Press and PR Making it Work for You

From Creative Hub Session 6th April 2011

Wednesday 6th April 2011

The first speaker was Barbara Chandler, a journalist who writes for the Evening Standard and Home and Gardens magazines. Here are some of the key points:

The basics of media:

– ‘Media’ just means any form of communications that will put out a message about what you do

– The purpose of getting media coverage is to promote your business, and to get the right kind of mention in the right kind of publication. If you do it right, you will get media coverage that you couldn’t pay for!

– As designers, you are the best people to do your own PR. You have all the answers about your products, are well-informed, and (hopefully) can get the best images.

– If you’re thinking about paying someone to do PR that’s a whole different ball-game, and not covered tonight. SThere are lots of PR firms out there that promise a lot and deliver little, so be careful.

– Barbara’s maxim for getting media coverage is “1+1+1…” which is all about the power of personal connections. Ie. You need to approach everyone as an individual, one at a time. The blanket approach to PR rarely works. Journalists are all different and need to be treated differently.

Top tips for getting coverage

– Buy all the magazines that might be relevant, for 2 to 3 months. Go through and analyse them, think about where your products could feature, and which journalists you could target.

– You can then identify the particular writers who are right for you, and you can approach them.

– Remember when approaching journalists that you have theh advantage of having something interesting to write about (unlike most PR firms!)

– Be 100% confident and prepared with what you’re going to say (write it down first!)

– Say: “I’m (___), I make (___), I thought you might be interested because (___)”

– Ask if you can send them a free sample, or go to their offices to show them

– If there are two or three of you in the business, you need one person who is always in charge of PR and you need to make sure everyone knows who that is. Make sure you have everything ready for press – pictures, facts,quotes, etc

– Be very clear about what you want effect you want media coverage to have on your business – sell more? Get more footfall for retail? Raise awareness?

– Each media outlet will demand a different type of approach. Get creative: think about different types of media, and different angles. For example, a news story, a general interest piece, a picture in the colour supplements.

– Think about local newspapers and freesheets, as well as Home Interest Magazines (and be aware that these magazines have a very long lead time, about 4 months)

– Beware of professional and trade magazines: it’s nice to get featured, but it will mainly be to an audience of your peers, not with the public

– Always think: 1. What do I want from this piece. 2. Will it make other media notice me? (this is where trade magazines could come in)

Tips on press releases

– press releases do not need lots of fancy writing. They are there to put your story over. Treat it like a piece of journalists – make sure you include who, what, why, where, and when (and how!)

– One sheet of paper, and preferably on one side, is best. You must put a date on it! If it is on two sides, make sure the first sheet says ‘please turn over’. And put your name and contact details at the top of each sheet.

– Try and put in a quote (from yourself) that journalists can just drop into their article. They might want to write about your work at a time they can’t get hold of you, so having a ready-made quote is very useful.

– Don’t ever assume that a journalists knows anything. Don’t use technical language, and explain any procedures (for example digital print, laser cutting). If this makes the main press release too long, you can put information in the ‘Editor’s Notes’ at the end.

– Include prices, and stockists, including telephone numbers and websites.

– Put in some interesting things about yourself. They might make you stick in the journalists mind.

– Tell journalists when, where, and hwo they can see you – for example at a trade show. Make sure you include the day! (ie. Tuesday, not just March 21st)

– If you are taking part in a show, make sure you get all the benefits of the event. They normally have dedicated press and PR officers. Get your pictures and information to them early.

Images

– If giving images to a journalist on a disc, make sure the disc is clearly labelled!

– If you’re taking your own photos, take advantage of digital cameras and take lots of photos and pick the best.

– The best place to take photos is outside on an overcast day, with a neutral background. Use photoshop to ‘cut’ your product from the image.

– Some publications prefer a cut-out, some a bit of background – you might need both.

– Make sure you have a nice picture of yourself that you can send to journalists!

How to email journalists and make your website useful

– Journalists all have hundreds of unread emails to look at every day (Barbara had 360 in her inbox the night of the talk, whittled down from 700!

– Think carefully about your subject line: not ‘press release, new product, easter, valentine’s, don’t miss out’ etc etc.

– Make it really short and too the point. A mini headline to make them open it.

– Don’t attach your press release as a document! Put it in the body of the email, including pictures, if possible.

– Every time you sign your name in an email (for example in a long correspondence chain) put your phone number below it in your sign-off line.

– Make your website ‘copy and pasteable’ – have key phrases on there that journalists could use to write about you.

– Keep your website simple and easy to load. Make your contact details easy to get at.

– Keep your website up to date! Put press releases on there.

Next Lilly Sharavash of Love My Dog (http://www.lovemydog.biz/) spoke about social media. Here are some of her top tips:

 Social media is extremely important for businesses. More than 20% of messages on twitter are about brands.

– People expect a 2-way dialogue with companies nowadays.

– Social media is one of the best ways to connect with your customers and get to know them

– You can create stronger relationships and find like-minded people

– Use sites like Twitter as an extended form of customer services: many big brands already do this.

– Be innovative, for example ASOS set up a shop through Facebook, which boosted their sales by 59%.

– How to do it: Decide what you want to achieve, listen to conversations, join in conversations. For example, ‘Love My Dog’ sent a dog coat to Jonathan Ross’s puppy Professor Snowball after hearing him talking about the dog on twitter. It was great publicity.

– Use trial and error, small companies can be flexible and quick to react.

– Consider using Facebook ads – they can be very targeted to a particular audience. You can experiment and se what works.

– Put your twitter and Facebook links on everything you do ie. Emails, printed materials

– People can always copy your designs but they can’t copy you – become your own brand.

– Be honest, and stay ethical

– Watch what your competitors are doing, but always think about your own customers

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