Public Relations Basics

What is Public Relations?

“Public Relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” – Public Relations Society of America

Public Relations is a powerful tool. The right story with the right message can have a significant impact. It is a cost-effective way to reach thousands of people and can be executed relatively easy, once the basics are mastered.

Public Relations can be used to accomplish various organizational goals.

  • Build an Image
  • Reinforce and Further an Organization’s Reputation
  • Raise Awareness
  • Educate
  • Increase Understanding
  • Change Behavior
  • Build Credibility
  • Influence Opinion Leaders
  • Motivate Your Audience to Action

Public Relations Tactics

Tools of the Trade
– Press releases, media alerts, press conferences
– Pitch letters, pitch calls
– Backgrounders
– Special events
– Bylined Articles
– Speeches
– Photos, B-roll videotape, other visuals
– Brochures, newsletters, other collateral
– Website content: blogs, discussion boards, etc.
– Social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc…
Understanding the Media
There are many key factors to take into consideration when working with the media. Members of the media…
– Are busy and typically under pressure
– Deal with competition
– Having different beats
– Must appeal to readers, viewers, and listeners
– Depend on the right timing
– Experience frequent turnover
Compelling Storytelling
Stories of human interest connect with people most. Consider various beats, such as; Religion, Education, Sports, Business, Life, Opinion, Neighborhoods/Community, Healthy, Technology, City Hall, Food, Fashion.
The Science & Art of Pitching
The science is to figure out WHO to approach, WHAT they like to cover and WHY, and determine WHEN and HOW to make the approach.

The art is crafting a compelling pitch that can go from inbox to print, web, TV, and more.

Press Releases Basics

A press release is an official statement delivered to members of the media for to provide information, an official statement, or make an announcement. A press release is typically made up of nine structural elements.

  1. Letterhead or Logo
  2. Contact Information
  3. Headline
  4. Sub-headline with additional detail
  5. Dateline – Date and originating city of the press release
  6. Introduction
  7. Body
  8. Boilerplate – Short “about us” section at the end.
  9. Close – “###” this symbol indicated to the media that the release has ended

Best Practices

  • The content should cover who, what, when, where & why.
  • The headline should hook the reader.
  • Apply inverted pyramid principle (most important info at the top).
  • “Human up high” – quote in second paragraph.
  • Use links to web and social media
  • Include visuals, if possible.
  • Follow Associated Press writing style, if possible (AP Style).
  • The press release should be 4-5 paragraphs long.

Media Advisories

A media advisory is used to invite reporters to cover an event such as a press conference, forum, or rally. The goal is to make the event sound newsworthy and to make the details easy for reporters to quickly pick up. Send out the advisory one or two days ahead of the event. The advisory contains all the same part as a press release but instead of an introduction and body the following bullets are listed:

  • What: Name of event
  • Who: Name, role, and organization of speakers or important attendees
  • When: Date and time
  • Where: Location and address

PR For an Upcoming Event

  • One month out: Send brief email with a heads-up about the event
  • Two weeks out: Send a media advisory and call to follow up on the advisory
  • A few days before: Send press release with visuals, call to follow up, and determine attendance
  • One to two days after: Send press release with visuals/graphics
  • Be tenacious, but not annoying.

Media Interviews

What to do…
– Be prepared with at least three key points – Never “wing it”
– Listen carefully to the entire question before responding
– Stay on message
– Connect with stories, comparisons
– Be personable, professional
– Know when to stop
– Tell the truth
– Speak in short sound bites
– Remember why you are doing the interview
– Correct any significant mistakes on the spot
– Offer to follow up with photos, video, graphics, content
What to Wear
– Dress for the situation and use your judgment
– In a studio: Organization branding or business attire
– At volunteer event: Organization branding or casual attire
– Avoid sunglasses, busy patterns, and big jewelry
Body Language
– On camera, standing: Eye contact with the reporter, hands in natural gestures, feet shoulder-width apart
– On camera, sitting: Sit up, cross legs/put together, eye contact with the reporter
– On phone and in person: Avoid “ums,” repeating sayings, nervous ticks; vary tone; be professional, personable.
Know Your Rights! You Can…
– Inform a reporter that you will get back to him/her (do within deadline)
– Breathe
– Bridge to your key points when asked a difficult or off-topic question
– Say you don’t know (but get the answer)
– Recover a mistake and go on
– Use a printed/emailed statement instead of participating directly
Do Not…
– Be unprepared
– Fake an answer
– Say “no comment”
– Go off the record
– Answer multiple questions
– Repeat negatives
– Fill embarrassing silences
– Lose your cool
– Be negative
– Ask to review or edit the story
– Ramble
– Use jargon
– Use the journalist’s name
– Speculate
– Discuss third parties
– Say “As I said before…”
– Repeat the journalist’s question
Basic Blocking and Bridging Statements
– Their role is to refocus the reporter (and their audience) on your message, – keeping it clear, concise, and memorable.
– Helps avoid unwelcome or unproductive questions
– Takes the discussion to friendly territory
– Allows YOU to control the conversation
– Helps you focus on the answers, not the questions:
…what I can tell you is…
…and you should know…
…and what’s really important is…
…I think we are really talking about…
…but what’s important for you to know is…

Remember: Media Relations Is About Ongoing Relationships. Develop and maintain relationship. If you don’t land coverage, you might the next time!

Using Social Media for Public Relations

Why Social Media Matters

  • Social media channels offer instant news and information
  • Social media is faster than traditional media due to real-time posting
  • Your message can have far reach
  • You can grow your network of passionate supporters
  • Social media gives your media coverage legs

Note: Social media statistics below are based on 2019 data

Facebook (1.3+ billion users)
– Demographics: Ages 25-54, 60% female
– Purpose: Building relationships
– Best for: Building brand loyalty
– Downside: Limited reach
Twitter (600 million users)
Demographics: Ages 18 – 29
– Purpose: News, articles, conversation
– Best for: Public relations
– Downside: 140 characters or less
Instagram (200 million users)
Demographics: Ages 18 – 29
– Purpose: Building relationships, conversation
– Best for: Lead generation, retail, art, food, entertainment & beauty businesses
– Downside: Images only
LinkedIn (600 million users)
Demographics: Ages 30 – 49
– Purpose: News, articles, conversation
– Best for: Business development, B2B businesses
– Downside: Limited interactions
YouTube (1 billion users)
Demographics: All ages
– Purpose: Search “how to”
– Best for: Brand awareness, service industry
– Downside: Resource intensive

Content Creation Can be Easy: Things to remember

  • Visual storytelling is important
    • Keep captions and/or content simple
    • People have short attention spans
    • Remember to tag and link
    • Ask advocates to share on their social sites
    • You can accomplish a lot with very little

Easy PR Measurement

There are many ways to measure the effectiveness of your PR efforts.

  • Increase in the number of social media followers or fans and other analytics
  • Increase in the number of volunteers or advocates
  • Attendance at events compared to previous
  • Amount of media coverage compared to previous
  • Software like TrendKite – excellent, but $$$
Updated on December 3, 2020

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