Rachel Spencer is a freelance journalist and pet blogger at The Paw Post. She writes articles for national newspapers, magazines and websites about animals and works as a consultant to pet brands to help them secure media coverage. Her new book, Publicity Tips for Pet Businesses, explains everything entrepreneurs need to know about publicity and working with the media. We asked Rachel for her insight on PR...
1. How is PR different to advertising and marketing?
Publicity is sometimes referred to as ‘earned’ media. It’s not something you pay for like an advert or marketing material. It’s created by a third party - the journalist - talking about your products or what you do. Because they’re outside of your business their view is independent and it’s seen as more reliable and trustworthy. So if you take out an advert for your restaurant for example, you might say, ‘We serve the best meals in town.’ Readers will think, ‘Well of course they’re going to say that.’ But if the food critic Jay Rayner calls in and raves about your food in a newspaper article, people will see it as more credible.
2. Magazines often approach businesses to be featured for a fee, is this a good idea?
It really depends on the publication and what you are getting for that fee. The first question to ask is, ‘Do my ideal customers read this magazine?’ If it’s a reasonably priced advert in a pet or lifestyle magazine – so for example you may sell luxury beds which would fit well in an interiors magazine – then consider it. How much space will your advert take up? Will they include an advertorial? This is an article which is an advert but presented in a journalistic style so it blends in with the other articles in the magazine. Often you can write the article and supply the photos yourself. If this is the case, then it could be good value for money. But if your product is going to be one of many on a page or double page with only a paragraph or two about what you do, unless you have a huge budget, I would avoid.
3. What if there is no budget for PR, can publicity be achieved for free?
Yes. But you have to give the journalist or editor something that is newsworthy or of value for their readers. There are lots of ways to do this. I find with pet business owners, sharing their personal story of what inspired their business is a good start as this is always interesting. Moving forward, entrepreneurs should to understand what is a story and what people are interested in. Things that happen in the every day running of their business might actually be a story. One example is of a dog groomer who gives free grooms to dogs when they arrive at a local animal shelter to help them find homes. That’s a lovely, heartwarming tale. It’s a good idea to read the titles you would like to feature in to get a feel of the articles they use. There are different feature slots such as ‘A day in the life’ or ‘Lessons I’ve learned’ that publications run regularly. Then there are gift guides, competitions, stories around dates in the diary such as Bonfire night or Halloween or even Valentine’s Day. If you can build relationships with journalists and develop your own news sense, you can achieve a lot for free.
4. If a business owner isn’t naturally confident, can publicity be achieved without being in the spotlight too much?
It depends on the business. If it’s a product, a lot of the coverage might be gift guides or lifestyle features, so yes, it can. But avoiding the spotlight does limit your opportunities. My advice to entrepreneurs who are concerned about this is to try to overcome this if possible. People buy from people and I find most pet entrepreneurs have a compelling