Several years ago  I came up with the term ‘PR marketing‘. It wasn’t meant to mean just ‘PR and marketing’, it was more of a suggested approach to marketing if you like, inspired by the way PR people work.

I came up through the sales path to PR and marketing (and really only ‘fell’ into marketing and PR as there wasn’t anyone else around to do it – I learnt on the job). I found I had to ‘unlearn’ some of the ways I did things in sales if I wanted to get the attention of the media.

A while back I went to hear Jay Conrad Levinson speak – the man who invented guerilla marketing (and The Marlboro Man). At the same event was another speaker called Joel Roberts, who used to be a shock jock in the US and had launched a media consulting firm afterwards. He said some stuff that really struck home.

The first thing he did was invite audience members to ‘pitch’ themselves and their businesses. He was quite brutal, calling people to the stage and then interrogating them – in some cases excoriating them too – for having lousy pitches. Occasionally he would stop someone halfway through and say ‘I’m interested in that‘ – about just one thing they mentioned – the ‘hook’.

He was just using a similar (but slightly harsher) routine to the one he’d used on his chat show to decide which guests to feature and which he didn’t want.

His final piece of advice was…

“Journalists have the attention span of a gnat. If you can pitch something to a journo and get them interested, you know you have something that will be of extreme interest to the general population.”

So in effect he was saying take a PR person’s approach to your marketing… take a ‘PR marketing‘ approach!

Look for the ‘hook’

In PR terms you’re always looking for a ‘hook’ or an ‘angle’ to hang your story on. It can be quite difficult to do this when you – as the business owner – are in the trenches and totally absorbed in your own project.

You stop thinking objectively about your product, and often come up with ever more complex ways of describing it, when simplifying it would be much better! Something you might think is interesting may not be and something you gloss over may actually be the hook! This is where an outside ‘ear’ can really help.

For example one of my colleagues, when listening to a client explaining what they do, is incredibly good at picking the right angle, even though sometimes it can take a while for it to pop up in that meeting or conversation.

I also once worked for a client in a fairly ‘boring’ administrative type business. But, even though the work might have been seen as boring, the problems they dealt with were often anything but boring (and issues in their field pop up in the media all the time).

They were asking my advice on the wording of a newspaper ad they wanted to run for a free seminar. We’d just written an email newsletter for them and noticed that one particular (quite technical) story had attracted a lot of interest and clicks.

So, instead of writing ad copy for them, we suggested sending a news release out about this particular topic and – lo and behold – the Gold Coast Bulletin picked it up and ran a decent sized story (not quite front page, but nearly), also mentioning that if people wanted to know more they could go to the seminar.

Much less expensive (free) and much more effective than any ad. And – as is often the case with media coverage – they got a second run (on ABC local radio if I remember correctly) based on the first article.

Once you get the hang of this approach , you can use it again and again, plus it really focuses the mind on the stuff that’s likely to get attention. The one major difference between the world of marketing/advertising and the world of PR though is this… when you find an ad that works, you run it until it stops working. But with a news story for the media, once you’ve pitched it – whether you get coverage or not – that’s it. It’s ‘single use’ only (but feel free to use it in your own communications!). Then you’ve got to work out another media story.

This article originally appeared on My Marketing Person.

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