Let’s get right to the point. You need public relations (PR) to
- Build your brand image and credibility
- Establish, increase, or restore customer trust in your brand
- Enhance your online presence
- Change the way people view your business
- Build customer connections through sharing your narrative
PR is actually a combination of strategies and tactics organizations undertake to manage and disseminate information to positively impact public perception. To actualize these advantages, you must learn how to plan and implement effective public relations campaigns.
The Three “Flavors of PR”
- Earned media – This publicity is gained through promotional efforts such as media coverage of your company, positive customer reviews, brand, product/service, product reviews on social media, as well as word-of-mouth recommendations. Earned media is the hardest of the three to obtain, but also the most rewarding reputation-building PR tactic.
- Paid media – Use this channel to make your owned media content directly visible to the people you want to reach. Paid media – such as paid media placement in key publications, social media advertising, influencer marketing, and pay-per-click (PPC), assist with revenue growth and brand awareness.
- Owned media – Content your business owns and has total control of, including blogs, social media posts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), website copy, inbound marketing campaigns, and email marketing content such as newsletters. These will drive your digital footprint and expand customer reach.
The Role of PR in Marketing
While marketing’s main goal is to directly drive sales and revenue, PR exists to boost your brand reputation and indirectly promote your products and services – usually through media interviews, thought leadership content, press release reprints, and industry events. It is said that customers actually buy brands instead of products – meaning that positive brand perception is just as important as product performance.
Therefore, using PR and marketing as part of a unified communications strategy will connect prospects to your brand and drive them through the marketing and sales funnel.
Here are three ways to effectively use PR best practices to boost brand exposure and marketing ROI:
- Have a thorough, integrated messaging document that details your value to everyone, both in house and through the sales chain. PR practitioners are adept at communicating your message to a diverse audience.
- Determine both main and secondary audiences – from customers to investors to suppliers – and ensure that your messaging will grab them and focus on how your solutions address their unique needs. PR pros are adept at building and nurturing relationships with editors, bloggers, analysts, and other industry influencers to facilitate coverage for their clients. When you combine relationship building to your content marketing strategy, you increase the likelihood that your content will go viral.
- Gain brand validation through media coverage. The more positive brand exposure in the media, the greater its credibility. As a marketer, you can apply this by getting your brand/product into industry publications/websites and trade shows/conferences where your key audience will be.
PR Strategies and Tactics that Work
Here are tried-and-proven PR tactics to help you boost brand awareness, enhance brand reputation, and strengthen customer relationships and loyalty.
|Achieve effective media relations||Increase exposure by building positive relationships with editors, journalists, and publications. This process often starts with writing and distributing truly newsworthy press releases (more on this later) or scheduling interviews.|
|Maintain a social media presence||If you want to increase your followers, convert prospects to customers, or even resolve crises, there’s no better tool than social media. But remember: Whether you’re sharing posts or interacting with customers, your social media activities are for public consumption; your social media strategy should ensure all your communication is accurate, positive, and consistent.|
|Focus on corporate social responsibility||There’s no better source of positive news stories and good PR than your CSR activities - be it philanthropy, environmental pursuits, promoting ethical business practices, etc. Publicize them to ensure that customers, suppliers, investors, and the general community know about the good you are doing and positively impact brand perception.|
|Engage in local community relations||Offering discounts, making donations, and taking part in charitable endeavors are just some of the ways you can build positive relationships with the locals and encourage word-of-mouth endorsements.|
|Participate in industry events||Whether speaking and/or exhibiting, such events are great opportunities to expose your products or services, meet prospective customers, share information, project thought leadership, and demonstrate how your offering works|
|Successfully manage crises||No business is exempt from brand-reputation-ruining situations. By implementing effective crisis management practices - from rapidly acknowledging the problem and monitoring online chatter to working to reverse negative perceptions (and handling it all quickly), you can turn crisis to opportunity.|
The Art and Science of the Press Release: Is Your “News” Truly Newsworthy?
The past decade has seen a clear trend toward attenuated press releases. Gone are the days of public relations people writing long screeds, with endless quotes and reams of data. This is partially an outgrowth of the use of email and social media as the preferred forms of communication between the public relations community and the press . However, the explosion of technologies and information has led to journalists’ exploding email boxes.
Although it sounds obvious, the first and most important factor is to make sure your release is newsworthy. Remember, it has to be important to the press and their target audiences, not just to you.
You have to be clear about your key messages so you can get to the point in the header, subheader, and first paragraph. These should also include your keywords and SEO-oriented material. The reader should immediately know what the release is about and why it should be read and not discarded.
Your messaging document should provide some guidelines. Don’t have a messaging document? You’re flying blind. Draft one or have someone do it for you.
Make sure it’s compelling. Have mercy on the media; they get dozens of releases every day. Dry writing is an invitation to deletion.
Tease your target journalists a bit, draw them in, make them want to learn more. Let them be hungry to interview you or at least get more details.
Don’t bore them to death by providing exhaustive, granular details or specs unless you’re specifically sending it to a select few that will appreciate this.
If your goal is to drive sales for your SaaS solution, your release needs to appeal to the decision makers, not the tech guy, or at least give the tech guy what he needs to loosen the purse strings. Be clear about your advantages and ROI.
Quotes need to sound like they come from an actual humanoid. Dry recitation from one of your brochures with quotation marks does not work.
Streamline the approval process. Fifty people shouldn’t have to sign off on a release. Too many eyes – and opinions – inflate the draft, which will then require repeated editing, often leaving a trail of bruised egos in its wake.
Oddly, this is often more of a problem with early stage companies, where everyone is head of his/her own one-person department and wants to be heard.
To sum up, have mercy on your readers, especially the journalists and bloggers who are your initial audience. They’re the gatekeepers to your ultimate targets, the people you can convert to qualified sales leads.
- Make sure it’s newsworthy
- Use your messaging documents
- Get to the point
- Compelling writing gets read
- Tease, don’t bore or be exhibitionistic
- Human-sounding quotes, only
- Streamline the approval process
They may be hard to avoid, but PR blunders, bloopers, and mistakes DO cheat clients out of coveted opportunities. If only they had done “this” or had “that” in their PR toolbox, they might have gotten the coverage they desired.
Here’s how to improve their chances:
PR Mistake 1: The Missing Link – The PR toolbox has to have everything in place long before the first press release even goes out. Many companies shoot from the hip and try to assemble things after the fact, but without the basic hammer, nails, drill, and drill bits – kept in an organized manner – they’ll find they are so busy scrambling that they can’t present the reporter with all the tools she needs to write a relevant, cohesive story.
Here are just a few things a company should keep in its PR Toolbox:
● Fine-tuned messaging – this should make your value clear across verticals as well as for different audiences within the purchase chain. This will also provide a single voice to the market throughout your organization.
● Internal experts – Bios on people within the organization who can speak to reporters about different aspects of the company. Unfettered PR access to key top-tier executives is essential if your PR person is going to get you bylined articles or arrange interviews.
● External experts – An updated list of spokespersons, users, and case studies that can be made available to reporters in different verticals. If your product has a health angle, have appropriate healthcare professionals in your toolbox. If your product serves a specific field, have an objective expert on hand who is familiar with your product and can talk about its application in that industry. Users/customers should be provided since this often provides the strongest validation of your solution.
● An easy-to-navigate website with video links that show exactly how your product works should be kept up to date.
When these pieces are NOT in place and your PR person has a reporter on the line, chaos reigns. When you can deliver all the pieces, you are in much better control of your narrative.
PR Mistake 2: The Dog Ate My Press Release – There is never, ever, EVER an excuse for promising a reporter — who may have promised their editor or producer — something that you may not be able to deliver! If you promise an interview with a key professional and the interviewee backs out without a reschedule date, the media person loses face with his editors, your PR person loses credibility, and your company and everyone involved looks unreliable and unprofessional. Broken agreements lead to burned bridges. It is very hard to re-engage the media contact when you overpromise and do not deliver.
PR Mistake 3: Unrealistic Expectations Lead to Unrealistic Pitching – Your company is your baby, and your PR person will present it as the prettiest, most wonderful child on the planet. She is also paid to assume a fresh eye when assessing the PR potential of your story: before she makes a pitch, she looks at your competitors to try to understand your place in the overall market. What have they been pitching, to whom and how?
He looks for fresh angles and tries to figure out how to position your company to stand out. The question then becomes, how do you integrate the feedback – assuming you’re open to it.
It is up to the PR person to tell the reporter WHY your baby is the best but know that if you do not get the response you expect, there may not be anyone to blame.
Not every news item is immediately worthy of a page-one Wall Street Journal story; know that even if you do have such a story, it may take time to percolate. Timing also helps – coverage will depend on what’s going around in the news cycle.
Everyone makes mistakes, but PR mistakes in today’s world stay on the Internet and haunt your company. Putting your best PR foot forward and getting it right the first time will help your company achieve its PR goals.
Key Steps to PR Success
|Have a PR/marcom budget in place|
|Work in close collaboration and in partnership with your PR team|
|Purchase an adequate level of PR services - Communications are natural processes that grow as your business grows|
|Reinforce the same message in everything you produce from promotional photos to customer testimonials|
|Thoroughly research relevant journalists, what they recently wrote about, and their editorial calendars|
|Write in the audience’s native language - no Google Translate, using proper grammar, punctuation, capitalization and express your advantages clearly|
|Target the top three-five people you really want to reach and follow up. Persistently. Consistently. Don‘t reach out every day or every week, but keep them informed of your news|
|Write engaging headlines and text, so people receiving up to 500 news releases a day don ‘t view you as an irritant|
|When engaging a PR firm, let them know and understand your business from top to bottom|
|Let the KISS (keep it simple, sweetie) principle reign supreme|
Public Relations: Should You DIY It – or Leave It to the Pros
These days, you can DIY a lot of things, but PR isn’t necessarily one of them.
You want to get your message out there and generate buzz around your brand or product, but you DON’T want to deal with the costs associated with hiring a PR professional.
These days when social media is king, you figure you might as well do it yourself. After all, it just seems faster, cheaper, and more effective to put out the word via a Tweet, a Facebook post, or a LinkedIn article.
Right? Wrong. Here’s why it pays to hire a PR pro instead of DIYing it:
1. You don’t have to take time away from your business – Giving your brand the right kind and amount of exposure takes a lot of time and effort – valuable resources you can better spend on developing your product/service or expanding your market.
Additionally, today’s PR means more than just getting out press releases and the subsequent outreach. Like other aspects of marketing, it’s constantly evolving and adopting new strategies and technologies.
It’s next to impossible to keep up with these changes and still effectively perform your “day job”? Hiring a PR specialist not only takes this burden off your shoulders – it also ensures that this essential aspect is left to professionals with the expertise, experience, and media relationships.
2. You open doors that would otherwise be closed to you – How do you break through today’s cluttered markets? How do you convince editors swamped with tons of emails to open yours? How do you get a press inundated with trade show invitations to stop by your booth? If you were DIYing your PR, the answer is: with great difficulty. On the other hand, PR professionals not only have savvy media-relations skills, but they also have credibility with a collection of solid media contacts, and their knowledge of who to best reach out to and how.
3. You benefit from wide-ranging expertise – Delegating your PR to an employee means you won’t have the range of skills, time, and the afore-mentioned contacts. Your PR agency, on the other hand, can provide you with the capabilities to handle all of your public relations needs. Plus, it’s nice when your headaches become ours.
4. You gain access to a whole spectrum of tools and resources
So, you think you’re saving money by doing your PR yourself? How are you going to find your media contacts – journalists, bloggers, and influencers – along with their contact details? What will you use to distribute and monitor press releases? How can you access media opportunities? Where do you go to track mentions of your brands in traditional and social media?
News flash: You’ve got to buy such tools, for example, subscriptions to media databases. Now we’re talking time AND money.
5. You’ll learn what real news is – and how to sell it to the media – Since you’re very close to what’s happening in your company, you can be forgiven for thinking that everything about your brand/offering is a big deal, newsworthy, and will appeal to everyone. Most journalists would beg to differ. PR specialists can spot the truly compelling stories and design unique ways to provide a narrative about a product or technology. They know which journalist/outlet specializes in that topic and should be reached out to. Most important, they know how to sell that story to a particular publication and its audience so that it generates the responses you want.
It’s very tempting to DIY your PR, especially if your budget is limited. But remember that true, results-oriented PR is a complex task that demands time, a thorough understanding of media, and a whole list of tools – from marketing to measurement, from SEO to content creation. For the best results and the fewest hassles, leave it to the experts.
9 Ways to Get the Most from Your PR Team
If you are getting ready to hire your PR team, here are some tips that will help achieve a beneficial and profitable relationship:
1. Commit the time. While passing your work to an agency will free 95% of the time you spent on this, you’ll still need to consult periodically to keep things on course. While a two-way time commitment may not be in your contract, PR pros usually spell out time frames, such as “rush” periods and requests for notification at least 60 days before events. They may also specify check-in calls every week or month, as well as quarterly or semi-annual facetime to keep everyone abreast of developments and on the same page. The intervals depend on the extent of your contract.
2. Communicate your goals and expectations. PR teams are very specific about deliverables in their agreements and provide monthly reports to show what they’ve done to make them happen.
3. Challenge your PR team. Many PR practitioners enjoy being challenged, both in terms of strategy and tactics as well as creatively. Remember, we do this day in and day out, so we’re fine with being cut loose and unleashed rather than do cookie-cutter work. Don’t worry, though, we’ll always get your final approval before anything “goes live.”
4. Respect their time. Everyone understands that situations arise, and something extra needs to be done. There are, however, clients who chronically do this, which builds an unhealthy dose of resentment into the relationship. Remember, we’re generally happy to do extra work for you, we’re committed to your success, but constant last minute “emergencies” are a choice. Also, chronic requests for “one little extra thing” get old quickly.
5. Ask for feedback. The only qualifier is that if you ask for feedback, you may not be told what you want to hear. For example, if you’re a chronic no-show for journalist and analyst appointments and constantly reschedules, don’t be surprised if not everyone understands that you believe your time is more valuable than everyone else’s.
6. Be transparent. Communicate your company’s business goals – sales, long term, quarterly, whatever – not just your communications objectives, to your PR team. The more they know, the more they can help you reach them. It will also bring both client and PR agency closer, while providing a clear path to what needs to be done.
7. Manage expectations internally. Poor management of expectations is probably the single biggest reason that client-agency relationships fail. A good PR firm will try to manage yours, but when senior executives have a different set of expectations, everyone looks bad. For example, the CEO may be focused on an appearance in TechCrunch to bring thousands of site visitors. However, most will not be qualified leads. Marketing and sales managers generally prefer to appear on niche trade websites, where their buyers really are.
8. Give credit. When giving out compliments, make sure to include rank-and-file PR team members who may not have a lot of face time with clients. While this is more relevant to larger agencies, it can also apply to the client giving due recognition to the agency.
9. Be a partner. This phrase may be thrown around a lot in the agency business, but really, it can only mean that the relationship goes beyond a transactional one. An expansion on #6, it affirms the importance of the back-and-forth that makes for great collaboration.
For assistance with your public relations activities reach out to us.