The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) says “Public Relations is about reputation - the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.”
Put simply, PR is a way of reaching people and influencing how they see you, using a range of activities from seeking media coverage to strategic partnerships.
It’s all in the planning
“PR is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.” (CIPR)
Good PR is planned in advance and linked to the key aims and objectives of your organisation. A simple PR plan is essential to look at exactly what activities you are going to do and what impact they will have. For example, if you plan to obtain three pieces of local media coverage – what is the aim of these and how will you measure this? Look at the effect these three pieces of coverage have on your website visits, the number of people signed up to volunteer or increases in donations.
What are PR activities?
The main PR activity is trying to obtain media coverage, but do not forget that other activities impact on your reputation so need to be looked at too. Who you partner with, who you take money or sponsorship from, which celebrities endorse you, the events you hold, what your staff say about you – all of these influence how people view you and need to be considered.
Hitting the headlines
We would all like to have our story in the newspapers or on television news, but how do you start? Start by thinking who writes the headlines and who reads them. Think like a news editor and as a news customer - what does the editor need to satisfy his news customer? Read the newspapers, watch the television news and listen to radio news programmes – what sort of stories are covered? what style do they use? where does my organisation fit it to the news agenda?
Is it news?
Charities do great work but this in itself is not necessarily newsworthy. A news story must break the ‘so what’ barrier – if you told your story to someone who was not in your organisation, would they want to know more or would they say ‘so what’? Look at what is in the news and find a way to ‘hook’ your organisation into what people are already talking about. But remember, news is new – if you have an event today, tomorrow it is news but next week, it is not.
Reaching the right people
Once you have your news story you need to make sure you are aiming at the right people. Who are you trying to reach? The more you refine this, the more effective your media work becomes.
For example, if your campaign is aimed at young homeless men then targeting The Times or Woman’s Hour for coverage is not as effective as targeting the Metro (free newspaper often left where young homeless men will see it) or The Big Issue (distributed by homeless people). Then go a step further and look at who works with young homeless men and target them – for example, target health professionals and look for coverage in the British Journal of Nursing or similar. When you know this, then look into what they read and watch – this is how you reach them.
Try the National Readership Survey where you will find estimates of average issue readership for the 260 or so titles for which NRS publishes data. Or the Newspapers Marketing Agency which gives circulation figures and readership information.
Getting word out
Distribution is the key to news success. Make a press list and get to know as many journalists as you can. They are very busy but do enjoy a coffee! Make sure you know what their deadlines are, when is a good time to ring (for example, not as a paper is going to print or television news about to go on air), what they need from you and be available if they need more information. Take a look at Media UK for details of websites, addresses, telephone numbers and emails for all areas of the online media.
Media Trust can help
Don’t forget to use Media Trust’s unique Press Association partnership Community Newswire, a free news service to help charities and voluntary organisations gain valuable media coverage, where the most newsworthy press releases are written up into news stories by Press Association journalist and sent out to thousands of journalists every day.