The competitive nature of the internet and the new brands, businesses and startups emerging every week means that it can be harder to stand out PR-wise.
Once upon a time it was about knowing the right people, pitching a solid story and securing coveted coverage in key media spots. It was difficult, but once you had built a reputation, it was relatively easy to maintain it.
These days there’s pressure to live and breathe your mission, to employ people who embody your business’s goals, to have a presence on every platform.
It’s more important than ever to think creatively, to take a different approach to public relations and building your brand. If you have the right mentality, this can actually be quite refreshing.
This is because one thing people can’t replicate is you, your standards, belief system, mission and vibe. And this approach combined with alternative public relations strategies and tactics can help you stand out in a noisy online world.
The Difference Between Strategies And Tactics
Before we start, let’s clarify the difference between strategies and tactics.
Strategy is your long-term mission and how you’re planning to achieve it. A strategy reflects the core values of your business and the end goal always needs to be in mind.
Tactics have clear aims that help with your strategy and tend to be short-term. Often tactics are single tasks that can be executed and evaluated within a specific timeline.
It’s important to remember that strategies can change but tend to stay the same. Strategies and tactics work in alignment with each other – if they don’t there’s something wrong and you need to go back to square one.
Alternative public relations strategies and tactics are an excellent way to make your brand stand out and show a fresh, engaging approach to PR.
But there’s a reason that PR professionals have tried and tested methods to achieve coverage for clients – because they work.
Building strong relationships with journalists, developing compelling narratives, knowing the audience, well-written press releases etc – these are at the very heart of basics of public relations.
The medium may have changed (e.g. the internet) but the fundamentals are the same. And if you don’t know the fundamentals, you won’t succeed.
So before you start worrying too much about standing out, make sure you know why you want to stand out and what you want to achieve. And if you are in a conservative industry it may not be the best idea to get too whacky.
On the other hand it may be that the industry needs a shakeup and your alternative PR tactic will pay off.
Or it could backfire.
The main point is to use your judgement. Be confident. Know your industry, know what you can get away with.
This is the key to success. Let’s get started.
Here Are Three Public Relations Alternative Strategies And Tactics Examples
1.The Alternative Press Release
Press releases are still very popular, with many seeing them as the bread and butter of a successful communications campaign.
But the old-fashioned ‘pyramid’ press releases with the quotes in all the right places and the traditional sign-off at the end? Well, it certainly works for some industries – especially traditional ones like healthcare.
That doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. Why not have fun? There are many ways you can catch a journalist’s attention in this day and age – as long as you’re pitching to the right journalist and the story is strong.
Here are a few alternative press release tactic examples:
· Guest posts
· Meme marketing
Journalists have short attention spans so anything you can do to get your message in front of them quickly is a bonus.
And videos can do just the trick – as long as they’re concise and relevant.
Just bear in mind that if your story isn’t right it doesn’t matter what you do – you’re not going to get published. This is why it’s important to spend time making sure that the story works first.
Here are a few more reasons why you should create a short video pitch:
· It puts a face to the name and will stick in the journalist’s mind
· It shows you’ve put thought into your pitch and that you respect the journalist’s time
· It encourages the journalist to read further details in (the attached) text press release
· The journalist will know who you are for future opportunities and be able to locate you easily online (the video should be hosted on your YouTube channel and have links to your social channels in the description).
How to film a video
· Write a short script. Keep it no longer than a minute (preferably 30 seconds)
· Keep each sentence concise to ensure you convey your message. Focus on the key hook of the story, how it relates to the journalist, how it relates to their audience
· Include key data points that are relevant to the journalist’s audience
· The first ten seconds need to be interesting. Introduce yourself and/or start with an interesting fact, sum up your pitch and then go into further detail for the rest of the video
· Finish with a call to action. The CTA should be an action you ask the viewer to do – for example, read the attached press release, email you, quote you, interview you
· Set up a good backdrop with the right lighting
· Create a link for your video rather than uploading a file. The video should link to sites such as Vimeo, Wistia or YouTube where your video can be easily accessed
· Hire an editor if you can afford it. There are lots of editors on sites such as Fiverr and Upwork who could help you out for a very reasonable price
· Make sure you include further information below your video in the description if possible and that you add a UTM code so you can track where your traffic comes from.
Pitch For The Magazine For Public Relations Professionals (Fictional)
“Did you know that on average journalists open just 20 percent of their pitches?
Research by the team at Cleverly Consultancy also revealed that between 10 and 11am is the best time to send a pitch for 73 percent of journalists.
As well as this, they were three times more likely to open an email if they received a follow-up email.
We quizzed 2,000 writers, editors and freelancers from leading publications about the pitches they receive each week.
The findings confirmed that for PR professionals the time they pitch and whether they follow up or not are the defining factors that determine whether their pitch gets published or not.
Click on the link in the description below for more details about the research so your audience can discover how to increase the odds of getting their pitches published”
Why the script works:
✔️Opens with a hard-hitting statistic
✔️Quickly introduces the company
✔️Goes into further detail and keeps sentences short
✔️Demonstrates why it’s useful for the audience – and therefore the journalist
✔️Ends with CTA
Infographics are fun, colourful and eye-catching and can really make your pitch stand out.
What is an infographic?
An infographic is a way to represent data and information visually in the form of graphics. You can make them very simple or more complex. For press releases, it’s best to make them as clear as possible because as mentioned previously, journalists don’t have a lot of time. Don’t get too carried away with the visuals though! The data needs to be clear – pretty graphics won’t help if the information isn’t conveyed coherently. Keep in mind that your infographic should be a professional representation of your brand.
Here are some other things to remember when creating an infographic for a press release:
· Brand your infographic – add your company colours, contact information, website address and logo to the footer of the infographic so journalists can clearly see who it’s from and it looks as professional as possible. Oh and avoid stock photos (at least boring ones. If you take your own even better!)
· Add your sources – if your data is from your own research you don’t need to mention sources. But if you are using external sources, make sure you label these clearly. Sometimes your release will include a mixture of both internal and external sources – so be sure to clarify which is which.
· Don’t be afraid to add quotes – quotations give context and credibility to what you’re writing about. It’s common to use more than one quote in press releases – but with infographics it’s easiest to include the most important quote. If you just want to focus on the data points/main story you don’t have to include a quote, as the text press release you include along with the infographic will have more information.
· Avoid clutter – this needs to be mentioned again because it’s important – especially because many journalists will view your infographic on their smartphones so it needs to be the right size and clearly presented.
Here are some sites you can use to create infographics:
Pitch the idea as a guest post
What is a guest post?
A guest post is a piece of writing someone does as a ‘guest’ on another site. The general aim is for the guest to get traffic to their site and to earn backlinks to increase Google rankings.
However, it’s also possible to pitch guest posts to larger publications. These are also referred to as ‘opinion pieces’. While guest posting is usually associated with SEO as discussed above, it’s worth remembering that some larger publications don’t give backlinks – these are called ‘NoFollow’ links which means that search engines ignore them. It’s always useful to check beforehand whether the links are Follow or NoFollow, but if the site has a lot of traffic then it’s still worth writing for them.
A strong guest post as a press release should:
-Be written with the audience in mind
-Include important details – e.g. new data etc
–Be engaging and interesting
Have links to further information – at the bottom of the article or in the text e.g. company website (even if it’s a NoFollow link), social media handles etc
· Enclose photos and other imagery – here’s your chance to include infographics and images/video etc
· Optimised for SEO – if possible – as mentioned above, some big publications are worth getting published in simply because they are a big name or have a lot of traffic.
Guest post email example (using the Magazine for Public Relations Professionals example)
Subject line: Guest post: The Art of Pitching: why timing and follow up are the formula for the perfect pitch
Or: Guest post: Did you know journalists open just 20 percent of their pitches?
Or: A guest post for your magazine – why timing and follow up are the formula for the perfect pitch
I’m reaching out regarding contributing a guest post to the Magazine for Public Relations Professionals
The article could be titled: “The Art of Pitching: why timing and follow ups is the formula for the perfect pitch”
The content would focus on Cleverly Consulting’s survey results after the company interviewed 2,000 writers, editors and freelancers from leading publications which discovered:
· On average journalists open just 20 percent of their pitches
· Between 10 and 11am is the best time to send a pitch for 73 percent of journalists
· They were three times more likely to open an email if they received a follow-up email.
I’d like to offer this fresh research to you exclusively, so if you could let me know by x am on x day that would be great.
Add name, website, company profile, personal bio and social handles, as well as media attachments
This email works as it:
✔️ Has a strong email subject line (there are several options, it’ a question of testing over time)
✔️ Suggests a headline (the journalist may change this – the point is you’ve done half the work for them)
✔️ Gives a clear cut off date – if a journalilst contacts you after the cut off date and it’s already been commissioned by someone else, you can either rework the content and write a similar piece with slightly different take if they’re happy with that or reassure them they will be first in line in future!
✔️Gives further details of the writer/company
You may want to change the tone depending on the publication. But this is the type of email style to adopt – quick and to the point.
What are memes?
Did you know that Richard Dawkins first wrote about memes in his book The Selfish Gene in 1976?
The evolutionary biologist and author described memes as ‘the cultural equivalent of a gene’. Just as the gene becomes more frequent in the gene pool, a meme spreads through a population from brain to brain, like fashion trends, accents or slang.
The modern meme is internet-focused with people sharing jokes, fads and social ideas across the web – especially on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
What do memes look like?
Memes tend to come in the form of images or GIFs with clever and memorable captions attached.
Here are a few that went viral you may have seen
INSERT GRUMPY CAT
Why are memes used for marketing?
There are several reasons memes are used for marketing:
They are not overly promotional
Memes are a way of conveying a message and engaging an audience without being overly promotional. They are different to adverts and much more entertaining. Ads can be funny and interesting but most of the time they are obviously sales pitches so people tend to switch off. On the other hand, memes have an air of authenticity and humour.
They have the potential to go viral
People don’t really tend share ads – unless they are sentimental and/or traditional like the John Lewis Christmas ad. But memes have the potential to go big and be reshared year in year out. On social media especially there is the opportunity to express and opinion with a meme and people find that fun.
They encourage engagement
A tactic sucessfully used is linking memes to specific news stories so they have immediate relevancy for those who see them. On social media, this leads to more comments and shares, and with a bit of luck the meme will be used over and over again.
They can shake up an industry
Brands can use memes to bring a fresh look to an industry. It could be that the industry is a bit stale or stuck in its ways. For example, Gucci used meme marketing to adapt popular memes to feature their new collection of watches. This was unusual for a luxury brand because this market tends to rely on exclusivity and reputation rather than viral marketing.
Memes can flop.
Some memes go big, some barely take off. Why? Timing, bad messaging, bad luck – it depends. It’s worth remembering that there’s no guarantee people will share your meme just because it’s a meme. If your meme doesn’t go viral, move on and try again.
How can memes be used for press releases?
Using memes for press releases is a novel idea and can make your press release really stand out. Generally, memes are best used to support text press releases, similarly to videos.
As memes aren’t yet widely used in press releases, you can set yourself apart by doing so, and build a reputation as being original and creative within your field.
You may want to consider hiring someone externally to help you put the meme together like an experienced social media marketer.
And memes tick some of the boxes when it comes to successful pitching:
– Memes are concise – remember the short attention span!
– Intriguing – memes will pique interest and the journalist will want to know more
– Memes are humorous – everyone loves to laugh.
It’s important to be aware that memes won’t be appropriate for every press release. If you work in a profession that’s highly regulated and/or conservative it’s probably best to avoid memes.
In general, memes could be used for:
· New product announcements
· Data releases
· Awareness campaigns
On the other hand, sometimes taking a risk can pay off.
Take the ‘Meth, We’re On It’ public health campaign in South Dakota. Ok, this wasn’t a meme, but the advert was pretty risqué.
“There’s a problem in South Dakota and we all need to get on it,” the posters explains. “Because together we can get meth out of here.”
The posters had the tagline laid over the image of the state and over images of people from various walks of lives.
Social media went into overdrive, mocking the ad. But it got attention and raised awareness of the meth problem in the state.
Of course, it was subject to criticism but these days almost everything is.
So, the lesson is don’t be scared to take (calculated) risks. And remember that even if you include them when pitching no one has to see them unless you make the conscious decision to share them on social media. Although remember that the journalist may ask to include the meme in their article with exclusive rights to use it first. This could work if the journalist has a bigger audience than you – again it’s about weighing up the pros and cons.
How to present your meme to journalists
If you decide to contact the journalist via email, you could attach the meme along with the press release, video etc separately from the email body text OR include it in the email body text so it’s the first thing they see. As long as it’s not too big this could work well. You can then go into further details in the rest of the email.
Meme as a teaser
Alternatively, why not send the meme to the journalist(s) via social media? You could send the meme using direct messaging and then explain that ‘the press release and further information has been sent to your inbox’ to encourage them to open the email and read the full release.
There are many ways you can use memes to bring your press releases alive. The most important thing is to know your audience and to seek wide opinion beforehand to ensure that the meme is tasteful and appropriate.
2. Team up with an unlikely partner
One good strategy when it comes to alternative public relations examples can be to team up with an unlikely partner.
A new partnership between two companies is newsworthy. What makes an even better story is if the match is a bit different or unusual.
This is because:
· An unusual story is more interesting for journalists and their audiences
· If both you and your partner share media coverage/news around the partnership that’s double the shares and double the attention
· If you can include fresh statistics/a new angle as well as the story about the partnership that’s even more appealing
· And if you make the most of the alternative press release options as outlined above that works even better because not only do you have an unusual partnership, you also have an alternative press release.
What to look for in a partnership
Here are a few points to bear in mind when looking for a suitable partnership:
1. The partnership needs to be mutually beneficial
2. They need to share your values in some way
3. The more unusual the more newsworthy the tie-up will be
4. You need to trust your potential partner – consider companies you’ve known for a while
5. Have an idea about the length of the partnership and how your relationship will continue moving forward
Examples of unusual partnerships:
· In 2017, Ford Motor Company in New York teamed up with Domino’s Pizza Inc to test a service to deliver pizzas in a Ford Fusion vehicle armed with self-driving technology. A strange partnership – but one that made sense
· Staying with Ford – the same year, Tinder and Ford got together for promotional purposes, with a competition asking users to “swipe right if you fancy a blind date in a Ford mustang”
· In 2011 Hyundai teamed up with Prada. The unusual partnership between the luxury brand and budget vehicle was a way of Hyundai leapfrogging into the luxury market. The collaboration led to the Genesis Prada concept which was launched in the Middle East
· And during the 2020 pandemic, Uber and Dettol in Australia teamed up to provide hygiene kits to ensure Uber drivers could have hand sanitisers and disinfectors at no cost.
3. The Alternative PR Stunt
There’s an old saying ‘all publicity is good publicity’. In some ways, this is true. If people know who you are you are more likely to get attention.
Whatever you may think of Donald Trump, he played this game by using Twitter to get his thoughts out there, got attention, clicks, built a wide, engaged audience. Whether this is ethical or not is another matter – but many politicians, journalists and other public figures have copied Trump by broadcasting polarising ‘takes’ on subjects to build their own online profiles.
That brings us on to PR stunts.
What is a PR stunt?
In an age where everyone’s clamouring for attention it’s harder than ever to make waves with a PR stunt. This is why the stunts that do seem to succeed are more on the outlandish side – remember, all publicity is good publicity…
Wikepedia describes a PR stunt as “…a planned event designed to attract the public’s attention to the event’s organizers or their cause…successful publicity stunts have news value, offer photo, video and sound bite opportunities, and are arranged primarily for media coverage.”
Interestingly, one of the most famous stunts in the world actually came about accidentally.
In 1938 on Halloween, a young broadcaster named Orson Welles, broadcast a realistic dramatization of a Martian invasion.
The use of on-the-scene reports were so realistic that many people thought they were real. Or did they? Well, according to newspaper headlines and conventional history, yes.
Yet at the same time we know from several sources that these reports were exaggerated. There were no deaths or serious injuries for one thing. And it was a great opportunity for newspapers to crush its new competitor by claiming radio was a dangerous medium.
There was a winner though. The 23 year-od Orson Welles went on to direct and star in one of America’s most famous films – Citizen Kane. Whether the stunt was intentional or not, Welles managed to ride the wave of fame successfully.
Moving into the modern period, here are just a few outlandish stunts that have succeeded:
Fake protests – in 2018, a Bitcoin mining company staged a protest at the 2018 Consensus Blockchain Conference in New York to get more investors. They chanted slogans like”hey hey, ho ho, Bitcoin has got to go,” and held signs informing anyone who passed by that “paper checks use less electricity!”
Why it worked: The stunt worked because the thousands of protestors got press attention. The novelty factor of Bitcoin and its recent surge also helped. There was always the risk of negative press, but the risk paid off.
The humiliation factor – In 2018, dating app Tinder created a PR stunt in New York City. One woman invited thousands of men on the same date. There was much surprise – and some anger – when they turned up in Union Square and the stunt was announced to the shocked men.
Why it worked: The stunt went viral, demonstrating that the humiliation factor has social media appeal. On the other hand, the stunt was pretty risky and could have alienated many male users.
The Trump Stunt – Using political hooks to attention is a popular way to help your stunt go viral. And who better than Donald Trump to create controversy? The fast food giant, Burger King, decided to troll the Trump administration after it decided to appeal the net neutrality law. How? With a PR stunt that applied the opposite concept of neutrality to Whopper sales. In essence, customers were charged for their Whoppers based on how long it would take to deliver them. If customers wanted to pay less, they would have to endure longer wait times.
Why it worked: It’s never advisable for companies to publicly take political stands, but it actually worked in this instance because Burger King didn’t take an overt political position – they simply poked fun at the proposed costs of internet speeds without net neutrality. The fast food giant recorded the stunt, then posted it online. Naturally, the video went viral, giving Burger King lots of free publicity.
Using alternative press release tactics can be a way of winning the attention of journalists and driving traffic to your brand. These include: