Is PR on your to-do list? Are you feeling uninspired or do you never seem to have enough time? Does something else always crop up and get in the way?
Maybe you’ve an idea for some PR but you’re not sure where to start? When is a good time and how can you get your point across?
Whatever your aim, if you want to start thinking about your PR right now, here’s some things you can do to get things started.
Create a media calendar
For effective PR, timing is paramount. So is making the most of every newsworthy opportunity.
Before pitching your idea to a journalist think about why your news is relevant now and why the journalist should want to hear about it.
A great way to pull together your ideas is to create a media calendar – complete with all the key dates and events you have coming up in the months ahead. This means you can anticipate and make the most of PR opportunities, maximise your chance of getting coverage and plan ahead. At the same time, don’t forget to steer clear of any big dates which may get in the way of publicising your story (eg budget day).
How to create your media calendar:
- Often you can ‘piggy back’ off other key events so note down dates like Christmas, New Year, Easter, Mother’s Day and other special occasions which you may be able to use as a news hook. It’s easy to get busy with other things so make a list of all the key dates for six months ahead so you don’t get side-tracked and miss a golden opportunity. Check online to get ideas. Don’t forget to consider lead in times for the media which can be longer than you think (women’s mags, for example, will be compiling their stories for October’s breast cancer awareness month in August and monthly magazines have their Christmas content ready by September)
- Include key dates in your area of work, like the publication of your annual report, latest surveys or events. If you are working in education, for instance, make a note of exam results days, application dates and the publication of SATs. In the NHS, note dates for the announcement of performance targets, public meetings, health promotion events and the opening of new facilities and equipment
- Awareness days (for example National Breakfast Week or World Cancer Day – look online, there are awareness days for everything!) – www.awarenessdays.co.uk is a great start.
Understand what makes a good news story
Take time to think about what makes a good news story and the kinds of stories journalists are looking for. Think about how you would tell your story to the editor and get your point across.
Draft a press release – there are numerous templates online which you can use (we’ve put our CJAM press release template on our website for you to use). Have a practice. Avoid waffle and lengthy explanation, and keep your copy tight and punchy. Don’t forget to sum up the entire story so it can be understood in its entirety in the first paragraph. You need to capture the journalist’s attention.
Be the expert
Members of the press are always on the lookout for sources that can give them a comment or an angle on a story. Position yourself and your brand as that perfect expert, ready to quote on a story or provide background information. Think about a newsworthy quote the journalist can drop into their article. Be concise. Contact a few journalists directly, they are always on the lookout for a new contact.
Know your deadlines
Use your media calendar to think ahead. Become familiar with different media deadlines. Pitch a story to the media in plenty of time so you don’t miss out and remember the lead in times. Members of the press have to act quickly for breaking news stories, but work well in advance for planned content such as awareness days.
Use news alerts
Become more aware of media stories and what’s going on around you by setting up a news alert using key words that relate to your area of expertise.
Google alerts can help you react to breaking news stories, and respond to issues.
In today’s 24-hour rolling news, make sure you check your news alerts regularly as stories quickly become old news. Keep abreast of what’s going on, and act quickly (perhaps by offering a comment to a journalist) – make sure you act swiftly before the journalist looks elsewhere.
Twitter and social media; these are great for breaking stories and keeping you up-to-date with news at a glance.
Don’t give up. Journalists work to very tight deadlines and news moves on very quickly. Don’t be disheartened if your pitch doesn’t work this time. Don’t inundate journalists with emails and phone calls on the same topic, but a simple, polite reminder doesn’t hurt. If your story doesn’t get picked up, think of another angle. Your story may not resonate right now, but the journalist knows where to find you next time around.
Get some help
You may want to embark on some PR for the first time or make more of the start you have already made. Perhaps you just need a bit of help on what makes a good news story or how to pitch that story to a journalist.
Getting great PR doesn’t mean spending a lot of money. It’s about thinking creatively and knowing what journalists are looking for.
Good advice from people who have worked in the media can make all the difference. Want to talk through your PR needs? Contact our press office.