Promoting your business is something that no entrepreneur can ignore and PR is a low-cost way to raise your practice profile. Antonia Chitty MCIPR shares some simple PR tips and techniques that any practitioner can put into practice.
HOW DO PEOPLE FIND YOUR BUSINESS?
You can have a great company with fabulous products and services, but unless you are extremely lucky, every practice owner still needs to put work into regular and ongoing promotion to attract customers and patients. Promotion, which includes public relations, advertising and marketing, will attract new customers, minimise quiet periods, and ensure that
your business thrives. Developing a relationship with your local media is a great way to make sure that your business remains in the news. Editorial coverage can cost you no more than your time, and has benefits over and above advertising in the same publication.
Today, there are many different avenues open to you to get the word out about what your business offers. From traditional print media to blogs and local websites, there is enormous scope to use public relations to get journalists to provide independent coverage of what is going on in your practice. What is more, many of these methods can be affordable, even if your marketing budget is negligible. As long as you are prepared to commit a few hours to make a public relations plan, follow up with a few minutes work every few days, it is easy to use simple and affordable PR techniques on a regular basis to watch your business grow.
MAKING A PLAN
Planning how you will promote your business is an essential part of a healthy enterprise. Try to work out a plan for the year ahead. Note down newsworthy ideas for your practice. Look at the local paper and listen to the local radio station to see what sort of news they cover. This will vary from area to area. Ideas that might make news include:
• New staff
• Staff gaining qualifications
• Celebrity visits
a member of local sports team, for example
• New services or equipment
Try to work out a newsworthy idea for each month of the year. This will help you continue with promotional activities at both busy and quiet times, vital if you want the keep up your business profile. It is easy to think that news about your business will interest other people when in fact it is only interesting to you, so do check your ideas carefully, putting yourself in the place of a reader or journalist. It may take several releases before you catch a journalist’s eye, or you may strike it lucky and send in just the right sort of story first time. As the year progresses, you can also slot in responding to and commenting on relevant news stories.
It can take up to seven views of your message before potential customers and patients call to book an
appointment or pop in to view your range. Back up your public relations with marketing methods including:
• Email marketing
• Online advertising
• SMS messaging
• Flyers and direct mail
• Billboard advertising
Remember, how often you send out press releases should be based on how often you have genuine news. If you bring out a new range each season, it is simple to plan in a press release each quarter.
Next, note down which sectors of the media will be interested in your news, and don’t forget to include different angles for trade and consumer press. You may be able to devise different press releases on the same subject for different audiences. If, for example, you had a new range of frames, there would be potential for a press release about the styles available in children’s sizes to the local parenting magazine,and a different release for a local outdoors pursuits
magazine. A third release could emphasise the fashion angle for a women’s supplement for the local paper.
Look at everything from school and church magazines, to local free glossy and listings magazines. Make a collection and read through each one to see which might cover your practice news. Remember to ask yourself what your customers read or watch.
Make a list of the right people to contact at each publication. Look for the panel
which lists the editors, or call to find out. Ask to speak to the editorial assistant if you’re unsure.
Develop a relationship with the reporter who covers your local area, and keep them informed about the latest developments at your business. Stories about new staff, increased employment opportunities, or when employees gain qualifications may make the business pages so look for the name of the reporter or editor for that section too. Identify radio shows that have phone-ins or expert slots and offer yourself as a regular expert to answer eye-related questions.
Look at the resources section for an easy guide to writing a press release: just insert your own news into the format. Check your release before you send it – ask a friend or colleague to read it through. You will get a better take up if you customise the release for each publication or group of publications. Get some great images, and put a low res version in the release. Mention in the Notes to Editors that you have other images available. You may want to offer lifestyle shots,
showing the product in use as well as image shots with the product on a plain background. Once you’re happy with your release, send it out to the journalists you have decided to contact. Leave the journalist a day or so to get back to you, then follow up with a phone call. Make sure you have something new to offer in this call, like a sample or a visit to the practice to try out the new service. Don’t just ask, “Did you get my press release?” Then watch for results. Set up
Google Alerts to scan for your business name, and buy or pick up the publications on a regular basis to see if you are mentioned.
Press Release Template: Follow this to write your own release
Issued Date_ For Immediate Release
OR Embargoed Until Date _________
Title… make it brief and attention-grabbing
The first sentence should summarise the story. Get your key points across to catch the journalist’s attention or they may not read further. Answer important questions like who, what, where, when, why and how. Write as if you are speaking to the readers of the publication – read your target publication to see their style.
Expand on the details in the second paragraph. Remember the journalist will want to know what is unique or new about your story and why it will appeal to their readers.
Then, back up your claims with facts and statistics in the following paragraphs. Write in the present tense, and use ‘he’ or ‘she’ instead of ‘I’.
Go on to illustrate your story with quotes, “A quote, written in italics, from a key person, helps bring a story to life. Make sure your quote adds new information to the release”.
As well as quotes, you could use bullet points to highlight points about your story:
Finish off with details such as dates, times, how to order or contact you – this needs to be brief, and should be the details you would like to see in print. Fuller details can go in ‘Notes to Editors’.
Notes to Editors
1 Tell the editor who to contact for more information — include mobile, landline and email if possible.
2 Also include short background information on your company, when it was launched, achievements, mini biography of the founder, etc.
3 Include company name, fax number, email and website address.
4 Include opening hours, prices, venues, dates as appropriate to your story.
5 You should also state whether you have photos available.