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Don’t cut the PR budget

In these tough times PR is a communications tool which must not be ignored. By Ian Exall

If used correctly it can be used to let your customers and market stakeholders know that your business exists, what it does, what you have to offer and how you can help them.

I talk about press relations as opposed to public relations, which tends to cover a wider remit and gets into the murky world of spin.

Here are a few pointers:

  • Know the media that your customers read: Both the traditional hard copy trade mag as well as a growing number of news websites.
  • Categorise or prioritise the titles according to importance to your business.
  • Get copies of the important titles. You should familiarise yourself with the style of the journal and key topics - plus what your competitors are saying.
  • Get hold of media packs. They tend to be geared towards selling advertising but they provide useful information about circulation and readership. With this information you will be able to further evaluate titles.
  • Write simple press releases using clear English.
  • In the construction press, good pictures are really important. A strong story is great but a good picture gets coverage.
  • Don’t email big pictures with the release. Send a low resolution version to illustrate what you have and offer the high resolution on request. This way you know which journals are interested.

DIY or agency?

This depends on what skills and resources are available in your business. Agencies tend to be focused on the job in hand and are not as close to the business as the client, so it can look at the issues objectively. Briefing a good PR agency tests your strategy and quality of your offer.

An agency does not need to cost big bucks. There are plenty of freelance PR consultants around and many marketing services agencies can offer PR as a service stream.

An agency must understand the industry (how the supply chain and procurement process works), have an aptitude to your type of business, have good contacts with the trade journalists and good writing skills.

If you use an external PR resource you need to consider who owns the relationship with the media. Personally I like to know the key journalists so that they know that I, the client, am approachable and understand how they work. It surprises me how many clients employ PR consultants and have no contact with the editorial world at all. This makes the client vulnerable and totally dependant on the people in the agency. 

There are plenty of good books available on planning a good PR programme as well as how to write a good press release or article. Both The CIM (www.cim.co.uk) and CIPR (www.cipr.co.uk) are good places to look and both run CPD events, as does the IBP (www.ibp.org.uk).

Ian Exall is the Communications Manager at insulation manufacturer Rockwool and a committee member of CIMCIG, the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s construction industry group.

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