Public Relations

The best kind of praise goes by word of mouth. If you have something interesting to say, professional journalists will be eager to listen. The moment you start thinking about your software, start making notes of journalists who cover your area, similarly magazines, both consumer and trade. Find the best person to send the Press Release to, when they need it by, and most importantly whether they are interested and when they are next doing something covering your field. Bear in mind that a "Yes" can turn into a "No" later on if they run out of space. Note:

♦ Their magazine

♦ Direct telephone number

Naturally, there is a limit to what you can achieve compared with a professional who has spent his or her life courting the press. So if you have money after covering other promotional items yet not enough over to sustain a full-blooded advertising campaign, consider professional public relations (PR).

PR is the least used tool of marketing, yet it could be the most important. PR's role is to bring you to the favorable attention of your various publics, such as journalists, distributors, educational authorities, and so on. Used well, its effect can be quite disproportionate to the number of people introduced to your product. A good PR man will also know when the trade press is running special theme editions of pertinence. If you are unknown, it's a good idea to make contact with them before you issue any press release.

PR is essentially about liaising with those who form opinions in their field and providing them with information about people, products, and services so they will speak about them favorably. The work ranges from getting journalists to write reviews to getting key industry figures to be aware of you, your company, your vision, and your products. This is a job you shouldn't expect from advertising. Advertising is a scattergun tool that hits many lightly. PR is a sniper's tool. It aims particularly at that key minority who can really influence your market—the men and women who dictate what happens to your product next.

The effect of PR is to bring your product to the attention of a wider market by liaising with influencers and journalists, arranging trade, correcting misinformation, and organizing socially useful events. The crucial thing is to make sure you hire the man who will do the work. This isn't always the man who sells you on his PR consultancy. You should also be aware that it is easier to promise PR than to deliver it and that the cost of using these professionals is not cheap. PR consultants who deliver "free" column inches typically command incomes 50 percent higher than their peers in advertising.

What you should look for is someone who gets a kick out of helping others succeed, someone who has a genuine interest and knowledge of your product area, and who has a naturally high energy level. The right person will have good relationships with the trade press and be friends with many of the individuals who can help you. He or she can use these relationships to obtain magazine reviews and editorial in publications that you cannot tap yourself and add to the credibility of your product by initiating articles that originate from parties without any obvious axe to grind. It goes without saying that such a person should also have a good grip on business and be professional. They aren't easy to find, but they are out there.

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