By Rachel Gattuso
When I daydream, I usually focus on having…
- All the cheese
- A unicorn friend
- A comprehensive clipping/media service
- A robust marketing budget
If you work for yourself, run a small business, or work in a non-profit as I do, chances are you know how far-fetched the whole list is. Unfortunately, marketing and public relations (PR) expenditures often rank low on our list of priorities. I often see non-profits scale back on their investment in communications efforts in order to bring “overhead” costs down. At which point I cry crocodile tears. By failing to invest in PR, we clip our own wings and decrease our ability to reach actual change faster.
Regardless of your set-up or whether your budget is small, you can reap the rewards of incorporating PR into your strategies (even if we can’t afford to upgrade from our “freemium” accounts). Here are a few simple tactics to work on folding into your day-to- day to start bolstering your brand, whether you just started a publishing company or are teaching financial literacy to middle school kiddos:
- Do Your Homework. I know your days are full, but try to take some time in the mornings to skim your news outlets. This habit is about more knowing bylines than knowing headlines. By training yourself to pick up on which reporters gravitate to which stories (if a beat is not specified already), you’re better equipped to make yourself their ally and to position your org as a source of subject matter expertise. It’s also helping for understanding turnover when you can’t afford a fancy media tool like Cision (one day!).
- Restraint. I know you know this, but not everything your org will do is newsworthy. You may have to push back if requests to send releases become excessive. If you avoid cluttering reporter inboxes, it suggests that the releases or pitches you do send are likely of interest.
- Just Ask. It can take years to overcome the fear of simply picking up the phone to talk about a potential story, but just do it – field those ideas you find newsworthy to start understanding what works for respective reporters.
- Be Human. I once sent a long-winded pitch to an editor in my most proper English. I thought I was demonstrating my grasp of grammar and ability to be thorough but the simple reply I got boiled down to, “Do you represent them?” I was freelance writing so the answer was no, but I’d been so formal it seemed like I was pitching a company’s product. Humor, compassion and genuine interest go a long way in demonstrating you believe in your stories and that you recognize your contacts want to tell those stories.
- Advocate the Long-Term Relationship. Our friends in the media love to help share our news items but, in some scenarios, it comes down to whether we can afford to have them in the room. Not every organization has a budget that allows for media tables or tickets, so when attempting to rationalize the expenditure, try to tout the long-term investment. It’s more than a meal. When we offer them a literal seat at the table it’s an opportunity for us to further sell them on our missions and causes, just like it is for any other high-dollar donor we’d want in the room. The more you advocate for them to be in the room, the more likely they’ll find ways (when it’s newsworthy) to communicate about your cause to their audiences.
- Collaborate. Non-profits may compete for the same donor dollars and businesses may compete for the same consumer dollars. But when end-goals are aligned, make the effort to play nice with partners. In fact, seek out those alignments. You have the potential to amplify your reach and to help allocate workload to accomplish more.
Speaking of collaboration, the Sierra Nevada Chapter of PRSA is hosting PR to Go, a free event on August 12, 2016 for small businesses, solopreneurs and non-profit communicators to explore ways to elevate their brands. Carve out a few hours to chat with well-versed communications and media folks about what you can incorporate into your strategies. You’re bound to make connections and identify a tactic or two to help rationalize spending more energy (or budget) in public relations.
Let us know you’re coming by registering here.
Rachel Gattuso is the marketing and communications manager for Ronald McDonald House Charities® Northern Nevada*, a local charity that houses families who have children receiving critical treatment at area hospitals, and a board member of the Sierra Nevada Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).