Connect With Your Local Market
Originally published: 07.01.10 by
HVACR Business Staff
A carefully crafted
tools to cut
through the clutter,
relate with your
public, and build
Every day thousands of promotional
messages reach the eyes
and ears of consumers through
multiple outlets, such as television,
radio, newspapers and magazines,
billboards, and the Internet. It’s difficult
for businesses to penetrate the clutter
and deliver messages that resonate and
stick with their intended audiences.
A carefully crafted public relations
program can take advantage of local media
outlets and provide a variety of tools
to cut through that clutter, creating credibility
in the process and the opportunity
to build goodwill among employees, customers,
and the larger community.
What is public relations?
Simply stated, public relations is the
planned and sustained effort to establish
and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding
between your organization
and your publics — to relate to these
audiences in a mutually advantageous
Who are these publics? They are your
employees, and they are the vendors who
supply you with products and the things
you require to accomplish your work.
They are also your customers, as well
as members of the community where
you live and do business — anyone who
touches your business and has the potential
to impact your success.
A public relations program at the local
level can be instrumental in helping
you reach these audiences through a
variety of media outlets. These outlets
include newspapers, radio and television
stations, weekly community papers
— any publication or broadcast program
transmits news and feature stories
to the public. Making media outlets in
your local market part of a strong public
relations program can help you reach
and connect with your public.
In the process, the visibility you gain
through an article that runs in the newspaper
or a story that appears on television
can establish credibility for your
business. That’s because the public tends
to view the media as an unbiased or independent
third-party whose decision to
publicize your business, product, service
or event is not based on ad revenue, but
rather on the perceived merit of what it
is your business is doing or promoting.
A public relations program can support
any of a variety of events associated
with your company — a new product
or service, a sponsorship, a community
service project, a unique or challenging
installation, etc. What you choose to
promote should depend on the answers
to three important questions:
1. First, who are you trying to reach
with a public relations program?
Who is your intended audience? Is it
your suppliers, your customers, your
2. After you have identified your audience,
consider a second question.
What appeals to your audience?
What would attract and hold their
3. Then, when you know with whom
you’re talking and what they want to
hear, ask what will interest the media.
How can you take a story that
you know will appeal to a specific audience
and make it equally appealing
to the media? Find out by listening to
local media programming or reading
their publications. This should help
you to discern the type of information
that is relevant to a particular
Think like a reporter
It’s also helpful if you learn to think
like a reporter. Find the “hook” in your
story — that idea or piece of information
that makes your event, product, or service
unique or especially timely — and use it to sell your story to the media. Maybe it’s
the introduction of a new high-efficiency
air-conditioning unit that coincides with
the removal of utility rate caps. Or maybe
your business is working with the Make-
A-Wish Foundation® to sponsor the wish
of a child in your community.
Selling or pitching your story
begins by identifying the best
contact at each media outlet
you want to approach. Whether
dealing with a radio or television
station or a newspaper,
the phonebook or Internet can
provide a phone number and
an address to get you started.
Then, when you make a phone
call, ask for the appropriate person
at each outlet: the news director at a
radio station; the producer or assignment
editor at a television station; and the appropriate
editor (e.g., news, business, lifestyle,
estate, etc.) at a newspaper.
When you make your initial phone
call, be sensitive to the schedule of the
contact. For instance, it’s a good idea to
limit phone calls to radio and television
stations to those times when they are not
on the air. If you are calling newspaper
reporters or editors, always ask if they are
on deadline before making your pitch. If
they are, ask when it would be more convenient
to call back. When you do have
the opportunity to talk with someone,
get to your point as quickly as possible.
Reporters are typically very busy.
As part of your conversation, be certain
to learn how each media outlet likes
to have information submitted to them. Is
it via fax, email, an email attachment, or
the U.S. mail?
Give them what they need
In some cases, you may be asked to
supply a press release, which is a formal
printed announcement that describes the
activity, product, service, or whatever
it is you want to publicize. The release
should be written in the form of a
news article and given to the media to
If you need to prepare a press release,
it is important that the release
contains key information.
Begin by answering the questions
who, what, when, where,
and why? Since you are working
with local media outlets,
be sure to incorporate relevant,
local information in the
release. For example, if you
are hosting an event, include the
date, time and location; not only
so your audience can be made
aware, but also so the media can make an
effort to attend, interview key people and
It’s often a good idea to include quotes
in the release that can be attributed to the
established spokesperson for your company.
Just be sure to secure approval of the
quotes before distributing the release. Identifying a company
When identifying a media-relations person or
spokesperson for your company, look for a leader
within your organization — someone who understands
the company and is familiar with the details
of the announcement being made. The spokesperson
should also feel comfortable answering questions
from journalists and editors and be readily
available for comments around the time the press
release is issued.
The conclusion of a press release should include
a call to action — what it is you would like the reader,
viewer, or listener to do. Maybe it’s an invitation
to an event. Or, it could be asking them to call your
company for additional information. Whatever it is,
be sure you have the infrastructure in place to support
the action. If, for example, you’ve asked people
to get in touch with you, be sure someone is available
to answer the telephone or respond to emails.
Finally, be certain the release includes the name
of your company and your contact information.
Attaching a photograph and a caption with the appropriate
identifications is another good idea.
And after you send the press release, refrain from
immediately calling the media or asking when your
article will run.
The best surprise is no surprise
If you are seeking publicity through the media,
be prepared to respond if someone from the media
contacts you. In addition to identifying a company spokesperson, you should identify your
key messages or talking points to ensure
a clear, concise, and consistent voice in
the media. Since most of the time interviews
will be conducted over the phone,
it doesn’t hurt to have those messages
written down and in front of you to use
as a guide during the conversation.
It’s also a good idea to practice for an
interview, because this will make you a
better spokesperson. Come up with a
list of questions and try answering those
questions using the key messages you
previously identified. Practicing in front
of a camera is a good way to prepare for
television interviews. By watching the
video, you will see areas in which you
need to improve in order to effectively
deliver your message.
During the interview, think about
your responses carefully, and assume
that everything you say will be quoted.
Be honest, responsive and factual, and
deliver your message clearly and concisely.
If you do not know the answer to
a question, tell the reporter you don’t
have the answer but will try and find it
and call back.
In the event a reporter asks to interview
a customer, find out what kinds of
questions he or she would like to ask
your customer. Let the reporter know
that you will contact a customer, and
then get back to the reporter with the
customer’s response. If the customer is
comfortable, provide his or her contact
information to the reporter.
On occasion, a reporter will ask you
to comment on a negative story. If this
happens, listen carefully to what he or
she has to say and then determine if a
response would do anything to enhance
the image of your business, or if it would
do more harm than good. Never say “no
comment,” because the audience always
assumes the worst when the interviewee
refuses to comment. Instead, steer the
conversation in the direction you want it
to go, and bridge the discussion back to
your key messages.
If the reporter is presenting you with
incorrect information, provide facts and
dates to support your side of the story.
Always remain calm in the process, and
remember that the goal is to convey your
business in a positive light so that customers
will turn to you for their hvacr
Local media can support
By building a positive relationship
with the local media, you increase the
likelihood of a successful public relations
campaign. Know and understand
the media in your area by reading the
newspaper, listening to the radio or
watching television to learn what they
are covering and how it relates to you. Be
respectful of their deadlines, and always
be responsive to their needs. In doing so,
the media will come to think of you as an
expert in the field and turn to you as they
write stories throughout the year. In addition,
it’s more likely they will respond
favorably when you approach them with
a news release, story idea or other component
of a well-structured public relations
Abby Butt is a public relations account
manager at Godfrey, a full-service,
integrated business-to-business branding
and marketing communications company
headquartered in Lancaster, Pa. Godfrey has
several clients in the HVAC&R industry. For
more information, visit www.godfrey.com.
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