When talking with geeks, or anyone who works in tech, they are often mystified by public relations. People are filled with misconceptions. They think of a world of shady spinmeisters huddled up in a back room somewhere constructing audacious lies to save the necks of evil CEO’s. Alternately, they imagine a world of women with too much makeup running interference because Lindsay Lohan got drunk and wrapped her Range Rover around a tree or Tom Cruise said a little too much about Scientology. It’s a shame, because the real world of PR isn’t anything like this. The average business owner, techy, developer or designer actually stands to gain a lot by interacting with the world of PR and the press. Seeing your latest project written, blogged and reported about is essential in the 21st Century. If you’re building something great, they won’t come. You need to lead them there.
Over the course of a few blog posts, we’re going to give you the PR basics you need to get your name up in lights (or in pixels as the case may be). Think of this as “PR 101” for non-PR people. Armed with the right information, supplied by your friends at The Blog Studio, a bit of research, some clever emails and the right attitude, there is no reason the press shouldn’t be writing about what you’re doing.
Make it easy for anyone that wants to write about you. The simpler it is for a writer to get the basic background info they need, the more likely they are to include you in the piece they are working on. Plus, the less time you need to spend telling them the basics, the more time you’ll have to discuss the interesting things you’re creating, and make the pitch for your work. The simplest way to do this is to create a press page. Surprisingly, most businesses don’t have a press page. The ones that are out there are often poor, uninteresting, dull and seem like afterthoughts. Having a killer press page will separate you from the competition and make sure you get written about, not your competition.
What makes the perfect press page? To begin with, the tone, attitude and vocabulary of your writing need to be appealing. Do you believe in the work you’re doing and what you’re creating? Make sure that comes across in your copy. Write as if you’re the best thing going, but don’t cross the line into being pompous. That never plays well in the press. Be cheerful, be optimistic and most of all be honest. If you write any half truths, little white lies or blatant falsehoods, they will come back to bite you in the digital ass. In the ultra-connected 21st Century, it only takes a minute with a search engine to suss out your dishonesty. Keep the tone of your copy light, hopeful and honest, and you’ll do great. Keep in mind as your write, that you’re telling a story, hopefully an engaging one. You aren’t filling out a mortgage application.
The physical design of your press page should match the aesthetics and design sensibility of your company, and the rest of your website. There are certain elements that should be included in every press page, which are essential to creating a media friendly image for your company. You should put your own personal spin on these features, but including them will definitely help your case.
Include a short, 3-5 paragraph, history of your company in narrative form. Pretend that you’re telling a story, and the audience knows nothing about what you do. Highlight the people, places, milestones and major successes that you’ve accomplished so far. Describe your company culture, what makes your group unique and the reasons why your business is run the way it is. A company history will give a journalist writing about your company the long view of how your company sees its’ place in the world.
Create very short biographies of key personnel, and there role in the companies mission. You aren’t writing a resume. A few succinct sentences of what each person does to keep things rolling is plenty. Company bios tend to get boring fast, so just include the major milestone accomplishments for each person. It’s a good idea to include a photo for each person as well. Stay away from those generic corporate mugshots. Is there anything that sucks the life out of a good story any more quickly then a boring photo of a scarecrow in a suit?
A Note To the Press
Compose a short note addressing any journalist who may be thinking about including you in a piece. In your own words, let them know you love the press, enjoy being included in the media circus and would be happy to provide them with quotes, photos, documentation, a preview of your product or anything else that will make the writers job easier. Extending a clear invitation to media types goes a long way, and lets people know that you’re game to play the game. If you have a communications officer or PR person on staff, this note should be written, composed and signed by them. Think of this as extending an olive branch to the media; “We’re friendly, we don’t bite, feel free to get in touch”.
A Document Library
Create a section within your press page to display any company documents that you would feel comfortable sharing with a writer, and that a writer may find useful while researching your company. This is the spot to upload any brochures, white papers, videos, ads and slide decks you’ve created. The more background info you can provide, the more interested parties can learn about what you do. Having a gallery, with photos, logos and graphics in the highest resolution you can provide is extremely helpful. In many cases, the availability of good multimedia assets can be the tipping point that gets you included in a piece over your competitors. If you have a solid social media presence on visual networks like YouTube or Flickr, include links to your pages here. Some companies choose to password protect their document libraries, and hand out the passwords like they’re the key to a national secret. Why? If you’re nervous about people seeing certain documents, don’t post them! Otherwise, make it simple for anyone to view and use what you’ve created.
Previous Press Hits
It’s a simple truth, but press begets more press. If you’ve been featured in the media before, include scans, PDF’s and links to these articles here. Reporters often feel more comfortable writing about companies that have a proven track record in the media. This will also give researching journalists a chance to see what has been said about your work, and a chance to discover fresh angles. A press gallery is also a low key way to do a little bragging to potential clients and your competitors. If your being written about, why not share it with as many people as you can?
Nothing will frustrate a writer more than wanting to grab you for a quote, an interview request or a fact checking session, and not being able to get in touch with you. On your contact page, there is no such thing as overkill. Start with the names of the people in your organization who are the points of contact for the media. Provide as many different ways to get in touch with you as possible – every member of the media has their own preferred method of contact. At the minimum, an email address, phone number and mailing address should be here. However, this is 2011, so you should also include your social media links, Twitter handle, Skype name and any other way it’s possible to get a hold of you.
Creating an online presence for the press is just the first step to making PR work for you. Stay tuned for part two, where we’ll explain how to start making in roads into the media world.