Why Your Public Relations Isn't Working - Lioness Magazine
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Public Relations

Why Your Public Relations Isn’t Working

You've invested time in public relations. However, it hasn't yielded any results. When your public relations isn't working, here's what you have to examine.

Before we get into why your public relations isn’t working, let’s look at why good public relations matters. There’s a reason why the public relations industry is growing so quickly. It’s because everyone wants it.

Did you know that public relations professionals are about to outweigh media professionals 3 to 1? Or more?

Everyone wants to be featured on blogs, in magazines, newspapers and local TV and radio. People may not know why it works, but they know it can. It can generate awareness, drive traffic and hopefully sales. However, it’s real purpose is to create credibility for your business. A credibility that you cannot get with any other marketing tool.

Credibility is psychology

When we’re surfing for a product or service to solve a problem we have and find a company site peppered with media logos (representing the media they’ve appeared in), we have a momentary thought, conscious or unconscious, of “Hey, that’s cool. Maybe I should check this out” or “Wow, I should really buy this”. It’s because we acknowledge that media stories give this company or product a form of legitimacy from perceived experts. For a lot of people, it can be the final push in the sales pitch that is your home page to get them to click “Buy Now.”

So, it’s no wonder everyone wants public relations for their business.

The bad news is that public relations may not be the best marketing avenue for your business. The worst news is that there are PR people who will say otherwise just to get your money. Do some thinking on your audience and marketing strategy first.

Why public relations may not work for your business

You own a “Me-too” business – A “me-too” business is one that offers the same thing as many others in a crowded market. In most cases, there are little to no differences in the service provided. There are no differentiators. Like a dry cleaner. The only way a dry cleaner is going to attract media attention is if they do something extraordinary like dry clean clothes in the nude for charity. (Aw, you just got it!) For customers considering a dry cleaner, price and location are the only things that matter. 

Your customers live nearby so hone in on the residents in your direct area. Utilize hyperlocal media for advertising, door hangers with coupons, post special offers for social media followers or put up creative signs. My dry cleaner has one of those letter board signs. They are always putting up funny things such as “Drop your pants here.” It’s hilarious and their sense of humor and creativity sticks with people, especially in my Chicago neighborhood where there are four dry cleaners within walking distance of my house. Those signs got me going there. The service and coupons keep me going back.

You are a service-based business – Professional services businesses such as accountants, psychologists, IT, lawyers, nutritionists and consultants often have a difficult time generating media attention. In truth, media are always looking for people in these industries that are experts to comment for stories, but it can be tough to get in front of them. So, make yourself an expert.

It’s easier than you think. There are loads of industry trades, digital and hyperlocal media looking for local experts. Trades are always hungry for new expert advice or thinking. The only difference is that instead of them covering you and your business, you provide them the content. Sit down and make a list of topics that you can offer advice on – try to think of a new approach or information that no one else is putting forward – and then begin writing. Create a list of outlets you think will be interested and send the editor a pitch letter with a list of potential articles in which they can choose. Remember your audience. Communicating to industry professionals or B2B vs to consumers (B2C) require two different approaches.

I use this kind of expert positioning in PR campaigns. I’ve also used it successfully to help promote my new book, but people rarely think of it as PR because it’s not a feature story on their business written by a proper reporter. In their minds, it doesn’t count. I also hear people make excuses that they’re too busy to sit down and write. If you want to generate the awareness and increase interest in your services, then you will make the time.

Now, I want to be clear, the above doesn’t mean you will not achieve media attention for your business. There are rare occasions of brilliant marketing. Acts of extreme generosity such as a dry cleaner offering to clean the clothes of the homeless for free once a month even has the potential to go viral, or an attorney who represents victims of domestic abuse for free could get three minutes on the evening news, but it’s a one-and-done. Meaning, that once the media cover it, they won’t cover it again. So, you have to rely on other marketing tactics. Businesses like these in smaller communities have a far greater chance of attracting media attention than in a large metro area like Chicago.

If you’re feeling a little bummed about this news, don’t be. Remember that knowing your audience combined with a little bit of creativity can help you develop a marketing strategy that really works for your business. Trust me, I guarantee your competition are not being proactive as you are reading this article, opening a window that could open a lot of doors to create awareness, a chance to offer outstanding service and grow your business. They’ll be left wondering how you did it.

About the author

Jennifer Fortney

Jennifer Fortney is President of Cascade Communications, a boutique, virtual PR and marketing communications company in Chicago, and author of “Pitched: A Simple DIY Guide to Public Relations for Small Businesses”. In her 20+ year career, she has worked with top Fortune 500 companies and a wide variety of small businesses and startups across the country, generating millions of media impressions. A Journalism major from The University of Kansas, she has written broadcast news, worked in sports, broadcast marketing and corporate agency, was the PR Instructor at SCORE Chicago/Small Business Administration for 5 years and contributed to NBCChicago.com “Inc. Well” blog, as well as several online blogs and publications.

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