TRO is devoting the next few weeks to assisting agents in developing a 2009 Marketing Plan. Follow along with us each day to gain the traction you need to make 2009 your best year ever. You can find all of the previous articles in this series by clicking on the 365 Guide link at the end of this article.
It’s time to develop a public relations strategy for our 2009 Marketing Plan. A strong public relations (PR) strategy is one of the cornerstone’s of a company’s brand image. The ultimate goal of a PR strategy is to drive people into the sales process. PR is full-on marketing, a crafting of opportunities to put the company and its message in full view of the public, not by advertising but by news and information channels. A PR strategy generates buzz by virtue of what a company and its representatives have done, are doing or will do that is of interest to the public in general and the company’s market in particular. Traditional PR attempts to reach mass media with a mass message, and press releases were at one time the core of any PR strategy. But the subtleties of new media and of other possible marketing venues call for a more finely crafted approach to PR.
Although there are many possible venues for effecting a good PR strategy, our 2009 Marketing Plan is going to focus on five: press releases, other writing opportunities, internet interactions, speaking opportunities and events. Each of these PR channels are relatively easy to implement and require more effort than financial resources. They are also extremely effective when properly implemented.
Let’s begin with Press Releases. For our purposes, we are going to narrowly define press releases as news about your company. Articles about current events or perspectives we will cover under “other writing opportunities.”
Too often, press releases read like long, boring, prose advertisements. A press release, to be really effective, needs to have relevance to the reader, not just to your company. It must read like news, not like an advertisement. Here are a few steps you can take to generate effective press releases.
Spend a few moments brainstorming possible press release topics. Accomplishments, initiatives, unusual bookings and group themes all lend themselves to press release topics. Make sure to provide a local twist. Make the article relevant – how is readership affected by the news? How does earning your last destination specialist certification affect the local reader? What is the importance of being named a “Top Travel Agent” by a national magazine?
Draft your press release. Use news articles and other press releases as guides, but give a more heavy emphasis to short, well-written news articles. Write it once and then edit it without mercy. Be clear and to the point. It is not a thesis – give a statement of your point, a quote from you or someone in your company and your contact information. State the local relevance: “Jacksonville residents now have a local certified Scotland specialist.”
Obtain the names of the editors and reporters for your local news outlets. You can typically find this information in the “masthead” of periodicals. You can also call the newsrooms of local papers and radio stations and ask to whom press releases and story ideas should be addressed. Continually make efforts to learn the names of the various editorial outlets in your community and to meet those responsible if possible. Ask your news editor contacts about their preferred method of receiving press releases. Some will request faxes, others email and some will have particular formatting requirements. Send your press release to your editor/reporter database as requested, and wait. With a bit of luck, you will receive a call back. If you do not receive calls, and you will not always, use your press release on your company web site, in a newsletter or handout.
The methods described above are valid for the traditional press release, but also begin to blend into other writing opportunities which we will cover tomorrow. The internet and new media require other techniques that we will be considering later in our PR strategy.
Exercise – Gather together a list of local media – print and broadcast – and start a database of contacts and press release requirements. Make the generation of press releases a part of your 2009 Marketing Plan. For each project and event you work on during 2009, experiment with styling it as a press release. Doing a ball room dancing cruise? That’s a press release. Earning a certification? That’s a press release. Study and collect local stories in your paper and on broadcast media. Realize that many of them started with a press release from a business person. Reach out with press releases and your travel practice could soon be news.
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