Residential Lighting: Why is public relations so important?
Bill Stoller: One mystery about public relations is the difference between it and advertising. In advertising, you write the copy, select when and where it’s going to be placed and pay for the ad. You know exactly how and when it’s going to appear. But so do all readers and viewers. They know it’s not real—it’s canned.
On the other hand, public relations has many of those advantages but also has someone else’s direct endorsement. A publication has decided that you are newsworthy. That has a deep impact on the consumer. And newspapers, radio stations and TV stations are dying for stories—particularly about local businesses.
RL: How do we get started?
BS: The first step is to learn. Most public relations firms charge a minimum of $3,000 a month; small businesses can use that money in other ways. So, my advice is to learn PR for yourself.
RL: What are some pitfalls to avoid?
BS: If you spend all day eating, breathing and sleeping lighting, it’s very easy to start believing that any slight change you made in some type of lighting is on par with the printing press and the polio vaccine. The guys at USA Today may hold a difference of opinion. So, step back and view your company as any marginally interested outsider might. Ask friends, family and outsiders to help. Don’t think like an advertiser. Blatant ad copy, excessive use of trademark symbols, puffed up claims and other techniques that are suited for advertising are sure ways to get your press release trashed. Instead, think like an objective journalist. It’s best to start with small publications, local radio stations and weekly newspapers.
RL: What should we say? How do we word things?
BS: There is a place on my Web site with sample press releases that professionals have written. I also recommend Google News (www.news.google.com). Type in “lighting” or “residential lighting” and see what news is out there. Then just replicate the same thing—only do it in your own community. Google News even has an alerts feature, so that anytime news with certain key words comes up, you receive an e-mail. If you set “residential lighting” in the system, then no matter where an article appears—The New York Times or the Tuscaloosa News—you will know about the story. You can then take the angle and use it to reach local papers.
RL: Can we really do this?
BS: Public relations is the most cost-effective marketing tool out there. The rewards far exceed the time, the effort and the expense of running ads. Try it out locally. It will take your business to a level beyond advertising. Of course, advertising is great, and it works. But it is expensive and doesn’t have as much credibility as publicity which, by the way, is almost free.
Bill Stoller is Editor and Publisher of Free Publicity—The Newsletter for PR Hungry Businesses, which is available at www.PublicityInsider.com.
NEWS OR HYPE?
Five questions to ask before pitching your story to the press:
• What makes our business different from the competition?
• Are we selling anything new, exciting or out-of-the-ordinary?
• Have we solved a problem, identified a trend or become the first in the area to offer the latest technology or styles?
• Does our company employ a “colorful character”—someone the media will love?
• Are we involved in any special community projects?
Source: Bill Stoller, PublicityInsider.com