Markets: How to become the buzz of your town

(March 2010) Before delving in medias res, take a moment to reflect on this true story: back in 1985 when Boris Becker soared to fame seemingly over night, one reader wrote a letter to the editor of a magazine complaining „When I turn on the radio, I hear Boris Becker! When I turn on the television I hear Boris Becker! When I read the morning papers, I read Boris Becker. I hardly dare open a can anymore.“

The anecdote stands for rule number one of public relation (p.r.): don’t overdo it. Suffice it to appear in the media once in awhile. You are not a politician, nor a star or any other famous socialite.

So there will be no public interest in your company; this is where rule number two comes in: you must approach the journalists.

You will succeed in this if you observe rule number three: give the journalist something to write about, that’s what keeps the press churning.

But what does your company offer that is worth writing about or that anyone would be interested hearing about on radio or watching on TV for that matter?

For the sake of comprehension, let us engage in a self-experiment.

Question: would you be interested to read that the hairdresser on your block has acquired a new pair of scissors? Or, question: would you take an interest if your regional TV channel reported on heavy rainfall in an entirely different area?

Point in case: you would probably answer „yes“ if you had a personal interest in the matter; if e.g. the heavy rainfall could result in flooding in your area, or if the new scissors could finally entice your children to visit the hairdresser because this hairdresser is „hip“.

Readers must have a personal interest in the themes you offer the media. That was rule number 4. Albeit: the themes must touch a great number of readers, not only yourself.

The art lies in ranging your enterprise with the eye of the journalist. E.g. you have built a new office building and invested a great deal of money in doing so. From your point of view, this is a story worth telling.

But why should someone else take an interest?

Answer: perhaps because of your mise-en-scene. For the grand opening of your new headquarters you commissioned a sculptor to create a work of art positioned in the forecourt. Best chose a local sculptor (we are talking about contacts to the local press). This is something a journalist would gladly report and, by the way, mention you and your enterprise.

That is all you should strive for because that is all you are going to get without investing big money yourself.

Or: if the building is a factory or production site, tell the journalist how many new jobs it will create locally or how it will boost turnover in the area and thus strengthen local markets.

Second favourite next to themes that touch local markets are themes with a social touch, e.g.: the asphalt around the park benches in your local park is in a sorry state. If you bought a machine which could break remnant rough slabs, you could organize to have the local senior’s club and the municipality attend. The seniors could break the stones and the municipality would install them and take over maintenance.

Kindergartens are also ever-grateful recipients of this sort of help and make for good public relations. Games to sort or classify stones according to surface properties, size or shape can be organized at no cost. Whoever wants a turn at operating the machine should be friendly and outgoing.

Rule number five summarizes the above: make sure people talk about your enterprise locally. Art or social themes are good possibilities. Ecological issues are also always well adapted for p.r. work.

Very important in public relations is credibility, which makes for rule number six. Don’t tell a journalist about social projects that, in fact, are not. Do not bluff with jobs that are not going to materialize.

You may manage to make it to the press by telling tall tales but be assured that you competitors will make a big fuss.

Rule number seven: very important in your contact with the editor is presenting professional press material. Writing press releases is like writing invoices: make sure they include all the facts and that all the facts are correct. Make it easy for the journalist to avoid making mistakes.

Two more aspects: Get used to the fact that your contact to the media will modernize your enterprise. To take the example from above, if your company participated in providing new walkways to the park benches, you will have created a sense of community also among your employees to mention but one aspect of Corporate Social Responsibility.

Speaking of modernization: once you have established good relations to the editor, take a look at your relations to your employees. On a local level they are the best disseminators of your message.