Public Relations is Not Just Pitching

If good public relations could be accomplished with email pitches alone we would all be out of jobs. Working with the media is  just one side of public relations, and a direct connection to the media is just one resource we offer our clients or employers. Here are four alternatives for garnering publicity. The media play a role in each, but these four alternatives prove that the media is not the only route to public relations success.

1. Awards

When we think of awards, we think of an event like the Oscars. Unfortunately, most of us will never be in a position to win such a glitzy, high-profile award, but canny businesses can snag awards from any number of organizations.

For example, Ernst and Young hands out the Entrepreneur of the Year awards. The professional services firm recognizes companies and individuals across 26 regions in the United States–plus national awards–and in almost three dozen countries. PC maker Dell and its founder, Michael Dell, were the winners of the 1987 Technology Award in the Austin Region. Dell was a privately held company at the time. More than 20 years later, the computer giant is worth more than $50 billion.

While not as impressive as the Ernst and Young awards, Forbes Magazine hands out its Best of The Web awards to dozens of web sites each year. Looking for some folk art for your home? Try Indigo Arts, which Forbes called “A stunning site, packed with amazing objects and helpful text.” The credibility of the Forbes Magazine seal attached to your website is worth the tiny effort involved with pitching the section’s editors.

These are just two examples of awards within your company or client’s reach. Local, region, national, and international organizations of all sizes and disciplines hand out awards to businesses and individuals. Often, efforts to promote the awards are undermined by their own poor public relations, limiting the field to those who seek out honors. A few hours of research should yield at least a dozen awards opportunities, and a win can garner your company prestige and some easy publicity.

2. Be a Good Member of the Community

All companies should encourage their workers to engage in community service. If I owned a company, I would give workers off one day every three weeks to perform some sort of community service. Oh, and they would be paid for the day.

Companies that isolate themselves from the community do so at their peril, running the risk of alienating potential customers, political allies, vendors, and employees. There are many ways to perform community service, including sponsoring youth sports teams, taking part in environmental and charitable activities, or sponsoring community events. The tax perks don’t hurt either.

By working within the community, your company can foster a positive image and build relationships with the local media. More than the immediate public relations payoff, however, you’ll actually help people. This helps build employee morale, which is an important part of public relations.

3. Pro Bono Work

Public relations people should view themselves as skilled professionals in the same way as doctors and lawyers. Your services are needed not just by your employers or clients but also by those with limited resources and a good cause.

Applying your skills to help organizations or individuals in need should be on any public relations firm’s agenda. There’s no reason successful public relations firm can’t occasionally allocate resources to help some less-fortunate people who could use some good old fashioned publicity.

4. Utilize Your Client’s Expertise

A few weeks ago, a public relations pro and PR Fuel reader emailed with an interesting anecdote. He had been hired by an exterminator, and was a little bit worried about how to  drum up publicity for his new client. I suggested he should alert local media outlets that the client was now available to speak as an expert on pest control and similar topics. This public relations pro smartly took the idea one step further.

In exchange for free exterminating services, a local hotel granted the exterminator the use of a ballroom. The exterminator then created a one-day workshop for local landlords and property managers. The workshop was advertised in the local newspaper and via a direct mailing, and the local media were alerted.

“Amazingly, we had 75 people show up, including a reporter and a television crew,” he wrote. “The program was pretty simple, and my client smartly stayed away from sales pitches.”

And the end result? “My client got a great story in the newspaper, a nice little piece on the morning news, and about two dozen new clients.”

This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (, a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit:

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