PR - public relations and using press-releases for free advertising and publicity

Brief your staff - have a policy, especially for crisis situations.

If you court press attention make sure your staff are aware of your positions and policies. Make someone in charge of press contact ideally, so that other staff are not forced to comment.

All newspapers need press releases to help fill their pages.
Local papers particularly need news submitted by the local community or they have to pay more for journalists to go out and get news. Look through your local papers and magazines to spot the PR material submitted by commercial organisations. This will encourage you as to how easy it is to provide 'news' stories for the press.

Local TV and radio are also amenable to PR, but they're a bit more choosy. Nevertheless bear TV, and certainly radio, in mind for anything going on in your business of local interest or 'novelty value'.

Get the local editorial contact names and numbers.

PR 'news' must be submitted to the news department (editorial department if it's a magazine) of the publication concerned. They like faxes in preference to posted material (it's more current) and are notoriously unreliable, so don't be put off if your success rate in getting material published is a lot less than 100%. Be aware that the journalists will alter your copy, so don't agonize over the precise wording, but do enough to make it interesting and newsworthy. Generally journalists prefer to deal direct with organisations rather than their PR agencies, so don't be shy.

Remember that press-release publicity is free.
Don't miss the opportunity to take maximum advantage. It's worth managing your PR through some kind of control system to keep up a regular and consistent activity. For a little thought you can easily achieve the equivalent of thousands of Rands worth of display advertising per year, for no advertising cost.

Press-release publicity carries more credibility than paid-for advertising

People are largely unaware that much of what they read in the local and national newspapers is in fact carefully planned PR. They are therefore more receptive towards it and moreover believe it almost without question.

Photographs improve editorial take-up by 100's%. A good photograph in support of a press release will dramatically improve your chances of publication. Either provide your own, or if the story is an event ask the press to send their photographer.

Do it now - old news is no news.

If you've got something newsworthy don't wait or the opportunity will be lost. Even simple things like staff promotions, qualifications attained, hobby achievements, staff joining, babies, all make acceptable PR stories, and always be on the lookout for the quirky and unusual.

Ask for editorial coverage before paying for display advertising
If you plan to pay for display advertising or inserts in any type of publication always ask before giving the order if you can have some editorial coverage as condition of placing the advertising business. Many publications will agree at this stage, and you'll have some free editorial to support the advert. Some publications combine the two and sell 'advertorial' feature space, which purports to be news but is really a large paid-for advert.

By Alan Chapman

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