Public Relations: How to take control of your story

By Kevin Aherne, Director of Communications

When it comes to public relations, many brands miss the mark. They have no PR strategy at all, or think sending the occasional press release will get the job done (Spoiler alert: it won’t.) 

Improving your public relations efforts can be a very important and effective extension of your marketing strategy. While it takes some effort, it can ultimately be one of the most inexpensive and effective ways to strengthen your brand.

More than a press release

The efficacy of public relations efforts should not be measured by media pickups. Sure, it’s great to see your story being told in the local newspaper, or covered on the evening news, but there is so much more you can — and should — focus on. The most important public relations goals you should have are:

Impressions: Is your message reaching enough of your target audience?

Storytelling: Does your message tell the right story?

Instilling Confidence: Does your message establish that your brand is trustworthy, reliable, and an asset to potential customers and/or the community?

Demonstrating Value: Does your message exhibit how your product or service is a benefit to potential customers, or how you stand apart from the competitors?

To accomplish these goals, you don’t necessarily need to impress a newsroom editor to get your story published. You can leverage your own assets, and control your own message. 

Your website should have an area to share news. If it doesn’t — add it. Every notable update, victory, milestone, and product release deserves to be posted to your website, and the link shared on social media. Not only does this help you control your story, it helps direct current and potential customers directly to your website — and encourages them to learn more about your brand and the products and services you offer. 

But I should still send that press release, right?

Absolutely. Sending a press release to media outlets is a great way to expand those valuable impressions. Just understand that there is only so much you can do to control the outcome of your press release. There are, however, some things you can do to improve the chances that your press release will get picked up:

Be Timely: Reporters want to be at the forefront of a good story, not playing catchup. Give advance notice of any major news, especially planned events that a reporter will have to work into their schedule. You’ll have a limited window for your story to be relevant within the news cycle; capitalize on it. 

Provide a Hook: Before you start writing your press release, consider whether the news is one that will merit coverage in the media. Reporters are interested in telling a story about something affecting the community, not providing free promotion of your company.

Plan Ahead: Anticipate stories, milestones, victories — and have a communications plan in place before they happen. Creating a content calendar will help you outline and prepare for major occurrences at your company.

Just the Facts: Your press release can use glowing quotes from company personnel, but the rest of it should tell the story with direct, concise, and accurate language. Don’t use flowery language full of superlatives. 

Attach Photos: If there is a relevant photo, rendering, video, or another piece of multimedia, add it to the press release. If sending a photo, be sure to identify those in the photo with the correct first and last names, and include a brief description of what’s happening in the photo.

Link to Credible Sources: Did you win an award? Are you sharing a statistic? Make sure to link back to the source for verification.

Follow up: Call or email the recipients to make sure they saw your press release, and offer additional context as to why you believe it is newsworthy.

Be Timely: Yes, it’s that important.

PR success: What it looks like

Project Oceanology

Miranda Creative issued this release on behalf of Project Oceanology’s 50th anniversary, which was picked up by WSHU Public Radio and shared with its 25K+ monthly website visitors. The program’s founder was subsequently featured in a Storycorps interview, The milestone was also featured in the Connecticut East podcast; a great example of how a compelling story, communicated to the right audience, can result in multiple placements in high-visibility earned media. 

Railroad Museum of New England

When the Naugatuck Railroad added a special North by Northwest Express train ride (including dinner and a cinematic screening of the Hitchcock classic) to its excursions to highlight a pair of historic rail cars it had on loan, we issued a press release to promote the unique journey. 

The event was featured by Ann Nyberg in a TV segment on WTNH. We figured Hitchcock fans would also be interested in this one-of-a-kind offering—and they were! The event was shared by the official Alfred Hitchcock Facebook page—and its more than 2.2 million followers.. Our outreach helped the excursion become one of the Naugatuck Railroad’s most successful outings, with tickets selling out.

Once you’ve been interviewed for a story, don’t forget to follow up on the outcome. Share the press story on your brand’s social media channels to help promote it. If the resulting story has any inaccuracies, reach out promptly and ask for them to be corrected. 

What else should I be doing?

Purpose-Driven Online Content: Deliver blogs and meaningful social media content that demonstrate your specialized knowledge and establish you as a thought leader within your industry.

Community Involvement: Engage with the community. Volunteer at local organizations, get involved with a local cause, and find ways to be visible. 

Outreach to Newsrooms: You don’t need a press release to be part of the news cycle. Reach out to editors and reporters at your local newspaper or trade publication and let them know you’re available for comment. If they’re working on a story that requires input from someone in your field, you’ll likely find yourself getting a phone call.

Leverage Social Media: Don’t rely solely on newsrooms to carry your story forward. Use your own platforms to deliver your message to your existing audiences. 

Developing and adhering to a public relations strategy doesn’t have to be difficult. With a little planning and understanding of how to identify and capitalize on opportunities, you can make a big difference with manageable cost and effort. 

We’ll level with you though: Building public awareness does require some time and some effort, which can feel daunting if you don’t have an in-house writer or marketing team. Reach out to us if you need help— or need help figuring out if you need help! Our consultations are informative, entertaining, and free for the first hour. 

Miranda Creative is an award-winning, full-service brand management agency. Join our creative community! Sign up for our newsletter or follow us (Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn)