Increase Your Sales 300% With Public Relations

Many small business owners with whom I talk simply don’t see the need for public relations – much less the need to hire an agency to represent them. I often hear small business owners say “I don’t need you, I write my own press releases!” That’s great, but if you consider “public relations” to just be writing a press release then you are probably missing 90% of the value.

The fact is, almost any small business can receive a positive return on investment if they manage their expectations and budget accordingly. Unlike advertising, you can’t dictate where, when, what and how often your message will be delivered. Public Relations is many things, but it is NOT “Free Ads.” Instead, one should view it as the ultimate “word of mouth.” Instead of one happy customer telling 10 of her friends, today’s Internet media can reach MILLIONS of people in a single day!

This is a great thing if you have confidence in your brand and patience with reporters who may have never heard of you, your company, products or even your new business concept. Ultimately, if you can sell the idea to an individual reporter he will talk about it – to his readers, co-workers and his friends at the TV station on the other side of town.

The long term benefits of public relations are what really create value. Unlike advertising, public relations campaigns aren’t always powerful immediately, nor do its effects fade once the campaign is over. Good press will last for months and years. It will also help defend your company from negative things that may come up. Additionally, positive press and public image can also generate increased awareness, leading to even more coverage … without you even lifting a finger!

For example, if you put a banner advertisement on a site that features a review of your competitor’s product, your message is delivered and that’s great. But what about two weeks or six months later when that advertising campaign is over? Your competitor’s review is still there … building value for their brand.

In fact, with today’s search engines, that review may actually become more powerful as people begin to link to it and treat it as an authority!

Last fall I created a campaign suggesting that as people upgraded their Xbox game consoles to the Xbox 360 that they might find a new home for their old console inside an arcade cabinet kit from Dream Arcades ([http://www.prweb.com/releases/2005/11/prweb310903.php]). The results from this campaign are a perfect example of the power of public relations.

The news that their controls would work with Xbox was old – everyone in the enthusiast community already knew that – but people that read Maxim, Stuff, New York Times, NBC … even ESPN didn’t!

They all loved this pitch. It was timely, well crafted and most importantly, it stood-out from the thousands of “Coming soon, an even better Xbox!” articles that everyone was obliged to write.

As a result, traffic to DreamArcades.com exploded – and so did their orders!

You are probably thinking that sounds like the end, but in reality this was the beginning. The wonderful thing about public relations campaigns vs. advertising campaigns is that the impact just keeps growing … if you are able to keep feeding it.

A few weeks later I got a call from PlayBoy. They had heard about Dream Arcades and now wanted to feature it in their April 2006 feature “PlayBoy’s Ultimate Gameroom.” With nearly 2 million paid subscribers and who knows how many total readers, this is a MASSIVE achievement. If I had simply called them and pitched cold I would never have made it past the call screener. Instead, I had an editor CALL ME!

That article – and the media preceding it allowed Dream Arcades to increase the price of their products, while at the same time increasing their sales volume. The PlayBoy feature alone resulted in a sales increase of more than 250% and remains at a much higher level than it was prior to that.

The lesson that is important to draw from this is that sometimes PR takes months to generate dividends but when it does, it pays off dramatically. For the example above, the story began in Sept. 2005 and the feature came out in Feb. 2006 – five months later.

So what can a business owner do and, if she should hire someone, what should they help her with?

Anyone with time to spend, the ability to write clearly and speak English well can:

1. Write a press release

2. Write a letter to the editor of their local papers and trade media

3. Answer the phone when a reporter calls

4. Quickly and concisely provide the information the reporter needs.

Additionally, with access to the internet, most people can also research the contact info for national and regional media. Or they can use a service like PR Web to quickly, cheaply and easily send out a press release.

So why do you need a public relations agency if you can write a press release and talk to the media all by yourself?

The answer is simple; because a professional can usually do it better – generating more positive results quicker, with less mistakes.

A public relations agent can:

1.Provide access to pre-existing contacts, PR tools and media databases.

2.Provide an outside perspective – and the ability to suggest new ways of promoting the company, products, and services. I once had an article in the Financial Times and my boss called me in and demanded to know why I was “wasting my time” with, “some paper he had never heard of!”

3.Work with the business owner to maximize opportunities such as holidays, pop-culture news, or even political events.

4.Construct and polish pitches that are tailored to individual media and reporters.

5.Provide the experience of knowing what will and what won’t work – so that you make less mistakes. Good PR agents have already made and (hopefully) learned from their mistakes!

6.Help when the business owner simply doesn’t have the time to do it herself.

Should a business owner decide to brave the PR world all by herself, there are some quick and easy ways to make reach the public and the media – without spending a lot of money.

Make Friends with Trade Press!

If you are in an industry such as plastics, vending, gaming, dentistry, or even video games, find out who your trade media is. Almost every industry has trade media – websites, magazines, and newsletters. These guys are your friends. Your suppliers and your distributors probably read these. The best part is that if you send updates and news once per month you can build good awareness and even better – experience working with the press … a friendly press.

Make your Website Press Friendly!

You should have a website. Your website should be easy to navigate. Reporters should be able to quickly find a section labeled as “press” or “media.” This section should contain all the information that a reporter would need to cover your company and products.

This at a minimum should include: contacts (phone and email), product brochures, product and company logo images for print and online use, brief company history and accomplishments, press releases and a list of upcoming events.

Let People Know about Your Website!

All of your marketing materials should include a link to your website. This includes emails, business cards, and brochures. Today you can even buy personalized stamps (www.zazzle.com) to make your mail stand out even before it’s opened.

Learn from your Mistakes!

You will make mistakes. Don’t let that bother you. Most media people are very forgiving. Often, they want the story as much as you want to give it to them. Just remember, they are human too.

Talk, Write and Share Your Knowledge!

Write articles for sites such as this one. Hey, it’s free except your time! This creates your own PR. Just like an article written by someone about me; it will last on the internet. If you like my ideas and comments I am sure you will be interested to learn more about who I am and what my company does. This can work for you just as it does for me!

Public Relations – Spread Good News About Your Company

If a company needs to work at regaining its reputation, public relations is the way to do it. Some companies fail because they have not taken advantage of this tool. B2B companies have to contend with many competitors, and PR allows yours to stand out amongst the rest. By using it to expose your company to the public in a positive light, you will make them associate your business and its products and services with good thoughts.

You can affect the public image of your company by using a variety of public relations techniques. Press conferences, direct mail, brochures, press releases, special events, trade shows, and media tours are some examples of common PR methods. When preparing a PR plan you should identify the challenges that your company has to deal with and structure your methods in order to overcome them. This can be done very effectively by a public relations specialist.

B2B businesses who want to establish their own place in the market would be wise to use a PR specialist to do so. They work to make a positive name for your company with the public. They can also fix problems you may have had with bad press in the past.

Public relations is a tool that is quite distinct from sales and marketing, but it has a direct effect on your bottom line. PR efforts take a little time to get started, but they make your company visible to the public and give it a positive reputation. When your B2B business works with other companies, they will already be familiar with your products in services, making marketing and selling much easier on you.

A positive public image is sure to help your company grow. Getting public relations on your side is a great way to make your business more successful.

Sexy – Creating a Stand-Out Online Public Relations Plan (Part 1 of 2)

Some people mistakenly assume that “Public Relations” has only to do with mitigating bad press. However, when we consider the concept of public relations in a broader context, we see the value in developing and implementing an ongoing strategy for handling our company’s public image. All businesses, whether they are sole proprietorships or publicly-held corporations, need to ensure that their public image is consistent, positive and appropriate for their industry. Public relations involve many levels, including the image we present not only to customers, but also to vendors and even employees.

One of the greatest advantages of online PR is that we have a unique opportunity to bypass the traditional media filters used to determine the few stories that make it to the public. Now, with web portals like Yahoo and Google, along with “vertical sites,” which actually pull several websites of common interest together, you can go directly to the media source. The biggest challenge becomes, however, how you ensure that your message rises to the top. After all, people can only identify you as an expert in your field if they know you exist!

The quality of your public relations plan can be the difference between success and failure, but how do we begin, and how do we know how well it’s working? Following are a few simple steps to follow when creating your professional public relations plan:

Step 1 – Hit Your Target: Your business needs to have a public relations plan, just as it has a business plan and a marketing plan. In today’s information-saturated market, sending out a few press releases a year to the local paper doesn’t qualify as a viable PR plan. With the benefit of the Internet, news about your services and achievements can be distributed nationally, and even globally, as well as to local media outlets. Newspapers, ezines, blogs, business and social networking sites all can help you get your message to the public for little or no cost. However, be careful to not waste your time with a shotgun-blast approach to publicity. Taking the time to identify your target markets, and recognizing which media outlets are most likely to connect with that target, can save you time and headaches in the long-term.

Step 2 – Become a Virtual Networking Guru: Online Public Relations involves connecting with people in a personal way that is more effective than advertising alone ever could be.

  • Social Networking sites: Free sites such as MySpace, Friendster, Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo and others allow you to set up a profile, keep it current and get to know other like-minded people.
  • Newsgroups and message boards: Do an Internet search for your type of business. Find out where people are “hanging out” online. Spend your time on the busiest boards for maximum exposure. You have to be ready to invest your time and resources in others too; don’t just advertise. Give advice, seek advice, and get to know your fellow posters, and they’ll come to see you as a valuable business partner.
  • Referral and affiliate programs: Offer tangible incentives to people who bring business your way. It’s good business etiquette to spend as much time thanking and recognizing people as you spend asking them for something. Always recognize when a lead comes from an associate, and make it worth their while to do it again.

Step 3 – Be an expert in your field: Having knowledge that others need makes people come to you, which is always better then you going to them! How do you become an expert? You’ll have to come back next month to find out. Read Part two of Online Public Relations in the April Issue.