“People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic.” —Seth Godin

What is public relations? And why, as business owners, do we need it?

Public relations is one vein of marketing: a way to communicate your products and services to your clients and potential customers using the media. Back in the day, when the two main forms of advertising were radio and television, there was less competition to reach your target audience. But today, with the Internet and all its forms of digital marketing, the public’s attention span has gotten shorter, leaving you with less time to convey your message.

So how do you cut through the noise to capture your clientele? You have someone else—the media—do it for you.

“Persuasion always works better when the persuaded is not aware that he or she is being influenced.”
—Joseph LeDoux, PhD

As a marketing and PR specialist for the last 15 years, I’ve worked in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors with generals, politicians, doctors, celebrities, professional athletes and the CEOs of some of the largest organizations in the country. And one of the most important things I’ve learned is that while PR methods and platforms may rapidly change, the fundamentals don’t.

I learned the importance of the five Ws (Who, What, Where, When and Why) while taking journalism classes in college. No matter what the media is reporting, those five questions must be asked. And as a business owner, if you want great visibility you must make your answers readily available through the remarkable content on your website—with who you are and what you do (your expertise), and where, when and why you do it (your story).

The media has millions of people, businesses and stories to choose from when it comes to making headlines. But sorting through the “nothings in a box” to find the real gems can be time-consuming. And even when reporters do come across prospects, if what they need for a story is not easily identifiable, then they will quickly move on in order to meet their deadline.

In Part One of this series on launching a PR campaign, I will show you how to attract media by communicating your expertise, sharing your story and creating remarkable content.

Identify Yourself as an Expert

“Advertising is saying you’re good. PR is getting someone else to say you’re good.” —Jean-Louis Gassée

One way to stand out from the crowd is to highlight your expertise. Don’t assume that the public will “figure out” you’re an expert by reading your bio or watching a YouTube video. Show them what you’ve got by featuring awards you’ve received, books you’ve written, videos of your speaking engagements and press mentions about you—front and center on your website and your social media profiles.

My favorite ways to do this are as follows:

  • On your homepage (or on the right-hand side of your webpage), use slider images or a banner with the phrase “As Featured In” and logos from the most recognizable media outlets you’ve appeared in.
  • If you have more than a dozen press mentions, create a separate page on your website for them and title it “Press, Praise” or “The Buzz.”
  • Pick a handful of your best testimonials, and include them in a rotating box on your homepage.
  • Devote an entire (separate) page to client testimonials, with the best ones first. Do not limit yourself to just a few; use the Amazon method, which is “the more, the better.” And if you want to show a reach beyond your local community, list the city and state after each client’s name.
  • In the masthead or sidebar of your site, feature books, e-books or informational products you’ve written.
  • If you’ve given a speech or created a video about your business, display it on the homepage or sidebar of your site. For every video you’ve produced, place your company logo, URL and subject title in a screen shot before and after the video.

Time-saving tip: Hire a marketing/PR professional for an hour to give you feedback about your website.

Share Your Story

“Publicity is absolutely critical. A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front-page ad.”
—Richard Branson

Good PR is a good story. It’s what will make you stand out, and it’s what the media is looking for. I tell every client that having (or opening) a business isn’t newsworthy. As harsh as it sounds, aside from your friends and family, no one cares. So what is a good story?

Remember the Nordstrom tire story? A man walks into a Nordstrom store—previously a tire shop—in Alaska and asks if he can return his tires. Without question, the clerk refunds the money based on the price tag sticker. That occurred more than 30 years ago, and people still talk about it. It forever branded Nordstrom as the king of customer service and no-hassle returns.

When thinking of your own story—or your company’s story—ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why did I start my business?
  • What do my customers love most about my services?
  • If my clients referred my services to their friends, what would I want my clients to say?
  • If I read an article about myself, what would I hope was written?
  • When I’m telling people about myself and what I do for a living, what details do they find the most interesting?

Time-saving tip: Hire someone with a background in journalism to interview you and write your story for your website.

Create and Distribute Quality Content

“[E]ither write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.” —Benjamin Franklin

Because we are in a digital world, most reporters will come across you on the Internet before they meet you in person, which means your content has to portray you and your business as accurately, efficiently and quickly as possible.

Here are examples of good content:

  • As uncomfortable as it may be to write your bio in the first person, this “voice” is more personable. Do not think of the content as a resume, but as a conversation. If someone asked why you started your business, or what your background and credibility are, what would you say? Show your passion, as well as recounting the experiences that have shaped you. For example, on my website I talk about losing my 28-year-old sister to breast cancer and my father to a heart attack, about my melanoma diagnosis, about being part of a military family and about adopting my first dog. People are more likely to approach you when you share information they can relate to.
  • Turn your clients’ success stories—with before and after photos—into blog entries. For each story you share, write an introduction describing your work together, and then put the rest of it in the client’s voice (this would be an automatic resource for a journalist). If a client followed a specific program that you designed, make sure to mention it (and link to it).
  • List 12 influential people in your industry, and interview a different one each month for your blog.
  • Create a 2- to 3-minute video that describes how your company solves problems.
  • Cover research-based topics on your area of expertise or business subject matter.

Time-saving tip: To get you started, hire a copywriter to create or edit several blog entries.

Remember this: Getting the media’s attention is not about being bigger or louder. It’s about providing solutions and value through your knowledge, story and connection.

In Part Two of this series, you will learn the best way to find media contacts, pitch your story to them effectively and build good long-term relationships with these people.