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DIY PR can be a highly successful strategy

DIY PR can be a highly successful strategy

With hundreds of companies undergoing the e-jerk reaction and listing/rebirthing as e-commerce corporations, there is huge demand for the services of public relations agencies.

Agencies specialising in IT and financial PR are seeing unprecedented demand for their services. Many of the bigger ones are refusing to take new clients for less than $6000 a month.

Most small companies can't find that sort of money in their marketing budget so they look for cheaper PR solutions: freelancers, moonlighters and advertising copywriters. Some of these options can be effective but what most marketers fail to realise is that they can do it themselves.

You only need to look at Dick Smith to see the truth of that. Sure, he was a genius at self-promotion and most marketing people aren't. But DIY marketing can still be highly effective, particularly in the case of young companies with exciting new products.

To be successful, there are three things you have to establish:

1: What's the news?

2: Which journalists will be interested?

3: How to get the information to them.

Firstly, you need to work out what is your news. Big sales to prestigious companies are always newsworthy but presumably you haven't just made a $20 million sale to Westpac or you wouldn't have such a tight budget. So your product or service needs to include marketing components such as:l It's genuinely the first of its type l It offers great benefit to Australiansl It will make a distinct difference to our livesl It's highly unusual or amazing.

News has to be about facts, not just your opinions. Things you have achieved are more newsworthy than plans for the future.

Make sure you can express your news in a headline of less than 15 words, such as:

"New phone cards replace bus and train tickets", "New LCD monitors are 40 per cent cheaper", "Video recorder allows remote control from your mobile phone", "Full ERP suite now available on a Palm Pilot".

Write up your news in a news release. The headline will be all-important. Keep it short, factual and specific. Numbers are great. Add background information separately. One or two pages will be plenty.

Now, work out which journalists will be interested in your news. How do you do this? Read and study magazine and newspaper publications relevant to your product or service. (Make sure you include the increasingly important online news sites.) Note what each journalist does on the publication and which are likely to be interested in your news.

Most of them specialise in some particular area and often have particular interests within that area. Think about how the matter you want to talk about fits into their needs.

Journalists get annoyed with people who take up their time but haven't bothered to read their publication. Make sure you understand the publication's readership, editorial focus, deadlines and sections.

So now you have your news clearly stated and have selected the journalists who are likely to deal with the market/product/service you're selling. Getting it to them is the next part.

It's pretty simple to do. Phone them. Many are surprisingly easy to get through to. Nearly all have voice mail. Many also have their e-mail addresses published in the publication.

When leaving phone messages be brief but include all the important details. This is where your news headline will be vital.

Don't ramble on about yourself. State your news and the benefits. State your phone number clearly and leave an e-mail address if you're going to be hard to contact.

Never send a news release and then call and ask: "Did you get our release - are you going to use it?" Journalists find these calls very irritating. They get hundreds of press releases sent to them and if they use your release you can find out by reading their publication.

If your news is genuinely important and interesting, journalists will grab it and give it lots of coverage.

Big companies have to rely on PR agencies to get through the large number of news items they have. But small companies can get surprisingly good results doing their PR themselves.

Steve Townsend is managing

director of Recognition

public relations. E-mail him at steve.townsend@recognition.com.au


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