Becoming a Public Relations Entrepreneur

For those who want to escape office politics, public relations offers a superb opportunity. All you need is a computer system and a phone, and you’re in business. Budding entrepreneurs with experience in a PR agency know there is no good reason for them to be in the office other than to remain under the watchful eyes of their superiors.

The most difficult aspect of founding a public relations agency involves finding new clients.

Clients do not typically come to the office, and even once a month meetings can be held at a restaurant or in the client’s headquarters. Some clients do not even require this much contact. International organizations conduct all their business by email, and there is no product to sell other than the words in the documents created by the PR professional.

The most difficult aspect of founding a public relations agency involves finding new clients. If you feel well-trained in the public relations profession, you have probably developed some relationships you can use to generate business. Just remember you may not win the client on the first or second approach; it can take well over five meetings to close the deal. However, you must follow every lead, be persistent and have confidence in yourself.

I find it very helpful to get the prospect to lunch. Strategizing over a meal provides a much more favorable environment than an office meeting to make the sale. Moreover, if the prospect won’t meet with you at lunch, it probably means he/she is considering a whole slew of candidates, and you are unlikely to win a competition among 10 or 20 people. Thus, lunch serves as a winnowing tool to keep you focused on the most likely future clients.

Finally, as a public relations expert, you already know how to promote other organizations. Just apply that knowledge to your own company: send out press releases and e-newsletters; write blog posts; and stay on the cutting edge of your field.

More on becoming a public relations entrepreneur in future posts.


Online Integration

The online world today includes a variety of formats and platforms as well as public relations and advertising options. No one can adequately address all of them, though some should become an integral part of any corporate campaign.

The company website is fading in importance among all this cacophony, but it should still serve as an anchor for your online strategy.

The company website is fading in importance among all this cacophony, but it should still serve as an anchor for your online strategy. Most sites should incorporate responsive design; that is, they should be appropriately rendered regardless of the device use to access them, whether mobile or desktop. With mobile viewership rapidly climbing to the 50 percent level of all traffic, a smartphone site rendered with a tiny print size is no longer acceptable.

Most sites today are WordPress sites as this has proven to be the most user-friendly content management system, and it incorporates blogging software as part of the site. Drafting weekly blog entries represents a minimum requirement as doing so can have a major impact on your site’s search engine ranking.

Moreover, whenever you draft a blog entry, it is a good idea to post it on your Facebook social media page.Whenever possible, you should engage in this type of “cross-pollination.”

As to social media in general, companies should focus on two or three platforms instead of trying to be all things to all people. For example, if your publicity is primarily based on images, Pinterest and Instagram are two good options. And again, the quality of your posts is much more important than the quality. Three high-quality posts per week on your company’s Facebook Page is far superior to posting everyday with little impact.

I would generally try to avoid advertising online except for Facebook. Taking out a Facebook ad to increase the number of “likes” on your company’s Facebook page is very inexpensive and accomplishes your goal to increase your company’s credibility.

As to press releases, PRWeb provides the most reliable and inexpensive distribution service. Make sure to use the $249 level to distribute monthly releases. And again post your releases on Facebook as well.

You should also set up a “media room” on your website to preserve and cross-pollinate all of your publicity including e-newsletters, press releases, bylined articles, radio or TV interviews, etc.


Writing a Professional Blog Post

Writing a professional blog post is simple when you follow a few basic rules. First, you should load the blogging software onto your website instead of using an external blog. provides the best software to do so, primarily because it is supplemented by an extensive number of plug-ins. Coders write plug-ins for for the same reason they create apps for your iPhone, to increase the functionality.

One of the main reasons to write a blog involves improving the search engine optimization (SEO) for your website.

As to the topic(s) for your blog, it helps to create a theme related to your business. Doing so will improve the focus of your blog and help to suggest articles to write for it.

One of the main reasons to write a blog involves improving the search engine optimization (SEO) for your website (more on SEO in our future posts). Blogs provide valuable, original content, an emphasis in the Google ranking algorithm, and they establish your website as a dynamic location instead of a static one. Dynamic websites are constantly adding new pages, and each time you write an entry for your blog, you are essentially creating a new web page.

An ideal length for a blog entry runs around 300 to 400 words. 300 words represents a minimum to be taken seriously by Google’s spiders (they are constantly “crawling” the web for ranking purposes), and 400 words is a soft maximum because people don’t have a lot of time, and it is better to keep your entries concise.

Two plug-ins are essential for Yoast SEO and pullquote. Yoast SEO helps you to optimize your blog entries with various SEO-related functions such as a meta description and focus keyword. It will also give you a list of optimization problems and provide a “green light” when you have sufficiently addressed them.

Pull quote lets you create a graphic illustration with whatever key quotation you wish to highlight for your entry.

Every blog entry should also contain a featured photo and three or four links to external articles within the body of the text. A great way to choose copyright-free images can be found at This site lets you choose any keyword, and it will return a slew of possible images for you to use with your entry.


Pitching Reporters

One of the more critical functions of public relations involves pitching reporters and editors to publish your client’s story. Whether it’s a press release or a bylined article, this task involves finesse and understanding.

It is not unusual for an editor to receive 300 press releases per day.

First of all, you must realize any publication with a circulation of 30,000 or more gets bombarded with content. It is not unusual for an editor to receive 300 press releases per day. Thus, to have any chance of publication, you must stand out from the crowd. One way to do so involves pre-pitching the story first. You need to get on the phone with reporters and ask them if they are interested in the topic. Then, ask for permission to send the content.

Then, when your document arrives in the reporters’ in-box, they will realize it is from a respected organization or PR agency, and they will treat it with more respect. Of course, editors hate it when you call them by phone; they would much prefer to handle everything by email. But a phone call is the only way you will stand out from the crowd.

When you call the reporter, they might tell you, “I’m on deadline.” When you hear these words, you must end the call immediately. This shows respect for the editor’s priorities. They must publish on time, so being on deadline is an all-consuming priority. But then, when you call back the next day, you can remind the editor how you originally contacted him/her when they were on deadline, and they will remember how considerate you were. The article is as good as published.

Assuming the reporter gives you permission to send your document (few will say not to, they will be interested in getting you off the phone as quickly as possible), you should follow up in three-to-four days and ask them if they had a chance to read it. Nine times out of ten, the answer will be no. Then, you should tell them the exact date and time of the email to confirm whether they did, in fact, get it. They will generally find it or might ask you to just send it again. When you do, they will feel a little guilty for not reading it and will be more likely to do so and give you feedback.

Keep following up in this manner and after the third or fourth call, you should achieve placement of your document.

Pitching is not a difficult task; it just takes time and follow through.


The Key to Writing a Successful Press Release

Press releases represent a unique mode of communications, and to write a powerful release, you must follow certain rules.

First of all, do not write a press release like an English essay. Press releases are used to convey newsworthy material to editors and reporters, and they expect you to follow a standard format.

The body of the release should consist of plainly stated facts, and opinion should only appear in the quotations.

Tone represents a key component of press releases. The body of the release should consist of plainly stated facts, and opinion should only appear in the quotations.

Releases also follow a “reverse pyramid” structure with the most newsworthy material presented up front and the background towards the end. The headline should be short and succinct, and make sure to include the name of the company or product you are promoting there.

The first paragraph basically restates the headline with the second paragraph used to flesh it out. The quote should always be the third paragraph.

At the end of the release, you should include an “About” section, a generic description of the company, and you can use this “boilerplate” in subsequent releases as well.

If you are trying to get the release placed in a key magazine or journal, it helps to also include graphic support, perhaps a screenshot of the product or something else related to the topic of the release.

That’s pretty simple on paper, but you would be surprised how many PR professionals fail to follow this format. The press release drives much of its power from the contrast between the facts in the body of the release and the opinion in the quotes. The facts should be stated simply and concisely, and the quotes can contain more flowerly language.

Unless you are giving some publication an exclusive, it is perfectly fine to pitch the same release to a number of different publications. For online distribution of press releases, PRWeb provides a relatively inexpensive and popular means of distribution. PR Newswire may be used for special occasions and key events because it is much more costly.

You should read some press releases from competing organizations as well as various fields of endeavor, and you will quickly get the hang of it. One other caveat: don’t make it too long. A page and a half should be sufficient; definitely no more than two pages.


Creating Valuable Content

The creation of valuable content represents the key goal in both marketing and search engine optimization. This content should be diversified and include press releases, bylined articles, e-newsletters and blogs, to name a few. The most successful campaigns will be organized into a time-related effort; for example, we recommend one press release per month, one blog entry every week and an e-newsletter every other month.

The creation of valuable content represents the key goal in both marketing and search engine optimization.

By following these guidelines, companies will create more content in the long run than if they exceeded these frequencies in a more organic approach. Moreover, they will be complying with Google’s overarching goal in search engine results: the location of valuable content. This white-hat approach to search engine optimization always works best because Google is continually updating their search engine algorithm to foil those who try to cut corners to manipulate the results.

In determining the nature of the content created, it is always better to create “evergreen” material. Evergreen material stands the test of time; that is, the information will possess a generic aspect so it won’t become stale or dated. Evergreen content will continue to draw readers on an ongoing basis.

In the creation of valuable content, some basic writing skills must be employed. While ideally the content will be drafted by a public relations professional, often the CEO or another executive must act independently. We suggest following three basic rules; 1) Do not subordinate your ideas with “that” or “which;” 2) Avoid using the verb “to be” in favor of most active and colorful verbs; 3) If you can say something in two words instead of three, do so; economy of writing always works best.

Of course, the writing also depends upon the format you are using. Press releases are best for newsworthy material, a change in personnel, procedure or new products. Bylined articles demonstrate your expertise in various topics and establish you as a guru. Newsletter articles must cover topics of general interest to your industry. We will delve into these formats more deeply in subsequent entries.


How to Measure Public Relations

Traditionally, public relations has always been difficult to measure. In traditional PR, pros often used “column-inches” to measure reputation management. However, this process did not account for the quality of the coverage or its ability to encourage follow-up. In the online world, however, the bane of measurement has largely subsided. Clients can monitor factors such as “clicks” to evaluate marketing campaigns, and some vendors such as Facebook often help users to measure response rate in a number of ways.

… to pursue due diligence, you must start to measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts

Perhaps, the most important measure for online publicity involves the use of Google Analytics. Since the corporate website represents a focal point for generating  interest, Google has provided this helpful program with a number of measurements to evaluate a search engine optimization campaign and the engagement of prospects once they reach your website.

Online publicity involves a number of techniques such as blog entries, online press distribution, e-newsletters and online news coverage. As corporate clients engage in these techniques, they should use Google Analytics as a neutral monitor of their success. The most effective way to set this up involves creating a spreadsheet to track key parameters each month. Google Analytics provides a comprehensive list of measurements to evaluate any website.

Assuming your I.T. person has enabled Google Analytics (automatically installed with nearly every website), simply sign in to Google and search for Google Analytics to access your account. Under “audience overview,” you will find every statistics you need. The most important item is the number of “users.” This number tells you how many unique visitors have accessed your website in any given time period. If this number does not increase on a monthly basis, your publicity efforts have not been effective.

In addition to SEO, which affects how many visitors are interested in your company website, you can also use Google Analytics to measure “engagement.” How do visitors respond once they get there? Statistics such as the average session duration and page visits per session provide this information. One particularly interesting statistic involves the bounce rate. The bounce rate tells you what percentage of people visit just one page and then leave. A high bounce rate means your engagement is dismal.

You can address the results from Google Analytics in many ways. But to pursue due diligence, you must start to measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. And Google provides the perfect tools to do so.


Public Relations Definition and Results

Public relations as an industry simply connotes any form of unpaid publicity.

Before you can properly pitch your public relations services, you must make sure your prospect knows what you do. The common definition of public relations has absolutely nothing to do with what the practice is all about. In general, public relations in the everyday parlance of the English language means a slightly dishonest manipulation of public opinion for somewhat dubious ends.

In reality, public relations as an industry simply connotes any form of unpaid publicity. Thus, any form of publicity that does not involve a direct payment, that is advertising, is public relations. In common practice, public relations involves the generation of news articles by pitching reporters or editors of a publication. In the Internet age, public relations has expanded to include other forms of unpaid publicity such as blogs, e-newsletters and the distribution of online press releases.

Most experts suggest that the ideal marketing budget for any company should include about 50 percent advertising and 50 percent public relations. In my opinion, public relations is even more important. For example, what are you more likely to read, a large display ad or a small interesting news article on the same page?

Once you overcome the resistance to public relations, you are faced with another conundrum. The impact of public relations is notoriously hard to measure. While advertising can be measured by the response rate, the impact of a public relations campaign can be much more amorphous. Public relations involves reputation management, and its effects general involve a more long-term impact based on publicity over many months. But clients typically become restless, and many expect immediate results.

This difficulty can be easily solved in the sphere of online public relations. In my post next week, I will discuss the best way to measure the impact of public relations online through Google Analytics, which can be used to quantify both search engine optimization and client engagement.