A few years ago, I was at a business event where I got talking to the owner of an Essex printing firm.
He’d built his company up over 20 years, employed over 30 people and enjoyed a turnover of well over £3 million. On the face of it, he seemed to be doing extremely well.
So I asked him whether he was optimistic about the future, and was surprised to hear that he wasn’t. He told me that he was worried because his firm was reliant on a small number of high-value contracts. If any one of them decided to take their business elsewhere it would not only mean redundancies, but also price rises – which would make his company less competitive.
I asked the owner what he was doing to attract fresh business. He said that he had recently invested heavily in PR, but it wasn’t getting him results.
“I don’t understand it,” he said. “I often see great coverage of my competitors in the local press and print trade magazines, but we rarely seem to get more than a paragraph or a brief mention.”
I was intrigued to learn what was going wrong, so I asked him how he was tackling his PR campaigns.
“We’re not short of stories,” he told me. “We’ve won awards, we work with local charities, we’ve sponsored stalls at local events. We’ve got so much good news to share, but it just doesn’t seem to get reported.”
Communicating your story to the media
“So how do you communicate your stories to the press?” I asked.
“Well, I’ve hired someone from London to write press releases for us. She sends hard copies to our local newspapers and trade magazines and follows them up with an email, which I’m copied in to.”
As soon as he told me that, I could see in an instant where he was going wrong. His PR was built on hope rather than good relationships.
I saw where he was coming from, though. He’d hired someone who wrote press releases that he had evaluated and liked. He felt that a good story, well written, would result in decent press coverage.
What he had failed to take into account was the fact that his writer didn’t have good relationships with the publications he wanted to feature in. She wasn’t local, so she hadn’t built up relationships with local journalists. Nor had she made contacts within the relevant trade journals.
In short, she was producing good press releases, but she didn’t know how to get journalists to pay attention to them.
It’s a mistake that many businesses make, and one that Garda has helped to solve on many occasions.
The importance of building media relationships
Being featured in publications like local newspapers and trade magazines is extremely valuable. Journalists are always on the lookout for good stories that strike a chord with their readership, or which show the community or an industry at its best.
If your business has a story that chimes with a publication’s outlook, it can win you anything from columns of positive publicity to feature-length articles. In other words, you need to stop thinking about stories in terms of PR for you, but instead think about how your story will benefit different publications.
The big issue, though, is whether your business has the resources to hire people to build up good relationships with the press and get to understand the kinds of stories that journalists are looking for. These people need to have a current and relevant contacts book and be able to pitch a story at a moment’s notice.
Few but the biggest firms have that kind of expertise in-house. That’s why smart companies turn to agencies like Garda who already have good contacts and relationships with the press, plus the time and expertise to nurture contacts within specialist industry media.
Judging your PR by results
At Garda, we believe that PR campaigns can only be judged by results. That’s why we work closely with you to find the best stories that the media will want to cover, and then use our excellent contacts to make sure your press releases get in front of the right people. If we don’t already know journalists working for your target publications, we make the effort to approach them and build a good relationship.
We also help by suggesting publications that you may not have thought of, but which can reach your target audiences. For example, we recently won one of our clients a double page spread in The Parliamentary Review, ensuring that news of their success reached decision-makers in the manufacturing sector.
In the case of another client, we succeeded in getting the company a full page, illustrated article in the Southend Echo, coupled with a double-page spread in the wide circulation local Oracle magazine.
In short, we know how to help firms get positive publicity seen by their chosen audiences at a fraction of the cost of normal advertising. And it’s all built on good relationships, which get stronger and more numerous every year.
So, if your PR campaigns don’t seem to be delivering, don’t just look at the news and stories that you are trying to promote – make sure that you have the relationships needed to get them in front of the right people. If you don’t, it’s time to talk to specialists like Garda who work daily with people who have the power to get you noticed.