Publicity ... How To Tickle The Media's Fancy

By Paul Quinn, © 2003

 

"Today's brands are born with publicity, not advertising. A closer look at the history of many major brands shows this to be true. In fact an astonishing number of brands, including the Body Shop, Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Beanie Babies, Oracle and Yahoo!, have been built with virtually no advertising."

- Al Ries, 'The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR'


A brand must have credibility to survive. One of the ways you can develop brand credibility is to convey consistent messages about your agency to your target audience. The chosen tool many agencies use to try to achieve this is advertising. However, advertising may not be the most effective tool to use to build your profile. Renowned marketing theorists Al and Laura Ries contend in their controversial new book "The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR" that public relations is more effective at building brands than advertising, and that advertising should be used more to sustain brand momentum.

The power of PR lies in the fact that many people view 'news' as a more credible source of information than advertising. In addition to the credibility that public relations can lend to your agency's brand, public relations activities generally cost less than advertising which automatically makes it more accessible to small and medium size agencies that do not have large advertising budgets. So why then, if news carries more weight than advertising and costs less to execute, aren't we spending more time on public relations activities? The answer is simply that not many people know how to go about it.

Be Heard

Follow the seven-step methodology below to help your agency gain media coverage:

Step 1: Identify A Niche

Whether you are a small, medium or large recruitment agency, public relations activities should definitely have a place in your marketing mix. A good place to start is to identify an area in which you can become the "expert" or voice for the industry. Choose an area that aligns with your core business. For example, if you recruit legal people then focus on newsworthy stories that emphasise your knowledge in the legal industry. If you are a generalist recruiter consider whether there is an area in which you could become a spokesperson; perhaps you've observed a particular trend within the temp area of your business and you think your target audience may want to know about it.


Step 2: Set Objectives

Set clear objectives about what you hope to achieve from your publicity. Objectives should include a statement about how you wish your organisation to be positioned, the level of understanding of certain aspects of your agency that you wish to promote, etc. For example, if the niche you have selected is hospitality staff then your positioning objective could be worded to the effect of "to become the recognised spokesperson for recruiting hospitality staff within NSW". It is important to set these objectives because it helps you to remain focused on how you want your agency to be positioned.


Step 3: Identify Your Audience

Next, consider which media sources reach your target audience. Remember that while it is nice if other people hear about your agency, your ultimate goal should be to reach the specific audience you sell to through appropriate media channels.


Step 4: What To Say

Once you have a list of the different media that regularly communicate with your target audience read through the different magazines, newspapers, etc, to see the types of stories that each media channel carries. It is also a good idea to make a note of the journalist that covers your area of expertise - you may even like to contact them and make yourself available for future comments about industry developments. Not only will this research give you some great ideas about the types of stories you can offer each publication, it will also help you make your material more relevant and increase the chances of your media release being accepted.

Below are some ideas for angles you could use to promote your agency:

Do a customer survey and include controversial questions. Write articles about the results of the survey. The media is very receptive to survey results.

Create a top ten list about something in your business. For example "The Ten Most Popular IT Roles for 2003."

Develop an annual award that you give out to someone in the community or a business in your industry.

Offer surprising or attention-grabbing facts about your industry or business. For instance, write an article titled, "The average starting salary of an MBA graduate is 40 percent higher than their non-MBA peers."

Tie your business in with holidays or special days. For example, tell the media how your recruitment agency helps candidates find new jobs during the Christmas season.

Be first. Be the first to offer a 200 percent double your money back guarantee. Think of something at which you can claim to be the first.

Host a "Kids are the Boss Day!" Hand your business over to your employee's teenagers for the day to help them gain work experience.

Run a "silliest thing" or "Costly mistakes" contest with your clients. For instance, compile a list of the silliest questions your clients have ever been asked by a candidate during an interview and mix this with useful tips on how employers can keep an interview on track.

Sponsor a local community service project. Perhaps recruit volunteers to work for a worthy cause.

Prove a myth or stereotype in your industry wrong. For instance, unveil research to prove that changing your job every 18 months can actually be good for your career.


Step 5: Develop a media plan

Public relations is not just about answering media calls, it is about pro-actively sending out regular media releases on topical issues and keeping in touch with the relevant media contacts. It is working to achieve media coverage throughout the year so that your agency's brand becomes stronger and stronger. The best way to do this is to develop a media plan that details the timing of your media releases and to whom they should be sent. Planning ahead also allows you to accommodate the different deadlines of each publication.

Once you have your plan in place you are ready to begin to work with the media.

Step 6: Reach out to the media

Write your media release and before you send it to the appropriate people check that it addresses the following questions:

Is it relevant? Check that you have targeted the people who are in the best position to understand and benefit from the information you are distributing.

Is it timely? Different media and messages will have different timelines - consider these when you are developing your plan.

Is it unusual and/or newsworthy? Find the aspect of your story that makes it interesting and unique.

Does it hit home? The most interesting stories are the ones that hit home either personally or geographically.

Does it have a human face? The people factor always makes a story or photo more compelling.

Step 7: Measure the results

Companies like media monitors provide a service to track all media coverage you receive. Alternatively you can watch the media yourself to see if the story appears.

In short, cultivating a relationship with the media that target your audience is well worth the time spent doing so. Using the steps above, your agency stands to gain more credibility and exposure without it costing you the earth. So, why not take some time to sharpen your pencil and see what you can come up with to tickle the media's fancy?

 

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