The main reason that some people take opportunities when they arise, and others do not, is that some people are ready.
They have their Business Plan ready and all they need to do is take advantage of the opportunities.
Where can you find the right Business Plan?
If your Business is based in the United States - click here
If your Business is based in the U.K. - click here
A Public Relations Perspective
Everyone starts a public relations plan with the best intentions. When PR fails, maybe the process isn’t the problem. Before hiring a PR firm or starting your own campaign, you must understand what is news. No exceptions. Without this knowledge, you are wasting your time. So here’s the secret: there are only two ways to make news:
Create a story
Follow a story.
If you are an entrepreneur, a PR professional working for a client, or an employee promoting your firm, there are only two methods. Of course, the two avenues are extremely wide. There are dozens of lanes taking you there. This is of vital importance to anyone who wants to understand, execute and exploit the power of public relations. Before answering your client or boss who orders you to “Get me on the front page of the New York Times!” it’s best to understand, or to explain, how PR and news work together.
First, What is News? That’s the key. Getting a story in a publication because you want it there, or your boss demands it, doesn’t matter. Remember, journalists, speakers, bloggers and other influencers are not stenographers. They will ask you “What’s in it for Me and my audience?” In other words, use my previous checklist and pretend you are on the receiving end. Answer this:
What’s the story? Why should I care? Why should I care NOW? In other words, What is News?
The Media College website lists the criteria for news:
- Is it new?
- Is it unusual?
- Is it interesting or significant?
- Is it about people?
If you’ve ever been passionate about an issue or a campaign, then you’ve also disagreed—passionately—with how that issue was (or wasn’t) handled by reporters. It’s tempting to simply throw up your arms and blame it all on the sorry state of the media. But there are two sides to every story, and active citizens must school themselves on how to attract attention, and never, ever forfeit the power of the press.
Have a clear message.
Decide what you are calling for and keep repeating it clearly and concisely. Don’t dilute strong arguments by going off on tangents or harping on trivialities. Relate your cause to everyday concerns. For example, if you’re campaigning for ethical investment, point out that it is financially viable and has a positive effect on the world. If you speak calmly and appeal to common understandings, radical ideas can appear not only sensible but even obvious.
Make media a priority.
Effective campaigning means making media engagement a priority. I have often seen activists organize an event and then think about promoting it to the media. Put media at the center of your planning from the beginning.
Something is news only if it is new. Discussions of opinions are not news—but you can make them news. When the University of London Union campaigned on fair trade, they couldn’t make headlines simply by repeating its benefits. But by conducting a survey that showed that London students were among Britain’s most enthusiastic fair trade buyers, they made a good news story. Don’t forget to be imaginative!
Watch your timing.
If you are aiming for a weekly paper that goes to print on Tuesday afternoon, don’t hold an event on Tuesday evening. Be where journalists are, both literally and metaphorically. It’s difficult to get journalists to come to a protest outside a company’s offices, but if you demonstrate outside the company’s big annual meeting, business correspondents will already be there. Contact them in advance and there’s a good chance they’ll come over to speak with you.
Talk to journalists.
It sounds obvious, but it is often overlooked. Issue a news release when you act or respond to events, but don’t rely on the release alone. Get on the phone with the journalists who have received it. Be concise and brace yourself for disappointments—most of them will not be interested. But chances are you will find someone who wants to know more eventually.
Go back to journalists every time you have a story, especially those who seemed interested earlier. If you’re concise and reliable, and give them good stories, they will soon be phoning you for comments. When this happens, make sure that someone is available. A good relationship with a few journalists is worth a thousand press releases.
Choose the right media.
Who are you trying to influence? If you’re aiming to shift local public opinion, the local press is, of course, vital. When the student group People and Planet launched their Green Education Declaration, they targeted specialist education media. The news was read by fewer people than if it had been in mainstream media, but that audience included the decision makers whom the initiative was targeting.
Keep it human.
A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic. For example, Disarm UCL is a group of students campaigning for an end to their university’s arms investments. They discovered that a University College London graduate named Richard Wilson had written a book about his sister’s death as a result of the arms trade. By involving Wilson in their campaign, they made the story more human and made it harder for their opponents to dismiss them as inexperienced and unrealistic.
Make it visual.
A good image can make or break your chances of coverage. Photo stunts should be original and meaningful but not too complicated. A great example is students who dressed in military jackets and mortarboards to illustrate military influence on universities. With photos of protests, be careful about the background. I’m amazed how often people protest outside a shop or company without ensuring that the company’s name is visible in shots of the demonstration. Specialist media will often use photos provided by campaigners, so it’s worth finding someone who’s good with a camera.
Media liaison is hard work, especially when you are new to it. But don’t give up! The more you do, the more contacts you will acquire and the more coverage you will get. Keep your press releases and your phone calls regular. It will all be worth it when you see the coverage making a difference to your campaign.
Writing a press release can be a delicate matter. The PR person who must pitch the release wants to have a say in what is included in the release. The people quoted in the release, often high-level executives, want to make sure they sound professional and intelligent. Partners mentioned in a press release want to ensure that their image remains intact. Writing a press release can take days and dozens of drafts, so the question must be asked, who should write your press releases?
In a perfect world a PR person will work with everyone involved to get a press release to the point where it's ready to be unleashed on the world. But not every company has a trained PR professional at their disposal, and not every PR person is a good writer. I know PR people who can use the written word in a way that would make Hemingway blush, but their verbal skills would make even a child laugh. And there are the people who have silver tongues and are all thumbs when it comes to writing.
A press release is the media's window to your company's world, so it makes sense that whoever is tasked with writing it knows what they're doing. There are many solutions available to solve this problem:
- A press release writing service
- A technical writer
- A professional journalist
- Someone on staff who can write
This is not a good time to be a professional journalist. Newspapers and magazines aren't hiring much and the dotcom downturn has left many good journalists without jobs. So now is a good time to get a professional journalist to turn to the "dark side." There are plenty of journalists who moonlight by writing press releases and marketing material, usually for companies they normally wouldn't cover as part of their duties. Poke around Internet job boards to find someone with a solid journalism background who can churn high-quality press releases on the cheap while the getting isn't so good in their profession. Technical writers fall into this category also. Many writers make a career for themselves by simply writing press releases, marketing material or inter-office corporate communications material.
A press release writing service (like http://eReleases.com) combines the above two elements because they normally employ journalists and technical writers. Usually for a flat-fee you'll get a professional writer taking over the reigns of your press release, which should guarantee that the release will be well-written, accurate and enticing.
As always, there are a number of factors to take into consideration when writing a press release. What do you hope to accomplish with the release? How timely is the release? What type of follow-up will there be on the release? What will your partners let you say in the release?
When you have a skilled writer handling the release you'll be able alleviate at least one major concern.
A Great Business did not just happen - It was planned that way.