Mitch Goldstone, president and CEO of ScanMyPhotos.com and 30 Minute Photos Etc., discusses how to use PR to your advantage
Imagine either the desolate sound of chirping crickets or the buzz of crowds queuing up to shop at your store, just as they steadily do at the world’s smartest retailer, The Apple Store. All it takes is the power of pubic relations, backed by a gripping experience, and an urgency to check out your photo center.
For me, a recent experience at The Apple Store in New York City was tied with the eager excitement guests experience as they wait to get into Disney World, or what lucky winners confront when recognizing they hold the winning lottery ticket. There is a special buzz, excitement, and something new to discuss.
The foundation for building such fervor takes a great deal of time and study. It requires having a new story to tell, a sensational selling proposition, and public relations way beyond the normal scope of reach. With the hastening decline in standard print media, it is becoming more difficult to score that coveted human interest story; but you can take advantage of social networking bloggers, community groups, and literally thousands of other new opportunities.
Public relations today is more than getting your store mentioned in the local paper. My company is regularly featured by the national media, including stints on the “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams,” the “Today Show,” “CBS Sunday Morning,” and various radio interviews. We got into The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and The New York Times because ScanMyPhotos.com and 30 Minute Photos Etc. have something newsworthy to discuss. Sometimes we even create news events, but we always make sure the PR topic is interesting, compelling, unique, and newsworthy. Make sure your PR campaigns pass the test of what interests you. If you would just turn the page, don’t waste the media’s time.
The goal of smart PR is to make noise, be heard and, most important, make money – that is the score to identify what is working. To achieve this, get out of the commodity business of standardized PR and think beyond what many call “duct tape PR,” where each media experience is a quick, one-time fix.
Most PR campaigns require priming the pump and investing in research and innovation. You already accomplished the first step by being involved in PMA; you have earned the credibility and connections to get on the map. Now, you need to work on a strategy to score the ultimate PR coup – having the media call you first.
It is easy to make news – just have something new to talk about. Are you still developing photographic film, or are you offering new digital imaging services that represent what modern consumers want?
For my company, we invested in the newest technology powered by the Kodak APEX modular dry lab solution. It is cost-effective and eco-friendly. It also represents the future of our industry, and takes no time to create buzz and excitement from employees and customers. For us, it was all about unloading our traditional chemistry processors for this new solution. It is seamlessly networked to Kodak Picture Kiosks so our customers can make something from prints and enlargements in just seconds.
Smart PR means doing your homework. Read everything from local papers, MySpace, Facebook, and blogs. Follow events in your community. Get to know reporters and regularly communicate with them to comment on prior articles, even by replying to their online article comment sections. Do this first without a story pitch. It is far better to get to know reporters and bloggers initially, rather than only responding after a story appears to haunt them for forgetting to include you in a previous profile. Once you have hard news, reach out and share the excitement of the pitch and the sizzle with them.
Be unique. Tell a story and personalize it with customer experiences. Explain why one customer literally wept when you handed her the newly restored image of her grandparents, or scanned generations of family snapshots so she could instantly view them and create photo product on your kiosks.
Smart PR is about personalizing, educating, and solving problems. Make sure your message is articulated well and with good grammar. Always be professional, accessible, and courteous of reporters’ time.
If all else fails, write your own formatted news profile and post it on your business website. You can also publish your perfectly formatted news release on your blog to control the exact message you seek.
PR, however, is more than a press release. Today it is about email blasts, social marketing, online paid searches, YouTube “how-to” videos of your store, and using services like PRWeb.com and MailerMailer.com.
If you want to know which PR campaigns are the most effective, ask your customers. They will be happy to share their feedback and tell how they learned about your company.
Have fun and be persistent and patient. Your PR journey is the whole process of making news. Your goal is not to collect news clippings, but to get noticed and to build profits.