When you launch a new product/service, revamp your web site or do another great deed that’s newsworthy, who do you tell? How do you tell it? Maybe you write a press release and email it to your contact database. Good. Which reporters are on that list and how good is your relationship with them? Do they know you as the expert in your field and do they proactively call on you for insight?

PR does not stand for press release. Writing press releases is important for getting your story out, but it’s not the only tool in your arsenal. PR stands for Public Relations, which is much broader than just a press release. Just as you attend networking events to get to know others and try to work with them, PR entails getting to know customers, prospects, reporters and even community influencers, and continually working together to help each other.

To be successful, PR can NOT be one person writing a press release, emailing it to his/her database of contacts and hoping someone will publish a story about it. Instead, PR entails knowing the types of stories that your industry and beat reporters are covering and even the stories they’re thinking about covering. Then, be THE resource to help them write the story that their editor loves and that advertisers love because subscribers love reading the content. Think that reporter will interview you again? Highly likely.

PR is helping your local Chamber of Commerce or associations with content that impacts a large number of its members… so much so that the Chamber or association adapts your press release into an article in its newsletter or magazine. This is becoming more common as media outlets cut news staff to a bare minimum. Sometimes, publications write their own stories but will quote you as the expert (especially if you’ve provided them with fodder on the topic.) That type  of coverage looks more objective coming from a third party, rather than your own press release, and the article would extend far beyond your own list of contacts to new prospects that the magazine/newsletter reaches. Yet again, getting this type of coverage involves having a relationship with the reporters covering your industry and your willingness/time/ability to work with the reporters to build a complete story.

I believe many businesses are doing great things for their customers but if you’re not harnessing the full potential of PR, you’re limiting your reach and your lead generation. Do you have a pleased client? Did you just finish a project for a customer and do a fantastic job? Great! Did you have a success story written about the project? Did you ask the client for a quotation about the project success? These are great ways to publicize your efforts and provide reporters with concrete examples that can be used in articles. Plus, once an article is published with your content or quotation, you can further promote it to the public through social media channels like FaceBook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Let’s use an analogy. My arms can only spread so far. (Picture me stretching my arms out very far.) However, if my arms are connected to your arms as well as to local newspapers, magazines, industry publications, associations and blogs, my collective reach is far greater. In that way, I’m reaching many more people, many of whom are prospects. When prospects repeatedly see and hear your organization and your area of expertise, they’re more likely to call you when they need your services. Now that’s what Public Relations is all about.