Public Relations For Dummies book cover

Public Relations For Dummies

By: Eric Yaverbaum and Robert W. Bly Published: 05-30-2006

Proven techniques that maximize media exposure for your business


A seasoned PR pro shows you how to get people talking

When it comes to public relations, nothing beats good word of mouth. Want to get customers talking? This friendly guide combines the best practical tools with insight and flair to provide guidance on every aspect of PR, so you can launch a full-throttle campaign that'll generate buzz -- and build your bottom line.

Discover how to
* Map a winning PR strategy
* Grab attention with press releases, interviews, and events
* Cultivate good media relations
* Get print, TV, radio, and Internet coverage
* Manage a PR crisis

Articles From Public Relations For Dummies

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16 results
16 results
Public Relations For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 03-25-2022

To get people talking about you, your company, or your product, you need to develop a good public relations (PR) plan. Applying some PR fundamentals, knowing how to deal with the media, getting your press release to stand out and your blog noticed are all key steps in your public relations campaign.

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Getting the Most Out of Your PR Hired Help

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

You've looked at your checkbook, looked with dismay at your current promotion campaign, and made a major decision: You want your promotions to be first class, and you've decided to get professional help — an advertising agency, a PR firm, a freelancer, or a graphic design studio. Here are some helpful hints for getting the best work out of your outside supplier with the least amount of trouble: Brief your agency. The more your PR firm or advertising agency knows about your product, your company, and your markets, the better. Tell your agency what makes your product unique. Explain its advantages over the competition's products. Explain your marketing strategy. Provide background material in the form of current ads and press releases, brochures, articles on your industry, and market-research reports. The best clients prepare comprehensive agency briefings in writing. If you use separate agencies for advertising and PR, brief them both at the same input meeting. Doing so further helps ensure integration between your advertising and PR campaigns. It also saves you from having to present the same background briefing twice. Do not compete with your agency in the creative area. You certainly can disapprove of the brochure copy or the press kit that your agency turns in. Make helpful criticisms and turn it back for a revision. But don't tell outside talent how to do the job. If you can write better than the writer and take better pictures than the photographer, fire them and do the work yourself. Don't strain your promotions through many layers of approval. You, and possibly your business partner, should approve or disapprove the work that the outside agency submits. But don't look for approval from your purchasing agent, your accountant, your cashier, and your mother-in-law. Too many levels of approval muddy clear writing and water down the impact of the message. Worse, they dampen the creative spirit of your writers or artists so that the next thing they do will be mediocre enough to get your company's instant approval. Be reasonable about paying. Making a good profit in PR or advertising is difficult, and many agencies and freelancers have gone out of business waiting for late payments from their clients. Be fair to your agencies and freelancers and pay them promptly. By all means, watch expenses carefully, and don't pay for something you never asked for in the first place. On the other hand, too much haggling over money can cause your outside professionals to put forth less effort on your account. You will get a competent promotion, but not a great one. That said, when you hire a PR agency to work with you, it's essential that you stay in charge of the process. If the agency is making the decisions, it's akin to the tail wagging the dog. Your practitioner is there for advice (and you should hire someone who will give you the best advice), but you are the one who knows your company best. You are the one with daily and one-on-one contact with your customers. That's why you must be the ultimate decision-maker when it comes to how you implement your PR campaign. Create a budget. Before talking to an agency, know what you can afford to spend on PR. Your budget will depend on where you are in your business cycle. A mature business will have different needs from those of a new business. In a major corporation, the PR budget will be 5 to 10 percent of the entire marketing budget. You must determine the parameters before you speak to an agency or a PR practitioner. Set sensible expectations. This is the number-one key component in establishing a successful, long-term relationship and must happen from the beginning. The most realistic expectation is that the process takes time. Steer clear of any agency that promises to get you on Oprah next month. Create communication documents with time lines that spell out what will happen — not just the tactics but, for example, every little task that goes into writing a press release and getting it out to the press. Assign every item to a person so you see who's doing what and when it's due. Update these documents weekly, adding new assignments, checking off what's finished, and using red flags to indicate where you're late. Understand who does what from the beginning. Hiring a PR firm doesn't make your work easier. If you want PR to work, you have to keep in mind that it is a partnership and will require a commitment of your time. You need to know how PR works (reading this book is a good start, of course). Typical tasks you should expect to do include talking to the press, taking incoming calls, sending product samples to the press, and so on. Establish and maintain direction in the process. Set up a weekly conference call to review the weekly update so you see exactly what goes on. The decision-makers for your company need to be on the call, so schedule the conference call around them, if necessary.

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Debunking a Few Myths about PR

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

It's ironic: One purpose of PR is to get good press and avoid bad press, but PR itself has had pretty bad press over the years. The public image of PR has been produced in part by corporate flacks who made their living covering up toxic spills and oil leaks; by hucksters hovering around Paris Hilton or P. Diddy; and by Hollywood operatives keeping drug-addicted movie stars' rehab schedules out of the papers. Your first step toward becoming a successful PR practitioner is to separate myth from reality. Here are some of the common misconceptions about public relations. Press releases don't work anymore Reality: Press releases do work, and they are often the most cost-effective and least time-consuming form of PR. No PR tool is simpler to use or as effective as a basic, well-written, short press release based on a strong hook or angle. Press releases still work. They work well. They're easy to produce and inexpensive to distribute. "Legitimate" media snub PR Reality: Much of the "news" you read in the newspaper, hear on the radio, and see on TV has its origins in PR materials sent to the media by organizations and corporations looking to promote their causes, products, or services. Virtually any media outlet you're seeking publicity from can be swayed to give you some coverage, provided that your materials are on target and you can offer or create a story of genuine interest to an audience. Editors want to be wined and dined Reality: Editors don't have time to be wined and dined. This is an extension of the myth that close personal contact with media people is necessary to getting media coverage. Most editors prefer to keep PR sources, even good ones, at arm's length. They prefer to receive story ideas and proposals in a letter or press release rather than have the details transmitted in a lengthy conversation. Most editors and producers are print oriented and so prefer written communication; if they have questions, they'll ask. If a conversation is necessary, they'd rather it be five minutes over the telephone than a two-hour lunch. Snail mail is awful; overnight delivery services and fax work great Reality: A simple one- or two-page press release, sent to editors via first-class mail, is just as effective as fax or overnight delivery services, such as Federal Express, UPS, or DHL — and much, much cheaper. As for electronic submission, some magazines do welcome longer feature material sent on a CD or via the Internet, but the standard format is still a printed manuscript, and this is accepted by 99.99 percent of the magazines in the United States. If you can provide a computer file, go ahead. But it isn't necessary, and it usually won't increase your chances of acceptance. Every fact reported in the media is checked and verified Reality: Most PR materials are picked up and run with almost no verification of any kind. Newspapers and broadcast stations simply don't have enough people to check every fact. Editors and producers tend to run PR materials pretty much as is; if they edit, it's usually for style, grammar, and space limitations, not to add or verify factual content. Getting publicity is a matter of luck and timing Reality: Chance favors the prepared mind, and timing can be controlled. People who are unsuccessful at public relations (or anything else, for that matter) often view those who are successful with suspicion and cynicism. "Oh, they're lucky," claims the executive at one company who sees a favorable story about his competitor in an important industry journal. "They must have contacted this staff writer with the right story at the right time." In public relations, marketing, promotion, new product introductions, and selling, timing is critical: You succeed largely because you reach your media contact, target market, or prospect at just the right time. It doesn't take a lot of time Public relations that get results requires an investment of time, no matter how much money is involved. You don't write a press release and see it in the paper the next morning. Lots of time is spent writing (even if you're a great writer), developing appropriate media lists, and most important, doing follow-up phone calls before anything actually hits the press. If you're sending out a thousand press releases, you should be making a thousand calls. Spending that time is how you get the best results. The more time you put in, the more you get out of it.

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Designing a Media-Friendly Web Site

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Everybody knows it makes sense to be customer driven when designing a Web site, especially if you're doing business online. For a company doing PR, an important application of technology on the Web is the virtual pressroom — the section of a company's Web site designed specifically for use by the media. The top three things journalists want to find quickly when they visit a site are deep financial information (for public companies), a file of historic press releases, and readily available contact information (e-mail, phone, address). Company background/history Often lumped under a section titled "All About XYZ Company," this information may sometimes include so many different pieces of information that you should consider making it a separate section. Here are some types of information you can include: What the company does Mission statement Industries/applications Philosophy Founders and an explanation of how the company got started Historical markers and milestones Philanthropic events and charity sponsorships Anotherkey piece of information you can offer is a list of customers. Case histories or customer success stories are also valuable. If part of what you offer new clients is confidentiality, posting a list of customers and the projects you performed for them violates that confidentiality. Be sure to get permission from all customers you list on your site; then note on the site that all customers listed have given their permission. Key management Read business articles and you notice that journalists like to give descriptions of key players of the companies they're writing about. So, make executive bios available to journalists on your Web site. Be sure to provide Where managers hail from Individual biographies/background Responsibilities Contact information Links to their e-mail addresses It's amazing how many companies hide contact information. A high percentage of sites have addresses and phone numbers on their sites, but most are almost impossible to find. Journalists need this type of basic information. Always have an e-mail and phone number available for the PR director or whoever is the company's main contact for the press. You can also list key personnel, but be warned: Web sites are a ripe source of information for headhunters who want to steal your employees. So if recruiters are actively raiding companies for people, you may opt not to list your personnel on your site. Press release archive Archiving all of a company's press releases for online retrieval on a Web site has become common practice. On larger corporate Web sites, some search engines give the visitor the option of excluding press releases from the documents being searched by keyword — otherwise, the results would be overwhelming. If you decide to offer a press release archive online, include these parts: Chronological listing (most recent first) of release announcements, including the date of the release followed by the title Downloadable photos of your products E-mail link and phone number of your PR manager or main media liaison E-mail hot links to press contacts, resources, or quoted sources, when applicable, within the body copy Financial information More and more publicly traded companies are making their financial data available online. At a minimum, you should include Key current financial data for the year and by quarter (taken from annual and quarterly reports) Historic financial information An added bonus, especially for financial reports and stock analysts, is charts backed up with Excel spreadsheets showing the financial history of the company. Increasingly, larger public companies are putting both their annual reports and their proxy statements online. Be aware of how your print document translates for the Web. Product/service catalog Customers and prospects come to your Web site for product information, so there should already be plenty of it for journalists to reference. The product information available to the media on your site should include the following: Product or service descriptions and specifications Up-to-date pricing and availability Mini product photos you can click on for larger views and more information Article/white paper library The coverage you receive from major media helps establish credibility with other media and makes them more comfortable in running your story. Therefore, your Web site should give journalists access to press clippings and other evidence of the major media coverage you've already received. You should Include HTML or PDF color images of the covers of major magazines where your company has been featured in a cover story. Provide links to these articles if they're posted online at the publications' Web sites. Provide links to the e-mail addresses of the authors of those articles. Trade show list Journalists want to know where you'll be and the industry events where you'll be speaking or exhibiting. Your Web site is an ideal place to post Shows that the company attends, promotes, or sponsors Links to releases associated with shows Links to specific trade show sites or sponsor sites An option to schedule a booth visit Locations/facility information In the cyberspace age, you can easily forget that people want you to have a physical presence, not just megabytes of text and images on a server. Be sure to include Maps to headquarters and major regional facilities, including sales offices Links to an online map source (such as MapQuest, Yahoo! Maps, or Google Local) for more detailed directions Site capabilities (what is manufactured there or major activities/services) Number of employees at each facility Links to e-mail addresses of facility managers or key authorities for each site

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Uncovering the Many Components of Public Relations

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Public relations is more than just pitching stories to the media or mailing out press releases. The PR umbrella covers a number of related activities, all of which are concerned with communicating specific messages to specific target audiences. If you're the PR person at ABC Enterprises, you're responsible for managing communications between your company and your public. The label public relations typically encompasses the following: Research: You have to thoroughly understand not only your company but also your customers and potential customers. What do you offer that is unique or special? What are customers looking for? And how well do you fill those needs? Market research and an internal company audit are the starting points of successful PR campaigns. Strategic planning: Define each target audience, your marketing objectives for that group, and the messages you must communicate in support of those marketing objectives. Publicity: For most small businesses, the central public relations activity is publicity — getting visibility for your products, the company, and the owners in print and broadcast media. You can think of publicity as management and placement of information in the media for the purpose of protecting and enhancing a brand or reputation. Simply put, this means getting ink and airtime. Community relations: You probably see examples every day. Here's one that's been repeated in several different locations: Local citizens protest a big retail chain that wants to build a store in their town, because the new construction would wipe out a popular wooded area. That chain has a community relations problem in that town, and the PR professional's job is to find a favorable solution that will get the store built while preserving the store's goodwill with the citizens. Government relations: Community relations often involves relations with the local government, and PR people are often called upon to help companies improve their relationships with local, state, federal, and even foreign governments. Internal relations: Employees are the internal audience. When the unemployment rate is low, good employees are hard to find, and a good public relations program job can help improve loyalty and retain more of them. Investor relations: With the incredible stock market volatility of 2000, or more recently, the events of September 11, 2001, and the hurricanes in 2005, citizens have seen how emotion and public perception have the power to send stock prices soaring or plummeting. Investor relations is the aspect of PR that communicates the company story to stock analysts and other financial professionals. Stakeholder relations: A stakeholder is anyone or any organization that holds a stake in how well your company performs. A key vendor is a stakeholder; rumors that you are financially shaky may cause them to restrict your credit terms. Other key stakeholders can include top consultants, board members, your bank, suppliers, sales representatives, distributors, and industry gurus. Charitable causes: When a company gives to charity, it wants to help the cause, but it also wants to be recognized for its contribution. PR specialists can help you get maximum publicity and goodwill from the time, effort, and funds you donate. Communications training: In large corporations, PR specialists may spend a lot of time coaching senior executives in dealing with the media and other communications skills. The specialists may also advise the executives on strategy for day-to-day PR as well as PR crises.

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How to Design Creative Public Relations Promotions

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

You need to promote your public relations plan, which requires some creativity. Make your public-relations promotion tactics as creative, sharp, original, and engaging as possible with these tips: The media is looking for news. News, by definition, is anything that is new, different, and creative. The most successful PR ideas aren’t totally unique. They may be just old ideas with a new creative slant, so don’t beat yourself up if you’re stumped for something new. Don’t lose sight of who you’re creating publicity for. If you want your publicity to work, you must design your campaign from the public’s point of view, not your own. Use the radio-show test. Call-in radio shows need stories that are informative and induce the audience to strike up an interaction with the issue at hand. So if your campaign works for them, it will work for all media. Tie into hot news stories. Whenever a big news event hits, you can always find coordinated support stories to use for your own publicity. Tie into seasons or holidays. Try making up promotions that are appropriate for certain holidays. If you do it in a creative way, you’re almost guaranteed success. Tie into an emotion. Your promotion usually works if you can make the media laugh, cry, or even feel anger. Research your media. If you want to get into a certain column of the newspaper or on a specific TV program, read it or watch it every day and pay attention to the types of stories the journalists like to do. Next, fit your news item into that medium. Take stock of your assets when going after the media. Never lose sight of how your product or business can be manipulated to move the public and get the attention of the media. Use swaps to grab attention. A campaign that involves some sort of exchange is a popular, effective way to get publicity. Long before urban areas began sponsoring days during which people could turn in guns for cash, there were successful guns-for-sneakers campaigns. The media is very high on swaps these days, but as they become more common, the swap must become more creative and innovative.

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Choosing a Public Relations Firm for Your Business

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Turn to public relations agencies when you want to get coverage of your business in the media. Public relations firms are public relations specialists. Use a public relations agency if Effective PR is crucial to your success and you can afford the going rates. Your company is marketing-oriented. You want fresh thinking, outside objectivity, and a more creative approach to PR. You need help planning promotions, introducing new products, and selecting target markets. Don’t hire an agency Because you’re trying to cut costs. Because you think you don’t have time to do it yourself. When you hire an agency, you’re hiring creativity coupled with PR expertise — and not just another pair of hands. If you’re certain that only you know the best way to promote your business. These tips can help you select the PR firm that can best serve your company: Find a PR agency with expertise in your area. By choosing an agency that already has some experience in your industry, you save yourself the costly and time-consuming process of educating its staff from scratch. Don't hire an agency with more capabilities than you need. To save money without sacrificing service or quality, select an agency that offers only those communications services you need. Make sure that the agency is the right size for you. Make sure that your agency is small enough to consider your account profitable and worth its best efforts, yet large enough to have the resources to get the job done. Ask to see the agency’s work. Examine a prospective agency’s portfolio of press clippings and client case studies. Get the names of some current and past clients and talk with those clients. Find out what the PR agency did for them and whether the results were worth the fees. Ask the PR agency for the names of two or three clients who fired them. Find out why the PR firm was fired. If it was for lack of results, that’s bad. If it’s because the PR firm’s ideas were too daring and the client was afraid to try them, maybe you’re more daring and won’t be so afraid. Make sure that the agency is sympathetic with the needs of small business. Explain to prospective agencies that your money is limited and your goal is to create PR campaigns that increase sales. Check the personal chemistry. If you don’t like the people who will be working on your account, or if you sense they don’t like you, look for another PR firm; it’s not a good fit. Be clear about fees. Have the firm spell out what they'll do and the level or degree of activity you can expect for your investment. Don't rush it: Meet with at least three different public relations agencies so that you can see the different perspectives from which they approach PR in general, and your business problems in particular.

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Your Business's Public Relations Components

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The public relations (PR) umbrella at your business covers a number of related activities. All these public relations activities are concerned with communicating specific messages to specific target audiences: Research: You have to thoroughly understand not only your business but also your customers and potential customers. What do you offer that is unique or special? What are customers looking for? And how well do you fill those needs? Strategic planning: Define each target audience, your marketing objectives for that group, and the messages you must communicate in support of those marketing objectives. Publicity: For most small businesses, the central public relations activity is publicity — getting visibility for your products, the company, and the owners in print and broadcast media. Community relations: Public relations in a community means furthering your business goals while maintaining a positive relationship with the people and organizations in which your business operates. Government relations: Your public relations can often help your business improve its relationships with local, state, federal, and even foreign governments. Internal relations: Employees are the internal audience. A good public relations program can help improve loyalty and retain your employees. Investor relations: The aspect of PR that communicates your business's story to stock analysts and other financial professionals. Stakeholder relations: A stakeholder is anyone or any organization that holds a stake in how well your business performs. Charitable causes: When a business gives to charity, it wants to help the cause, but it also wants to be recognized for its contribution. Communications training: You need to make sure you know how to deal with the media, as well as cultivating other communications skills.

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How to Track and Measure Buzz about Your Business

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The impact of buzz marketing is very hard to measure. Agencies that specialize in generating buzz create ads just for viral marketing. These viral-marketing experts start the process and track it wherever it goes. There are all sorts of “buzz-meters” that claim to measure buzz by, for example, searching for the popularity of certain words and brands in selected blogs over time. But even companies that consciously do buzz marketing don’t necessarily know how buzz works. Word of mouth is hard to track or measure. After all, most conversations are private and ephemeral. Nobody keeps a record. You can measure buzz in a few ways: Sales: The most obvious measure is an increase in sales. It probably has something to do with the buzz you’ve generated. Impressions: If you’re using viral marketing techniques, you can measure the number of hits to a Web site or click-throughs on a link in an e-mail message. Plus, things that are hot get picked up by blogs, magazines, and Web sites, so your press coverage will increase if you get the buzz going. Word of mouth: This is more difficult to measure than sales or impressions, but you can do research after an event or stunt to find out how attendees heard about it. If there is an online component to your campaign, you can ask that question before granting access to a Web site.

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How to Create a Public Relations Plan

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

When you’re putting together a PR Plan, before you get too broad, you have to be specific. There are some really important things to establish to make sure you’re dealing with reality. First is the budget. You can write an incredible plan to sell a million widgets if your client has millions of dollars, but usually they don’t. The most important thing to know is how much money you’ll have available. Not all tactics are expensive, and when you don’t have money, you spend time. But it’s essential to know the limit at the beginning. Most PR Plans follow the same basic format: Overview An executive summary of the marketing challenge you’re facing that the PR campaign is designed to help you meet. Goals What you want the PR campaign to achieve for your firm. Strategies The methods by which you will achieve your goals. Target audiences The types of people you want to reach. Key target media The specific publications and programs toward which you will direct your PR efforts. Recommendations Which PR tactics you will use; other ideas you have; and the theme, hook, or angle for each tactic. Next steps An action plan for who does what and when. Check out this sample plan for Public Relations For Dummies, 2nd Edition: Overview: To create mass media exposure for yet another how-to business book, with a distinct challenge: to get the press to write about how to get press. Goals: As a result of mass media exposure, this book becomes a bestseller. Strategies: Add a creative and newsworthy element to the book, which adds an enticing reason for journalists to cover it, beyond the value of the content. Target audiences: Primary audience: entrepreneurs and owners of small and mid-size businesses who want to incorporate public relations into a marketing program. Secondary audience: experienced PR professionals who have a continuing desire to look at PR in different ways. Key target media: Lifestyle and business print publications, radio talk shows, morning TV talk shows, television and radio news. Recommendations: Hide a clue within this book. The first person to find the clue gets a prize: an opportunity to pick the author's brain for one hour. The clue is a cell phone number in the 917 area code. Send book to reviewers at major publications with personal notes from author Eric Yaverbaum. Look for a breaking story for which the press would be interested in the opinion of a PR expert and approach as “author of Public Relations for Dummies, 2nd Edition.” Next steps: Assign a writer to write press materials. Clear creative concept with publisher. Creative brainstorm to determine logistics of stunt: how to hide clue, deliver prize, and so on. Develop targeted media lists. Set up initial call with publicity department at publishing house to clearly establish who’s doing what.

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