Barry Ashmore goes through a series of easy steps to help flooring contractors raise awareness
of their business on a budget by using the power of PR.
SO, what is PR? One public relations expert who started his career in a local newspaper before eventually becoming head of a PR team in a major PLC once described his career in public relations as going from ‘never letting the truth get in the way of a good story, to defending the indefensible’.
This rather cynical approach to the art of PR does illustrate the breadth and complexity of public relations, which, for most people, is seen as the exclusive province of large business, and something they might step back from through lack of understanding, skills, or experience, or all three.
I’d expect a significant number of flooring contractors reading this will feel similarly, which is why I hope to try to simplify the role of PR and explain how businesses just like yours can benefit from using public relations in a positive and financially rewarding way.
Simple steps to give your business a competitive edge, on a budget.
For smaller companies with very limited budgets, creating awareness for products and services through advertising can be extremely challenging, perhaps risky, and often, very expensive. There are few second chances when the budget has been spent.
Which is where PR comes into play. An effective PR strategy can give you a cost-effective means of gaining editorial exposure for your product or services, to find more leads, turn leads into sales, and build a brand.
Where website subscribers and magazine readers may often ignore advertising, particularly poor advertising, a product, or service presented in the context of a printed feature or news report will give it a certain endorsement and credibility that advertising just can’t achieve.
Consequently, you’ll be more likely to move people to action through a well written press story than advertising and setting up a good public relations strategy will help you work positively with the media and encourage them to carry your news stories.
Here are the 9 things to help you create an effective PR plan:
Know your audience and market
The more specific you can be about the markets and customers that are most likely to use you, the easier it will be to identify the media you need to work with. Narrow down your target audience as there’s no single product in any market that commands 100% share. You only need a proportion of your potential audience to respond positively to be successful.
What products and benefits are most relevant to your market?
Clearly outlining what your product does for your prospective customer is far more important than listing features. Many businesses can offer similar features, but the benefits you can present will be exclusive and unique to your business. Also, remember you’re trying to sell your product or service to the media in the hope it’ll be published, so highlight the benefits, along with the numbers, to prove your product saves users time and money.
Present your product or service as unique
Benefits are a highly important element of any marketing or sales communication, which is why it’s important to prove your product is ‘x-times’ faster, better, smarter, cleaner, or more cost-effective than the industry standard or your competitors’ product. Presenting proven and specific benefits will provide the media with the confidence to feature your product story before anyone else’s.
Ask for and publish testimonials
Testimonials are one of the most powerful ways to enhance the credibility of any promotional story, as is the way you present them. Occasionally, you may get away with someone named ‘LK’ from the West Midlands who says your flooring products or service is great. However, it’s more important to get over the fact this person enjoyed many benefits from the finished project, and spell these out in a quote for extra impact.
Target the media publishing in your target market
It’s important you find out which media your target audience typically reads, watches, or listens to. In most cases you’ll be able to identify specific journals, websites, or blogs that reach the industry you are targeting. If it’s not obvious, you may need to research your market to find out which media is the most suitable. Much of this information can be found in trade directories or online if you take the time to look and will also give you the contact details for editors. This is why it’s important to identify your most relevant media and talk to the editors. They’re hungry for quality application stories, so do feed them.
Make it easy for the editor and prepare your press release correctly
You must commence your story with a strong headline and then ensure it follows a style that can help the receiving journalist to edit it if needs be. Structurally, you should:
- Write a powerful and compelling opening paragraph that summarises the story
- Use the next couple of paragraphs to expand on the details shown in the opening paragraph
- It’s always good to include a quote – remember those all-important benefits
- Use two or three paragraphs to explain the product capabilities and how/where it is used
- Summarise the story, adding a call-to-action that tells the reader where they can find more information and what to do next.
As editors can receive dozens if not hundreds of press releases a day, give yours clarity to ensure it stands out from the rest. You should also give the person you’re sending the story to a call to let them know you’re sending it, and at the same time, give them a brief appraisal of what it is about.
The all-important follow-up and ongoing contact
It’s good practise to call your contact to check if they received the story and try to establish any intent to publish it. By doing this you’re building a valuable relationship for future stories. Do try to keep in touch with your editor but don’t be too pushy, as the story will sell itself if it is of value. The main purpose of this ongoing contact is to give them the convenience of more information. It’s also a good way to help get your press release higher up in the editor’s in-tray.
Send a good quality photograph
A picture tells a thousand words, so it’s essential you send a good quality high resolution photo to illustrate your press release. Whether you’re expanding on a major application story or sending shorter new product information, a photograph that interests and informs or educates the reader is what you’re looking for. If it’s a major installation, then it may pay you to find a professional photographer to take the best possible images of your work.
Plan your campaign
Try not to make your PR a one-off event but try to prepare a ‘promotional plan’ that diarises the timing of planned press stories and who’ll be responsible for creating them. If it’s you, is there someone in the business who can work alongside you?
The plan can be simple, but could include:
- Researching and writing the press release
- Liaising with photographers
- Checking facts, editing, and creating the final version
- Sourcing contact details for your target editors
- Scheduling delivery
- Creating supporting social media activity
- Keeping colleagues and external employees and partners in the loop so they’re aware
Does all this guarantee success?
When it comes to promoting your business, there are rarely guarantees. But think of it this way, if you’re promoting your business with even the simplest PR, while most other flooring contractors are not, you’re already ahead of the game! By following best practise when researching your market, writing your news story, speaking to the editor, submitting your news, and following up, you’ll increase your chance of being published, giving your offering a strong competitive advantage in the media market.
Remember, PR isn’t free advertising, but a process of presenting your company’s skills, expertise, and successes in a way that gives you the best chance of positive results. And once you have gone to all the effort of creating a quality press release, don’t forget to publish it, along with some good images on your own website news page or blog.
If you need any more information or help with your PR or marketing, then please send me an email or give me a call.
Barry Ashmore is managing director
and co-founder of StreetwiseSubbie.com