9 PR Best Practices for Non-PR Specialists

By: Dena Lorenzi

Are you a newly promoted marketing executive tasked with public relations responsibilities? Or the CEO of a new startup that needs positive press to help grow brand awareness (and sales)?

The traditional boundaries between PR, social media, lead generation and corporate communications have blurred in today’s era of YouTube, blogs and citizen journalists. Along with the growth of these new media outlets, more non-PR professionals are being asked to handle public relations for their companies.

PR is an essential part of marketing, yet if you’ve never approached or worked with a journalist before, the PR role can be intimidating. Where do you start? Who do you reach out to? How do you “pitch” your story to a reporter? How do you build a smart and strategic PR strategy that helps you dominate a niche in the media landscape?

In today’s ultracompetitive environment, a PR-savvy executive is an enormous asset to a company.

According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), “public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” In short, the PR person promotes the image of the company to the public to generate positive press coverage.

The stakes are high when communicating and — hopefully — controlling the messages that tell your story. Good PR provides legitimacy for a business, but negative PR can erode a brand — and that distinction can be especially important for a small business that may not have a lot of brand awareness.

PR isn’t easy. And yes, hiring the right outside PR consultant or agency partner can help you get press more quickly. However, not everyone can afford to hire an outside PR person.

As a marketing executive, I can tell you that it’s possible to get the PR job done successfully with or without the assistance of an outside partner (albeit more slowly). How? Focus on the basic PR process and some tools of the trade to produce and promote your brand narrative.

Here are some best PR best practices to keep in mind:

1. Never lie … for any reason.

Enthusiasm must never mislead or exaggerate. Be factual. Use data. Better yet, use data that puts your best foot forward without shading the truth.

  • Never get angry with the media. Public relations isn’t news; coverage by the press is optional. And desperation never sells.

2. Have a concise pitch.

Craft and stay true to your vision and mission. Key talking points are the foundation of your narrative. Credibility is more important than creativity, unless all you’re seeking is publicity. Avoid jargon. Focus on consumer benefits, not the features of your product.

  • Use your concise, value-driven message(s) everywhere — on your website, social channels, etc. Consistent, concise brand messaging breaks through the noise!

3. Be distinctive.

How are you different and why is that relevant? That’s why they call it “news” and not “olds.” What nonobvious insights can you add to the story that informs the reader as your special, competitive edge? What’s your value proposition?

  • What are people talking about? Beyond Twitter and Facebook, search Google Trends and News. Search results can help you refine your message. Check out search analytics tools like Moz, SEMrush, iSpionage, SpyFu and BuzzSumo. Think of search data as your global consumer panel; people are literally telling you what they want to know.
  • Also, use Google Alerts to keep up with relevant hashtags, your competitors and your own business. Check out Mention and FullStory.

4. Be tenacious.

Persistence and resilience count, especially in the face of adversity. Build solid, credible relationships with the media, but don’t pester them. Be polite and professional, not pushy.

5. Understand the journalist’s coverage area.

Do your homework. Build your own media list. Before you pitch anything, really make sure that what you’re sending is relevant to what the reporter writes about. How? Google the reporter’s name and read that person’s most recent articles.

  • If you have the budget, check out Hey Press or Muck Rack to learn more about relevant journalists for a given topic area. Also, don’t forget to sign up as a source on the Help A Reporter Out (HARO) website, and they will send you daily email digests summarizing opportunities posted by journalists looking for subject matter experts, interviewees, sources, etc. If any of the queries is a good fit for your expertise and business, pitch your response and qualifications directly to the journalist via email for a possible interview or direct quote.
  • Remember, on average, a journalist gets over 50 pitch emails per day. Get to the point fast. Pitch visually. For example, send video and multiple photos with your news releases.

6. Create an effective press kit.

A press kit makes it really easy for reporters to quickly learn about your company, as well as access photos and marketing materials they can use in their content. Essentials include an About Your Company page, FAQs, executive bios (with head shots), high-resolution images of your logo and branding, and samples of recent articles/press coverage.

7. Be super organized.

Speed matters. Reporters deal with hard deadlines. You snooze, you lose. Get known for being fast and helpful. Use Google Docs to create and edit web-based documents, including a digital press kit; high-resolution head shots of your executive team members with short bios; high-resolution logo and product shots; and your executives’ subject matter expertise areas. 

8. Use content marketing to your advantage.

Strategic, well-written content can act as a big magnet pulling in a reporter to learn more about your company. Thought leadership — i.e., where business leaders and companies position themselves as leaders in their spaces — serves as a great framework for related PR tactics and campaigns.

9. Get up from your desk!

One of the most important aspects of PR is true relationship building. You have to understand the intersection of different audiences, whether it’s media, influencers or external stakeholders, or the different departments inside your own company. The magic happens in the mix of things.

Ultimately, good PR focuses on a strong message, a good story and solid relationships with journalists. Use the tools above to make your pitching and PR life more effective and efficient.

Dena Lorenzi is a B-to-B and B-to-C marketing professional experienced in brand management, public relations, event planning and marketing.

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