Editor extraordinaire and lifer journalist, Stuart Pritchard, ducks behind the wizard’s curtain to detail his Top 10 reasons why good PR is essential to securing brand exposure across the media.
PR & the Press: A Brand-Building Ménage à Deux
By Stuart Pritchard
Hello, I’m Stuart Pritchard – editor, journalist, bon vivant, father, lover and part-time bartender. I know, I know, it’s quite the list of ‘hats’ but such diversity means I know a fair bit about both the importance of good PR and how to do drinks – two things that can occur simultaneously when you dance the promotional tango with the press.
So, how important is good PR and, moreover, securing your brand the services of a professional PR firm that understands your needs, the demands of your specific market and the fickle, ever-changing whims of the media?
Far too many brands think; ‘not very important at all’ because anyone can do their own PR these days thanks to the digital domain. A few words about your product or service and a couple of journalist email addresses is all you need for press fame and brand fortune to come rolling in. If only…
Over the decades I’ve worked in both print and digital editorial I’ve seen all manner of PR, ranging from the excellent to the mediocre to the please-never-contact-me-again. You see, when PR is done well, it almost does the editor/journalist’s job for them, and as a notoriously lazy breed, we really appreciate that. PR done poorly, conversely, will just end up dumped unceremoniously in the virtual bin of oblivion.
Good PR is the lifeblood of the jobbing journalist, and creating compelling, precisely targeted stories and dealing with fickle press probably isn’t your brand’s core skill. I mean, if you need the office re-wiring you’d get in a professional electrician, right? Here are my Top 10 reasons you need good, professional PR.
1. PR People Know What Journalists Need
Journalists are busy people. If they’re not researching, writing or enjoying an overly long business lunch (OK, that might have been ‘back-in-the-day’), they’re generally at events and expos or somewhere in between. So, it’s vital to grab their attention by the throat. Good PR people build a rapport with journalists, understand the patch they work and anticipate their needs with punchy press releases that command consideration without being pushy because we won’t be pushed; happily lead, yes, but not pushed. If I receive an email addressed to my actual name, that targets my particular field and has a feel as personal as a stolen kiss from a secret lover, then I’ll engage. If it also comes with links to images and the promise of a rapid response to any requests I might have, then I’m all theirs.
2. PR Professionalism
Press and PR are two sides of the same coin, so there has got to be mutual respect. Professional PR people get this and tailor releases accordingly. If a press release and accompanying email read like they’ve been written with all the carelessness of someone who clearly doesn’t care about their client, then that will come across. If the PR doesn’t care, why should the journalist? Professionally presented, consistent, concise, factually correct, and repetition- and typo-free information is the way to be. PR agencies run by ex-editors and ex-journos have the edge here, but professionalism in copy presentation is key across the PR profession.
All publications whether print or digital work to deadlines. Digital may be more flexible in the way they work than print, which is damn rigid, but a deadline is a deadline and PR has to work to it too. Believe me, nothing irks a journalist – or, worse, an editor – more than tardy responses to enquiries or late-arriving press materials. We’ve killed for less. Or, at the very least, ignored future emails out of petty spite. Proper PR companies are geared up for dealing with deadlines. Lone consultants can juggle, but the potent man/woman-power of an actual PR firm means there are more people to work with the hugely varying deadline demands of countless publications, ensuring all information and images are delivered in good time to let the journos work their wordy magic.
4. Staying Relevant
Over my years as a fulltime and freelance press bloke, I’ve received probably millions of press releases in the varying fields I’ve written about: smart homes, consumer tech, travel, booze, and an odd stint in ‘packaging’ being the mainstays. However, this hasn’t stopped me receiving a daily blanket-bombing of releases on all manner of things that have never been within my remit. From pet supplies to niche hairdressing events and even elements of feminine hygiene, despite having never dabbled my pen in any of these areas, the releases still arrive.
5. Time Sensitivity
Okay, I’ve already spoken about the importance of time in the PR/Press relationship with regard to deadlines, but there’s more. Journalists work stupid hours. Freelance journalists even more so. It’s gone 10pm as I write now and I may not file until the early hours of the morning. But whilst we don’t expect the good people at PR companies to be available 24/7 – as most of us are not psychopaths – we do appreciate as immediate a response to requests as possible. This, of course, requires a work-time flexibility on par with a Chinese State Circus contortionist that lone consultants can struggle to supply, but which the superior staffed PR company can accommodate.
6. Creating Contacts and Building Relationships
Building relationships with journalists is a bit like online dating, but without the sudden receipt of unsolicited nudes. Formal can quickly become friendly and the better a relationship becomes, the easier and more pleasurable it is to work together on both sides – the PR person will know exactly what the journalist wants and can anticipate what they will require, and the journalist will know they can trust the PR person to deliver, professionally and on time to comfortably meet deadlines. Once such a symbiotic relationship is reached, then the sending of nudes can commence. I’m kidding; obviously. But never underestimate the importance of how your PR people interact with the press.
7. Sending the Right Image
Even now, two decades into the 21st century, it never ceases to amaze me when I request high-res images to accompany an article or review and find myself at the receiving end of images so infinitesimally small that they can only be viewed via the James Web telescope. Whether for print or digital use, you’ve got to get image dimensions and resolution right, otherwise they’re unusable. It also helps if the PR person in question understands the difference between the differing types of images that may be requested. What differing types? Yeah, proper PR companies know.
8. Size Matters
Look, I know many consultants who are excellent at their job and I work with some on a regular basis, but there is no denying the fact that when it comes to pure and precise PR outreach. You can’t beat having the full, extensive resources of a big PR company handling your needs, with multiple people on the account with the very best (and flipping expensive) PR software and tools at your brand’s disposal. Does it cost more? Quiet possibly, I really have no idea about that side of things as I’m just a hack. But is it also priceless? Without a doubt.
9. A Good Influence
I’ve rambled on a lot about journalists, editors and publications here, but there is also another modern-day key element to promoting product and, indeed, boosting your brand: social media influence. This is an online arena populated by beautiful people with immaculate tans and impossibly white teeth that, as a broken middle-aged man, I find difficult to comprehend. However, I do understand the power they possess when it comes to pushing products. Reaching and appealing to influencers is imperative in these digital days and, again, this is where professional PR agencies outperform other options. By taking the time to understand the individual and working out countless ways to make your product(s) appeal to them, whilst gently dealing with the growing army of self-entitled numpties claiming to be influencers, this is a task best left to people with the patience and understanding to handle it daily.
10. Insider Knowledge
As I alluded to above, quite a few PR people are former journalists and editors themselves; and while that may not seem important, it does mean they’ve seen the system from both sides. These ex-hacks are experientially imbued with the knowledge of what makes for good PR and, vitally, how to avoid doing the things that turn journos and editors into frothing volcanoes of incandescent irritability (social media influencers only froth artisan coffee), which is an incredibly powerful weapon in the arsenal of public relations. I’m not saying it’s essential to have ex-journalists helping perform your PR, but nobody understands the weird breed that is the press better than those who walked amongst them.
Do You Actually Need PR?
You may think I should have led with this question, but that would have been tediously predictable and – if you’ve read this far – would have left nothing to reinforce my point at the end. You see, you can spaff all the money in the world up the wall of advertising, but unless it reaches the right eyes, it’s not going to convert to sales. PR, good PR, precision targets the right journalists, publications and social influencers to carry the message of just how marvellous your products are direct to your market and audience.
Thanks to Google, all that lovely editorial coverage is as sticky as hell, popping up in searches for years and years. PR companies have both the tools and the talent to do all this on your behalf. So, the answer to the question of ‘do you need PR?’ is emphatic: if you wish your brand to succeed, yes.
Looking to boost your brand’s profile with the media? Contact the team today on email@example.com
Stuart Pritchard Bio:
Stuart started out in journalism in an era when getting a press release electronically meant a fax, and accompanying images came in the post as transparencies. His editorial career spans a wealth of business trade magazines, many of which appearing as guest publications on Have I Got News For You, and consumer titles covering everything from craft beer and headphones, to million-dollar home cinemas and luxury yachts. Witty, erudite but still lacking a luxury yacht of his own, Stuart juggles family duties and creating cocktails Tom Cruise style in some of Colchester’s finest bars, with journalism, contract editing and content copywriting for brands.
Stuart Pritchard: firstname.lastname@example.org