It’s not surprising that many organisations feel that PR is unpredictable, expensive and time-consuming.

For the uninitiated, writing press releases isn’t easy – and getting them distributed is something of a toil. After dipping your toe into the water with a few unsuccessful press releases, you decide to focus your marketing efforts elsewhere.

This is a shame – because PR can be a cost-effective part of almost any business’s marketing mix. It’s just a question of going about it in the right way – and in a way that’s proportional to your business. Here are some pointers to get you thinking.

Don’t set pen to paper without a PR strategy.

The key mistake that many organisations make is to fire off press releases without having some kind of overall strategy. PR should not be purposeless. Your strategy can be simple. Perhaps you want to be recognised in a specific niche for your specialist expertise. Perhaps you want people to realise that your product outperforms most of your competitors’. Perhaps your buyers need educating on key topics before they can make more informed decisions. Or perhaps your industry’s perception of your company is disconnected from reality and you need to change it. These types of goals help you to decide the topics, language, emphasis and distribution of a press release.

Set a schedule. Keep to it.

PR is like all other forms of marketing – an activity, not an event. A single press release is the equivalent of a one-night stand, when what we want from PR is a meaningful relationship. There are no rules for how often you should distribute press releases – it’s up to you. One per day, ten per month, two per month, one, or one every two months. As in all things, frequency in PR is no substitute for quality – but, combined with quality, continual exposure can really contribute to success. Bear in mind that your ‘PR schedule’ isn’t just about how often you distribute a press release. Schedule in time to brainstorm campaigns and to hunt around your organisation for news topics – so that when the time comes to write a press release, you’re not faced with a blank page.

Don’t wait until it’s time to write a press release to think about PR.

If you do, you’ll sit there with a blank page, scratching your head, wondering what it was you did last month that’s newsworthy. Be thinking about PR all of the time. Make notes of things which are newsworthy and follow them up while they are still news.

Be proactive. Make news.

Don’t wait for news to happen – make the news. Conduct a survey and publish the results. Stir up some controversy with an alternative or radical view. Assess how much money companies are losing by not using your product.

Meet your editors.

Although you may distribute press releases to hundreds of periodicals, only a few of these will be your ‘core target’ publications. Many organisations target just a handful of publications. So, focus your efforts: meet the journalists and editors. It’s worth having lunch every six months or so with each of them – with no agenda other than to ‘touch base’. Do this and rise above the background noise.

Engage some outside help.

The biggest issues for many companies are finding the time for PR and having the skills to write an engaging story. So, engage some outside help. This doesn’t need to be a PR agency, if all you need is the copywriting, for example. Don’t let your lack of internal bandwidth stop your PR activities. An outside view is also helpful in spotting the ‘real’ stories. There are lots of small companies or freelancers who can help.

Do it!

PR works for all sizes of company – from one-person-bands upwards. PR can help to build your company’s profile and credibility in a way that advertising can’t. It can get you into the same distribution channels and media as your biggest competitor – and get you talked about in the same breath. Make PR part of your marketing mix.