, drunk driving and domestic violence. 

If someone has made allegations against you and/or your organization, sending out a statement via press release may help, but that may not be enough. An op-ed piece or a letter to the editor gives your side of the story, so to speak. Good op-ed pieces address each allegation or argument made against you, and refutes them in a clear, concise manner. It is also advised that you refrain from any ad hominem attacks, and stick to “just the facts, ma’am.”

Columns and Articles — A monthly column could be written by you or someone else in your organization. These could be sent to the media, placed on your organization’s website or newsletter, or used in a blog. This column could be used to address the issues affecting your organization, or give people an update of what your organization has been doing.

Public Service Programs — Public service programs also have a place for you to get the word out on your organization. All TV, cable and radio stations are required to provide various forms of public programming and access. Take advantage of these opportunities. Contact public access program hosts and radio stations to suggest yourself as a guest. 

Posting Releases Online — It’s not enough to just do e-mail blasts and faxes. With news moving at the speed of light as fewer people get their news from newspapers and magazines and more people receive information from online news sites, your name should be out there as soon as possible. 

Distribution sites like MarketWire can get your press release to more nationwide and niche publications, but, depending on how far you want your release to go, it can cost you a few hundred dollars. If your budget is limited, look to websites that offer free press release distribution. PRMG uses free sites such as PRLog and, locally KIOLI.org, to help get our clients’ names out further; however, the reach for such free sites may be limited to Google News, Yahoo! and MSN. In any case, using these distribution sites provides that needed additional reach.

If your organization has its own website, then your press release can be posted in the “News and Events” section. That same press release can also be incorporated into upcoming editions of your e-newsletter. 

Social Networking Sites — Teenagers aren’t the only ones turning to Twitter, Facebook and MySpace to keep in touch. Many professionals are using these sites to give themselves more visibility on the Internet. If you have a professional Facebook or MySpace page, you can post a notice stating you have a press release out there, and you can post the press release on your page. Your press release can also be picked up through postings on Digg, Del.icio.us, Reddit and other sites. Word of your organization will spread fast.

TIPS

Press Events — Client events always need publicity. A press event is good for getting media coverage. First, send out a calendar of events release, which describes in one paragraph what the event entails. This should only go out to the “Calendar of Events” sections of newspapers, TV and radio stations.

Later, send out a press release publicizing the event — who, what, where, when, why, how (and how much); a media advisory should be sent out the day before the event. At the event, distribute media kits containing additional copies of the press release to members of the media to help them supplement their stories. And, as always, hand out business cards, and let them know they can call you for further information.

Anniversaries, Milestones and Recognition — An organization’s anniversary or milestone always gets attention. See if a local elected official can come down to issue a proclamation. 

Promotions and new hires make for good news and get your organization recognized. Add a quote from the organization’s director or president, and the new hire to liven up the release. These types of announcements are ideal for business magazines which dedicate a section of their publication to these announcements. Always send a head shot to the papers along with the release.

Awards and Competitions — Local newspapers, civic and charitable organizations, chambers of commerce and municipal governments seek “Man of the Year” or “Woman of the Year” nominees for their awards. Some also look for the “Business of the Year” as well. Check with local media outlets, chambers of commerce and governments to see which contests they are running.

Tying Events into Holidays and Awareness Campaigns — See how local governments celebrate Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. Get your organization involved in a local Memorial Day or 4th of July parade as a sponsor and/or a participant. What special events are taking place for Earth Day? Clients love to be seen as a good neighbor in being “green.” (Getting the media to cover this in today’s day and age is a big plus.)

Thanksgiving and Christmas are major holidays in which the events usually consist of food donations, or toy and clothing drives. These are tricky for getting post-event coverage, especially for Christmas, as most weeklies close down for that holiday. Try to set it 2 weeks before the holiday; if you wait any later, many media outlets will have covered enough food and toy drives to consider your event irrelevant. Remember: For the holidays, timing is everything.

But if everyone else is doing toy drives, food drives or clothing drives, maybe your organization can think “out of the box.” Animal shelters could do animal adoption drives; local anti-DWI groups could do a “Drive Sober for the Holidays” campaign. Doing events that are off the beaten path will become more newsworthy.

Tying an event into a campaign always helps. For example, May is National Youth Traffic Safety Month; if your non-profit specializes in promoting safe teen driving, create an event around that. Environmental groups can create events in the month of May, which is also Clean Air Month.

The list may seem quite lengthy, and this might seem like a lot of information to absorb. But this information will be helpful in getting your organization the necessary coverage. This will keep you happy, and in the papers.

If you have an event or an announcement you need help in publicizing, please contact PRMG for a free consultation at (631) 207-1057, or email: johnzaher@theprmg.com.