The businessperson’s guide to DIY publicity

Thanks to super fast broadband and the internet, everyone’s a publisher. But how can businesses turn that to their advantage? Top tips from our blogger Stuart Pearcey draw on his 40 years’ experience in the media.

Have you ever heard that the more things change, the more they stay the same? Of course you have. And the beauty of change in this context is that the internet gives you more marketing opportunities than ever before.

No longer are you controlled by the agendas of the more conventional media of print, TV and radio, reliant on them as a third party through which to reach your audience.
But before you take the scattergun approach to uploading and posting things, stop to consider that most important element in your marketing effort; on which every last scrap and jot must hang. It has to answer my golden question. Your clients may not even know they need the answer, but trust me, they do, even at a subconscious level. It’s this: “What’s in it for me?”

How to win gold
The same single-minded focus is expressed by Olympian Ben Hunt-Davis, who won gold as a member of the British Eight at Sydney 2000. Through the two years leading up to the games he and his colleagues asked one question of everything they did: “Will it make the boat go faster?”* If the answer was ‘yes’, they did it. If it was ‘no’, they didn’t. As a result they went to bed early and missed the Games’ opening ceremony. But they won gold. Follow my top tips to answer my golden question, and you’ll have gone a little way to creating the kind of material that will make your own boat go faster.

1. Pick the right channel. Are you an Ibiza foam party promoter? Then don’t waste time and effort with a leaflet campaign in retirement homes. OK, that’s an extreme example, but you get the picture. Think ‘horses for courses’.
2. Get the language right. Earlier this week I read a news release that talked about a company getting the basics right – except that they’d put in a random apostrophe, so it said basic’s. C’mon guys, what were you thinking? I switched off completely in the next paragraph when the F word was used. Expletives may have a place in language, but not in an item shared with people you’ve never met. Just don’t.
3. Don’t be delighted. If I had a fiver for every news release or blog post that told me someone was delighted, I’d have retired to the Bahamas long ago. Of course they’re delighted. They’re telling me good news. Why wouldn’t they be delighted? But there’s nothing in their delight for me, as a potential client. Their delight doesn’t answer my golden question.
4. Customers aren’t stupid. They can see through hype as easily as through a plate glass window, and it turns them off. Stick to facts; give them quality products and service, sound advice and the occasional discount, and they’ll love you for it, coming back time and again.
5. Don’t forget the conventional media. Journalists are having a tough time too. No, really. Help them out by providing objective material that answers the golden question. And don’t try to pull the wool over their eyes, because you won’t be able to. Keep all communications channels open.
6. Keep at it. There’s no point in having a news page on your web site if you don’t update it two or three times a week. There is always something good to say. Remember that saying nothing is saying something; it says ‘this firm isn’t proud of itself. It has nothing to boast about.’ Pick up on positive client feedback, tell us about personal achievements of your own staff. Both are like third-party endorsement, which makes them marketing gold dust. If you can’t do that, take down the news page.
7. Take good pictures. The world is in pictures, and your posts and releases and uploads should have them too. Some B2B news sites won’t even consider stories without a picture nowadays. Get some good ones. Get help if you need it, but if you can do take them yourself, make ’em good ones. A bad picture can be worse than no picture at all.
8. Get help. If you’re good at making mattresses or running five-star hotels, you might not be good at PR. No shame in that; it’s not a core skill. Employ a PR professional to draw attention to the right part of your company’s truth. If they’re good, and can make your boat go faster, the publicity they earn will be worth more than their cost.
9. Quality counts. Go back to point 2. If you have such inattention to detail that you put an apostrophe in ‘basics’, what does that say about your products? Anything positive? Probably not. Remember, you’re a publisher, and your published material is your company’s shop window, not matter what channel you’re using. Poor material is like a shop window containing dead flies and cobwebs. It will win you no business.

*Hunt-Davis has much more to say in his book of the same name, and on the web at www.willitmaketheboatgofaster.com