There is a famous story about Muhammad Ali and a photographer from Sports Illustrated, Graeme Phelps "Flip" Schulke. The photographer was doing snaps of Ali who, as was his style, got into a conversation with Schulke and asked him who else he worked for.
Schulke told him he worked for Life but quickly added that the magazine was unlikely to do anything with Ali because it did not cover sport. Thinking quickly, Ali told the photographer that was a pity because he had an unusual training technique.
He said he trained underwater, claiming it made him a faster boxer.
The result: Life Magazine ran spreads on Ali boxing underwater, beautiful shots that have since become photo classics.
Of course, it was all a ruse. Ali did not train underwater. In fact, he couldn't even swim. But his quick thinking and intuitive grasp of what Schulke wanted ensured he got massive free publicity.
Publicity is something that all small business owners, including resellers, need to think about. There are two ways for any business to get exposure. You can place an ad which might be very effective.
Or you can do something newsworthy that gets you lots of publicity. Like the ad, it ensures lots of exposure. Only this approach is free.
The first thing to remember is that a good PR strategy is not fluffy. It's strategic and aligned to where the company is heading.
Publicity needs to be managed carefully. The dotcom boom is the best example of that.
During that time, many companies saw it as critical to the success of the business. But many were simply burning cash.
Dotcom companies were terrific at getting the message out. Trouble is they often went to market too early, with an idea and a PowerPoint presentation, creating hype for the sake of hype and spending lots of money for no return.
This raises three critical questions: How much publicity does a company need? When should the PR begin? And how can it backfire?
Every company needs some publicity. How much? Public relations needs to be part of every strategy but it needs to be driven by the business objectives. Going early and getting first mover advantage might be advantageous for a start-up but the message needs to be right and well-crafted. You don't get another opportunity. But for some start ups, PR might not be necessary at first. They might only need it when they get to the next level.
The important part is you need to get the message out over the noise but that needs to be tied in to the strategy, and that can take time to build. That means the company needs to know where the market is, who the customers are and what drives them. Many companies do not have these insights when they open their doors for the first time.
While some companies mistakenly believe PR stands for "press release", the release is an important tool for letting the media know about events coming up and what you are doing.
Many companies rely on public relations specialists to do that although some do it by themselves.
Just a few rules to remember: the new release has to catch the eye. Every day, news rooms are inundated with releases and if they are not interesting, they go into the bin.
That's the rule in every news room around the world. The release needs a catchy headline and the first paragraph needs to explain what the story is, why it's important and where it's being held. There should be nothing else.
With the media, it's important to remember that it's horses for courses. Newspapers and online news sites want information that is interesting and timely. The same goes for radio stations although radio does have a taste for the weird, amusing and controversial.
Television loves great visuals.
There are many ways companies can get free publicity. Some of them are weird and wacky, but they do work. One of the most common is customer surveys.
Just make sure some of the questions are controversial enough to create some surprise results about what customers are looking for, what their expectations are and whether these have been met.
Survey results are good fodder for the media which is always looking for quick and easy copy. Develop annual awards to give out to people in the community or customers.
Piggyback off national stories, like for example, how the IT sector is performing in the downturn and new emerging trends.
Create a top 10 list for something about your business or reseller industry. Write a piece about a problem that one of your products solves. Or sponsor a local community service event or project.
Public relations is important for every business. But the degree of importance will vary from company to company. In the end, it depends on what the company wants to achieve in the market and how long it plans to be there.
As Ali showed, it needs quick thinking and a strategic alignment that helps build the brand.
Next page: How PR helped eNerds build credibility
Issue: 315 | May 2013
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