Creating A Public Relations Strategy
If you don’t have a public relations strategy, fear not. It’s never too late to start. You may have had your head down building your business operations for the last year. Maybe it never occurred to you that PR was so important. Or maybe you don’t know how to “get it.” It’s also possible that you think you or your company aren’t worthy of a story. That’s a deeper and more personal matter. If you need help figuring out what’s interesting about you or your company, a good PR person can help draw that out.
Start With Your Public Relations Strategy Goals First
Ask yourself this,
“What am I after?”
Are you looking for sales? Do you need to expand to a new geographic territory soon? Do you have some marketing goal you’re looking to hit like increased website traffic? There are a lot of things that PR can do but it isn’t a magic bullet. It’s important to understand how PR works and what it can do. While PR could bring in new leads it isn’t a “sales” function. Meaning, your PR person isn’t going to close for you.
If you don’t have a place for people to go, PR is going to be ineffective. A website. A physical store. A phone number to call. Even just an email address could suffice – if you’re especially clandestine in your business for some reason. This may sound simple but many people forget it. PR is mainly about creating brand awareness from the perspective of trusted sources of information.
Refresh Your Understanding: Public Relations Strategies Can Be Complex
The traditional PR sources are news outlets, and publications because they are supposed to be uncorrupted by “pay to play” schemes like advertising. Don’t let that phrase fool you. There is nothing wrong with advertising, or “paying to play” in some environments. You don’t get a stadium named after your brand for free, after all. These days the lines between traditional advertising (pay for distribution) and public relations (getting free exposure for a great story) have definitely blurred. They have been edging towards each other for a long time but some firms make the difference indistinguishable.
Even older methods like “advertorials” have been seemingly reinvented recently. With the advent of video content sponsorships, the lines are even harder to discern. The importance here may have to do more with the quality of the impression(s). Digital advertising is noticeably less impactful than a story which the reader intends to read for their own amusement or understanding – rather than in order to be influenced to buy something subconsciously by an advertiser.
Still not knocking this kind of implementation. In fact sponsored content can turn into bonafide branded entertainment which is some of the highest value creative marketing one can attain. In some sense public relations is in that way very much like branded entertainment.
Remember Nobody Has To Care About You
It’s become a truism that there is too much content out there. Somehow media companies keep increasing their spend budgets to account for even more viewing time. Perhaps there is a correlation between the expediency of work these days leading to more leisure time. It’s also now possible to watch high quality video content from the bar, your cubicle, or the toilet. In the majority of consumers’ world you’re in the same device and digital experience as their Facebook and Twitter feed. The text messages they send to their friends or parents. Their email account. We are being conditioned to commoditize almost every experience in this domain.
Your public relations strategy has to account for the fact that you will likely only receive a low level of engagement from each story you put out. That’s why it’s best to think outside the box of the kind of places and the types of people who may be interested. Don’t just follow what the data says is already there or even what the predictive algorithms might say. Most of us don’t even have access to those kinds of expensive data packages. So to compete we have to be more cunning with our human abilities and intuition. If you can do that you can survive.
For example, if you’re a manufacturer in the architectural products industry, you may have a new fixture design coming out soon. While it’s wise to get some attention within your industry, being that that’s where your money comes from, it’s also wise to think outside that box. Don’t forget that people who work within a niche like that also have mainstream interests, and other niche interests. So getting at them from other angles like their social circle, or forms of entertainment they enjoy, is a viable public relations strategy.
Keep Pushing: Persistence Pays Off
If you try to throw (1) event and no press comes, don’t get yourself all despondent. Analyze what happened and look from every angle at what went wrong and what you can do better next time. Above all else make sure there is a next time. Some people throw an event that doesn’t go well and then they decide something like, “events don’t work for us.” Or they say things like, “nobody comes to Happy Hours on Wednesdays.” It’s crazy. Listen around your office and you’ll hear these kinds of excuses.
Maybe you didn’t set up the event well. Could there have been a typo on the invite? It’s possible you didn’t time it well. A lot of factors contribute to a failure. You won’t always be able to figure it out entirely, especially since it’s not like the answer to a test. You’ll have to at some point trust your intuition about the results, and use your best judgement to make alterations for the future.
Is The Adage About PR True?
You know the one. “No press is bad press,” or whichever version of it you’ve heard. It can be taken in (2) ways really, and both of them seem to be true – especially these days.
- NO PRESS is bad press. That means it’s bad to get no press. In other words, if you’re not getting any press; that’s bad.
- No Press is BAD Press. This means that any press you get – even bad press – is really good press.
While both of these interpretations are similar, they offer different perspectives. Different value. In the case that getting NO PRESS is bad here’s what you should learn from that: get yourself some press. If you’re afraid that the press will be bad, try to alleviate that concern or go for it anyway. Because in the end if you’re unable to get any press you’re going to fall behind or into the background.
What About A Public Relations Strategy For OEM Brands?
A lot of our clients exist in a world where they survive based on another brand essentially selling their products as components within a system. For example, a manufacturer of component parts that sells to another manufacturer that sells fixtures to the market. In these kinds of companies, there is a concern on the part of the OEM that if their brand overshadows their customers – their customers will drop them. This can and is true sometimes, so your public relations strategy needs to be creative.
In these kinds of industries the “public” needs to be interpreted differently. For example, in the lighting industry for an OEM LED module company, they may only ever need (or be able to acquire) 25 customers total. Those (25) customers could represent over $1,000,000 per year in business. To acquire a $25,000,000 book of business doesn’t require that 1,000,000 people know about your products. In fact, in a system like that you probably need a minimum of about (25) people – one at each company – but the factors are different.
For a company in this position it’s more important to gain recognition from the industry at large. So people who aren’t necessarily purchasers of the product, but perhaps those who influence that kind of buying decision further down (or up) in the sale channel ecosystem.
A New Creative Marketing Linguistic: Private Relations
The idea of public relations is much more relevant to companies that sell direct to consumer. Private relations is our term which is used to describe communications that are not meant to be broadcasted. At least they are not broadcasted first but rather they are communicated…privately. For example, when smaller companies are looking to sell, they don’t often go on a PR push to do so because it might implicate their company’s value in a way that does damage. Instead, they talk privately or hire brokers.
The concept of private relations can be applied to joint venture partnerships, large market sales agreements (like signing a territory to a sales agent), and other major decisions. Private relations may include some public relations but it’s a slightly different kind of communication. Private relations requires a deeper knowledge of the business at large. However, private relations should be a consideration when creating your public relations strategy.
The old adage about PR is basically true. While there are certainly exceptions, and PR can be hard to predict, if you’re not being spoken about it’s difficult to beat a competitor who is being spoken about. If you don’t have a public relations strategy at all you need one. If you’re spending too much on advertising consider public relations as an alternative to generate some of the same kind of brand awareness you may be overpaying for now.
Allow yourself and your brand to be molded slightly by the market. Obviously you don’t want to lose yourself or become a puppet of the masses. However if you’re looking to grow your brand and your business you will likely need more people to buy into it, even if the number of total people you need to reach is less than (100). Each business, each industry, and each brand has different things to consider when creating their public relations strategy. But one thing is for sure; everybody needs one!