How to Make Publicity Work for Your Business: Six P.R. Strategies to Use Right Now

Public Relations (or P.R.) is a wonderful, yet often overlooked marketing tool. P.R. is an intangible ? making it a tough sell for many P.R. professionals. It is our job to sell the concept and show the client how it will enhance marketing efforts and, in many cases, replace costly or one-off advertising. Public relations is just that ? relating to the public. Every outward communication should be carefully executed and the mission of the company should never be compromised. How do your customers find you? How does the public perceive your business? These points can be incorporated into a P.R. strategy that maintains consistent messages to your customers, thereby keeping your company top of mind and, in turn, growing your business.

Below are six P.R. strategies that can be implemented today. Whether you hire an outside professional or keep your publicity in-house, these strategies should be a part of your marketing plan.

1. Brand Building: It is very common for businesses to use advertising in brand-building strategies, however publicity can be less expensive and much more effective in establishing a brand's identity. One complimentary news piece in a publication read by your target consumer can produce significant results. Publicity, whether performed by an external company or executed in-house, can also be cost-effective.

Several online distribution services are available making the cost to send out a press release affordable, and sometimes even free depending on desired reach. It is important that any news release is informative and factual. Many of the online distribution services even offer templates to assist in the development of a release for a small fee. Before paying for such a service, however, be sure to identify hidden talent in your organization ? there may be a great writer in your midst.

2. Generate Press Releases: Press releases are for announcing newsworthy information to the media only. If the information is not news, it should not be announced. In addition to news, a press release should contain only facts ? not hype. Business as usual is not news. Celebrating a milestone such as a ten-year anniversary, one-millionth sale, or appointing a new CEO is newsworthy. In many cases, a newsworthy story can be developed with some creativity.

For example, if your company manufactures comfortable walking shoes you can create a "Walk to Work" day. Provide fun facts about the health benefits of walking and why the right walking shoes are so important. This can be pitched to your local media outlets and may get picked up nationally. Many times current events will also create an opportunity for a press release (see #3.) Remember to always include your company's website at least once and be sure accurate contact information is listed.

3. Tap Into Media Trends: Many times businesses can tie into current events and trends in the media. For example, if the evening news is covering storm damage to an area in your town and your company sells a product or service that would benefit people living in those areas, you have a topical news announcement. Call, fax or email the news desk and tell them about your product and why their viewers need to know about it. Be sure to mention that your story idea is time-sensitive. Watch your local news for one week and take notes. Identify what types of stories the local reporters are covering. Chances are at least one of the subjects covered was a direct result of a recent news story. Listen and learn how one led to the other then be ready to pitch your service or product when future opportunities arise.

4. Increase Awareness by Increasing Search Engine Listings: Each time a release is distributed over the Internet or a story is written and posted online, be sure your company's web address is included. The more links to your site, the better the exposure your site will receive in search engines. In addition to press releases, link swapping, article postings, quotes, and endorsements are great ways to generate links online. Google your company and your competitor's company daily. If your company is not as prominent as your competitor's, read their results listings and learn what they are doing to generate links.

5. Website Improvements Produce More Traffic: Optimize your company's website often. Be sure keywords on the website are targeted toward your consumers. Ask customers what words they would enter in a search engine when looking for your products or services and add those to your keywords. Small adjustments can mean a big difference in traffic to the site and subsequently increased business. Constantly updating web content is an easy and effective way to generate better search engine results. Be sure to update news and information at least once a month. Always add press release announcements to your website press area ? and be sure your press area is easy to find, easy to read, and easy to print.

6. Highlight Expertise: One of the best ways to generate publicity is to establish expert credibility with the media. Do competitors continually get quoted in industry trade publications and you don't? They've probably done a good job of alerting the media about their expertise in your field. Don't worry, however, all journalists want to have more than one expert in any field. Begin to define yourself as an expert by writing articles, including the word expert in press releases, biographies, announcements, and descriptions. If you make a living doing what you do, you are an expert. If you are having trouble determining your area of expertise: ask friends, family, and colleagues to help identify your strengths and start spreading the word. Update the company description on your website right now by including your newly identified expertise and you've accomplished #5 and #6 already!

Angela Garcia is a founding partner in Starfish Public Relations, a Los Angeles based public relations and marketing company specializing in personality driven strategies. Garcia has held several positions in the entertainment industry including HITS Magazine, Warner Bros. Records, Maverick Records, MCA Records, and House of Blues Entertainment. She credits her success to her creative and enthusiastic approach to work and life. For more information about Angela Garcia and Starfish P.R. please visit: http://www.starfish-pr.com

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