PR and Advertising and the Web

Recently I presented at the Public Relations Institute of Australia’s annual conference. The New Media session was arranged by the PRIA Young Guns.

The YouTube copy of the presentation is below.

The rules of marketing and PR have changed. But the way people think about PR hasn’t changed anywhere near as much. Mike Moran sums it up very neatly is his post on Public Relations Pros and Internet Marketing:

public relations folks don’t consider what they do marketing”.

In the new world of PR, quality link builders are emerging as the equivalent of PR professionals. The online world presents an increasing number of mediated channels to an audience, and the best way to reach them is to earn a link. The skills applied by professional link builders are remarkably similar to those used by PR professionals when they are pursuing coverage.

The skills used in online advertising are not that similar to those used by traditional advertising agencies however, but they are very similar to those used by direct marketing professionals.

The new world of PR and advertising is new and yet old at the same time.

PRIA Young Guns New Media Presentation Part 1
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PRIA Young Guns New Media Presentation Part 2
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Writing press releases – 10 tips

In giving feedback to a PR student recently on a press release she had written, she responded as if I had showered her with droplets of gold!

Anyone who is writing press releases for a small business knows that it isn’t as easy as it might seem. And it’s hard to get advice on how to do it better.

So I’ve gathered the most salient points from my feedback to the student, and reproduced it here, on the assumption that if these tips helped her, they might help others who are writing press releases for small businesses.

To put the tips into context, the press release we were working on together was about the effects of tree-felling on tourism in Tasmania, and how small tourism businesses were battling to protect the ‘wilderness frontier’.

  1. Putting a positive spin on a story gives it an energy that negative spins don’t have. In this case, my advice was to angle the main headline to highlight the brave battle being fought by the tourism operators, rather than focus on the damage inflicted by the forestry giants. The headline I suggested was: Small ecotour operators take stand against forestry giants. Suddenly a release that could have been just another whinge about logging becomes an appealing ‘David & Goliath’ story.
  2. Most press releases contain way too much ‘spin’. Every good story has a natural spin that you don’t need to add to, and in the end, it’s the journalist’s job to write the story and impose their own angle on it. So use words economically and let the facts speak for themselves. If there are views that need to be expressed, you can do this by quoting the personalities involved. For example:
    Tasmania’s wilderness frontier is under siege, say local tour and accommodation providers.
  3. Statistics are great! Use them as much as you can and make them up to date, relevant and newsworthy – this will really help to get you attention.
  4. Beware of inaccurate statements. It’s human nature to exaggerate for effect, but remember journalists are trained to weed out inaccuracy. Here’s an example from our draft press release:
    Without the wilderness there would be no tourism in Tasmania.
    You can see how this statement arose – but it’s factually incorrect.
  5. Tempting as it is to use your press release to promote your business, it’s imperative to stick to the issue most likely to get the story published. Any extraneous information that might be of interest to the journalist can be included via links in the ‘Further information’ section at the end of your release. Here’s a paragraph that crept into our press release:
    There are many relaxing and challenging activities for the holiday-maker to enjoy, including the 480km Tasmanian Trail, hiking, caravanning, camping, canoeing, boating, kayaking, mountain biking, four wheel driving and fishing…
    Suddenly we’re into promoting the destination, and a journo will stop reading at this point. So if you find yourself writing text that’s really advertising, cut it out. If it’s useful background information, but not part of the main message, put it into the ‘Further information’ section.
  6. Apply the ‘who cares’ rule. Our press release was about losing the wilderness experience if logging continues. The underlying aim of the release was to gain exposure for the central personality initiating the release – a small tourism operator with a vested interest in protected the wilderness. However, take this beautifully written paragraph:
    Wilderness tour guides know too well the effects of logging on their businesses, which rely on the ecosystems and natural beauty in the State Forest and World Heritage Area.
    Now ask the question, who cares about the tour guides and their businesses? Most people are interested primarily in themselves – in this case, about the threat to our chance – and our children’s chance – to experience the true wilderness. We also care about the economy, which is why stats were important to the story too. The tour operator was the lynchpin but not the issue. You, your business, your products, will be vital to the stories told in your press releases, but does your story pass the ‘who cares’ test? You are the lynchpin, but you’re probably not the issue.
  7. Be hard on yourself when you edit your press release, and literally delete anything that doesn’t add to the story. Here are a couple of examples from our draft release. The first states an obvious truth and wastes space on the page – it certainly isn’t news and may therefore be the point in the release where the journo stops reading:
    Eco-tourism operators want growth within the tourism industry, not decline.
    This is also a pointless sentence:
    There is no doubt why there is concern over the future of Tasmania’s forests.
  8. Never use exclamation marks in a press release!!
  9. Links in the ‘Further information’ section are a good idea – as long as they are useful and take journalists straight to the background information quickly. It should also be clear in the press release itself what kind of information the links are going to give them. If you link to a business report pdf that’s 10mg in size, journos won’t thank you and they certainly won’t plough through it – that’s assuming it doesn’t crash their computer first!
  10. My final point is worth taking away and pondering. Writing press releases about your business can become an introspective task if you’re not careful. Good journalism is just the opposite. It’s about the reader, not about the journalist. So when we produced our press release, it wasn’t about the tourism operator himself, although he is involved in the issue and quoted in the release. The message is about an issue likely to interest readers, viewers and listeners. The attention our client gains from publicity is incidental to the central story – but it’s still attention, and it’s good publicity.


Publicity Campaign for Fly Fishing Book Hooks Big Fish

It has been such a pleasure to work on the campaign for Daniel Hackett’s book In Season Tasmania – A Year of Fly Fishing Highlights.

Our client H2Media have seen their new publication reviewed in Australian Traveller, The Weekend Australian, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. Australian Traveller also ran a feature story.

There is no doubt in my mind that the attractive photos in the book really helped in getting the coverage. I think this is particularly true when you are trying to attract the attention of magazines.

Editors have limited budgets and if your story comes with stunning photos it really puts you ahead of your competition.

Congratulations to Daniel on his successful book launch and all the best for the next fly fishing season. To find out more about fly fishing in Tasmania you can visit Riverfly.



Eurisko – Affiliate Marketing is smart public relations

The internet changed public relations forever. Because it changed the way people get information.

Don’t get me wrong, print and broadcast media are still very important. But we now have to consider internet media in our public relations mix as well.

Internet press releases have similarities and differences to print/broadcast press releases. The main difference being that you can talk direct to your consumer.

But the internet has created many other channels to use for public relations. Content marketing (using blogs and social media) should by now be firmly in your awareness (and if it isn’t, please come and talk to us over at OM4).

Affiliate marketing isn’t usually associated with public relations. But I think it is smart public relations, and needs to be looked at in a different light.

Consider Mike Bullen, who has just launched his new business Eurisko. Mike shows that affiliate marketing makes sense for business.

Check out the case studies showing how smart tourism marketers are using affiliate marketing to publicise campaigns, build brand awareness and generate leads.

Time to look carefully at how affiliate marketing might fit into your public relations strategy.



Convincing Editors with $ in their Eyes

There is no doubt publishers have their own eyes on the main game – revenue. David Welford’s recent comment reflects a thought that inevitably enters your mind when looking to maximise publicity.

If you are newsworthy, your story helps a publisher makes money. If you are an advertiser, your ad makes them money.

A strong story will get coverage, if the story isn’t as strong (or if the editor is spoilt for choice) then maybe a story from one of their advertisers has an edge.

So if you want to maximise your chances of coverage with a particular publication then look at it this way:

  • if your story is very strong – unique or first of a kind, good human interest, great images – they pitch it to an editor who will be interested in the story
  • if your story is likely to be one option of many for an editor, maybe consider becoming an advertiser before pitching your story

Becoming an advertiser is a way of getting some attention, if only in a small way, and is quite different to paying for editorial. But getting an editor’s attention can be hard at times, so if it helps, why not?

And who knows, you may even get some value out of the ad.



Product marketing – how a micro business achieved local publicity worth thousands

If you’re developing a small business around a new product, one of the most daunting tasks is likely to be marketing. Where do you start? What can you afford? How can you compete?

Even home-based and micro businesses can achieve success without spending a fortune on branding, advertising, glossy brochures and so on.

Here’s how one micro businesses achieved publicity and increased sales:

Tim OldhamTim Oldham runs a home-based business, Call Sign 7. He has created a board game based on the Battle of Britain, and initial feedback from friends and colleagues gave him the confidence to pursue publicity.

Getting publicity for products is notoriously difficult, and the board game industry is vast, with a number of large companies producing and retailing board games.

How could Tim, based at home on the west coast of Australia, possibly hope to compete?

Our approach was to dig deeper than the product. We got to know Tim and found he had an interesting back story. We then looked at the demand for board games and found that a resurgence had occurred in the past 10 years. We also discovered that Tim attends a massive games convention in Europe every year and had already caught the eye of a UK wholesaler.

By presenting Tim to the newspapers in his region as a local entrepreneur whose business is backed by an interesting market demand, we caught their attention, and Tim achieved two fantastic feature articles. One of the papers will be following up with Tim later in the year and is considering a front-page feature.

For Tim to have placed ads of the same size, the cost would have been prohibitive. More importantly, the editorial carried more authority and credibility than an ad.

And the success didn’t stop there. As a direct result of the features, Tim has been asked to set up a display in a city shopping mall. The usual cost to a retailer for this is $1,000, but the manager was so impressed by Tim’s story that he is offering him the space for free.

With articles like this under his belt, Tim has a good chance of getting further and more wide-ranging publicity as his business grows. Just as important, he has leverage for getting retailers interested in stocking the game, which is competitively priced with a proportion of the profit going to the RSL (Returned and Services League).

We would love to get Tim blogging too – capturing an online audience to bring in more direct orders to his site. The stories he has to tell are captivating. And it’s stories that enchant an audience – not hard-sell promotion.



Publicising your Festival or Event

Rosalie Writers FestivalInvolved in a festival or event and looking for a low cost way to publicise it?

Creating an event site based on a blog is a simple and effective way of doing this. Our local primary school is running the bi-annual Rosalie Writers Festival.

Jane and I helped set up the blog being used the festival. Now while we know what we are doing, keep in mind that a blog can be set up for free by anyone. And that includes web site pages to provide information about the event.

The blog being used by Rosalie allows different members of the organising committee, participating writers and students to contribute to the site. While it isn’t trying to promote the festival – as in selling tickets or anything like that – it easily could be.

A blog is a useful – and enduring – way of getting information about your festival or event out there. And that is what publicity is all about.



Blogging as online publicity

Fingers on keyboardWhen you plan your publicity campaigns, look carefully at your objectives – what do you want the outcome to be?

In general, most businesses are looking to:

  • raise awareness of a service or product with a view to
  • increasing bookings or sales.

Your longer-term objectives might be to:

  • raise your business profile,
  • establish yourself as an authority in your niche, and
  • build trust among your target audience.

By definition, publicity means attracting public attention – raising awareness. Effective publicity will also have a positive effect on your bookings or sales.

As for the longer-term aims, profile, authority and trust take time to build. To achieve these results through publicity means getting stories published or aired regularly.

No doubt you know where I’m going with this, given the title of this blog post. Blogging is increasingly considered one of the most effective ways to publicise a business, because it not only attracts attention from a target audience – it also builds a profile over time, establishes you as an authority, and increases trust.

Take a look at the video in Glenn’s blog post – Why a Blog Is So Important – which clearly explains why the blogging medium is taking over from traditional media as a way to reach an audience.

In today’s Tips of the Week, Publicity Hound Joan Stewart says:

If I had to choose only one strategy that would help Publicity Hounds [that’s you!] pull more traffic to their websites, establish themselves as experts, build a loyal following and sell more products and services, I’d choose blogging – without hesitation.

You’ll be able to read the full story in her Tips Archive soon, so keep an eye out for it.

I have seen small businesses experience a significant change in the attention they receive from their target clients as a direct result of online marketing, with blogging a large component of their activity.

Once you realise you can publish your own stories without going through the editorial vetting process, there’ll be no stopping you!



Interviews for Free and Chequebook Media

Had a chuckle when I read the Sydney Morning Herald’s article Survivor saved by jacket and fishermen.

What an incredible and dramatic rescue! But the line that made me laugh was this one:

The Herald was unable to reach Mr Tsimnadis yesterday. A male relative said he would not be conducting any interviews “for free”.

Well, Michael Tsimnadis is hardly alone is he. There are very few media outlets that publish a story ‘for free’, and the SMH isn’t one of them. The online edition I was reading was littered with ads, as well as links to paid classifieds. In this case it seems Nine had the story (and the quotes around ‘for free’ suggest the SMH is a little annoyed about that).

Media froth about ‘cheque book journalism’ is always amusing (reminds me of the classic Frontline). ‘Man sells story’ is somehow a story? What about ‘Media sells ad’?

The media is a business. If your story will help sell newspapers or magazines, or help persuade people to watch TV or listen to the radio, then perhaps it will run. If not, why should it run? Do you expect the media to help publicise your business for free? There are wages to pay, presses to run – publishing and broadcasting isn’t free. And the media is a business, just like yours.

So think about your story and how make it good enough for someone to have to pay to publish it. That is reality, after all.

To pay its way, your story has to be able to get attention. How can you create a story that helps publishers get attention?

Or even better, how can you create a story good enough for someone to be prepared to pay you for an interview!

Michael Tsimnadis is a survivor, and clearly grateful. Sam Oweck and Nassar Farache were the heroes who saved him. Congratulations Sam, Nassar. There was a moment out on the ocean when something really was done for free.



Getting publicity – work your contacts

Live History imageOne of our tourism clients, Live History, has achieved some valuable media coverage lately – with absolutely no help from us!

These guys are excellent at working their contacts – identifying and taking opportunities as they arise – and not giving up.

There’s good advice here for all small businesses. Here’s what happened in their own words:

“It was one of those serendipitous things. We were outside the Cascade Brewery [in Hobart] a year or two ago, when the editor of Forty Degrees South appeared with his camera doing a shoot for an advert. He took one look at us in our costumes and asked us if we’d like to be in the ad. Well, we normally get paid to be in ads but we thought why not? Good exposure.

“He then gave us his card and told us to contact him about an article in his publication. I had to work him like mad and keep onto him, but we eventually got the article.

“He wanted to take his own photos but always seemed unable to come when we had a tour group going out. Eventually I sent him my CD of top quality photos (taken as a favour by a photographer friend of ours), which he went with for the article.

“It has already brought us several clients – and it’s the sort of publication that is around for many months (unlike a daily paper).

“We were also in an edition of The Wanderer (a publication produced by the Campervan & Motorhome Club of Australia), which has brought us many clients. This happened because we took the director and his wife out on a tour the summer before last.

“We always have a debrief after a tour to find out where our guests heard about us etc. When I discovered that he was the director of a motorhome club that had a magazine, I suggested an article. He said he had no writing skills, but I said that I had! I ghost-wrote the article for him and again sent photos. The result was a great article in their magazine.

“I guess it’s about being inquisitive, confident and proactive – always on the lookout for opportunities to self-promote creatively.”

Now it isn’t every business that happens to have journalists bumping into them in the street or walking into their store – but the message is to remain open to possibility. You can invite journalists to experience what your business has to offer, and then work with them to create opportunities.

You will also often find that organisations connected to your business have publications, newsletters or websites that publish articles and news – if you’re not sure, ask them.

And finally, don’t underestimate the power of photographs. It was the photos that got Live History the first article, and no doubt they were a deciding factor in the second. Providing good quality images saves journalists’ time and outlay, and helps to ensure you project the image you want.