Q: I have a two-part question. I want to do a press release to advertise my business, but I was advised against it. I thought PR was a good way to advertise? What can I do further with the press release to get noticed if editors don't like me to advertise with it?
A: A lot of businesses, especially those on a shoestring budget, many times confuse PR with advertising and promotion. Ask someone how they are marketing their business, and you're likely to get an answer related to one or more of the following: marketing, PR, sales, advertising and promotion. Many times, press releases are constructed as clearly promotional. I've said it here many times, and I say it just about every time I talk about marketing and PR: Editors hate promotion.
Sometimes, entrepreneurs are so busy in their business that they hire someone else to construct the press release or an entire campaign. This is a very good thing. Entrepreneurs should spend time on what they do best--and unless they're in a PR-related business, PR probably isn't their strong suit, making it a good candidate for outsourcing. When outsourcing PR, you and your outsourced partner have to be very careful not to build in a purely promotional message or angle to the information communicated to the press. Do not make a press release a disguised brochure. Editors will see right through this and ignore your release; they may even remember you and ignore future releases, even though you may have some nuggets of good information.
Sometimes when communicating with the media, you'll want to include additional information in the press release. Again, this information should not be purely promotional. You will get plenty of exposure, PR and notice if you offer something of value. The key is to produce a nice giveaway for your audience while at the same time promoting your business.
Some technology businesses have come up with a technology guide. A guide that's filled with information of use to those requesting it will most likely be considered valuable. You can bet those receiving it will remember where it came from--and if that company's services are needed, they would be top-of-mind because of the value offered via their media efforts. I know of one such tech guide that's been downloaded hundreds of times. Some businesses have even requested their own branded copies to distribute to their audiences.
The point is this: PR can be used as advertising if done in the right way. Editors know why companies and individuals want PR. Editors also love it when their readers receive something of value (the giveaway) from their publication. Getting your brand and company name in front of hundreds is easy if you can give readers something useful and valuable--not a sales brochure or direct promotional message contained in a press release. Editors know the difference.
Alfred J. Lautenslager is an award-winning marketing and PR consultant, direct-mail promotion specialist, principle of marketing consulting firm Marketing Now, and president and owner of The Ink Well, a commercial printing and mailing company in Wheaton, Illinois. Visit his Web sites at http://www.market-for-profits.comand http://www.1-800-inkwell.com, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.
Al Lautenslager is an award-winning marketing and PR consultant and direct-mail promotion specialist. He's also the principle of Market For Profits, a Chicago-based marketing consulting firm. His two latest books, Guerrilla Marketing in 30 Days and The Ultimate Guide to Direct Marketing are available at www.entrepreneurpress.com.