It’s a smart company that dedicates resources to public relations. PR is a vital component of an overall marketing plan, and without it, the three-legged stool that is marketing (supported by branding, advertising and public relations) will fail.
PR is more than press releases. In fact, press releases are not even the norm anymore. From time to time, they are needed to best get the information out about a new product or service, but they are basically a mass market solution that requires a more tailored approach and will not usually help tell a company’s story.
And that’s what PR is really about: telling a story, and telling it well.
Public relations can seem almost simple on the surface: Write up your news pitch, send it out, get it published. But it is not simple—especially as media adapts to mirror the changes in our society and technologies. It takes time, experience and savvy to do PR well and produce results that matter to clients.
But if you’re interested in the special sauce behind public relations, here are a few things that you and your marketing team should focus on:
Knowing Who You Are
What are the key differentiators for your company? Why should anyone choose your business over a competitor? Figure it out and put it into words. Then, what kind of tone are you trying to convey? What feelings do you want your customers to have when they think about your products or services? Find a few words that perfectly describe you and your brand—and don’t use clichés, but words that are true to you, be it casual, serious, bold, quirky, geeky or something else. Use those words to guide all of your verbiage and visuals.
Consistent Story Telling
Once you know who you are, let your PR team craft that into a story. Then be consistent about how that story is told—from your website to YouTube videos to interviews to brochures to op eds. Your story should be incorporated—in the right way and without being annoying—into all of your messaging. The concept and talking points of who your company is and how you help others should be ingrained so you can properly and consistently delight and evangelize others. Continue to refer to those words that describe your tone of voice to ensure that you are true to yourself.
Content, Content, Content
Good public relations is all about content. Not that we should be producing it all the time and for every medium always. But that we are producing good content. The words on your site or in that marketing piece should have value to the reader. We should be giving helpful information in an interesting way. And that kind of content marketing takes time, writing chops and industry knowledge to do well. Companies that say they can do a blog post in less than 30 minutes are not providing this type of quality content. Oh, it might have some keywords you want and be optimized for search engines, but that doesn’t mean that your customers or prospects will actually read it. And that brings us to…
The content you create should matter to your followers, readers and potential customers. And that’s something that a top-notch PR firm gets. Whether it’s crafting a pitch for that one journalist at that one publication that could tell your story best or creating an email that perfectly markets to the specific segment of active, professional women in their early 40s who ride trains or writing a social media post that will engage multiple demographics, public relations is about communicating in a way that speaks to the reader directly, persuasively, engagingly and meaningfully.
We live and breathe the news. We know how to tie our clients into what’s happening and trending right now. Plus, we recognize what makes a good story and understand how to pitch it and to whom. Every day, we spend time reading the news about a variety of industries, professions and subjects to ensure we are ready to join or start a conversation.
Metrics can tell us if a post was shared, if an online article brought people to your site, if a form was filled out, if a link in an email was clicked or if myriad other actions were performed.
Proactivity vs. Reactivity
News outlets are not waiting breathlessly by the phone hoping that your company will bless them with the opportunity to tell your story (unless you’re Google). Similarly, we PR folks should be not waiting for a client to tell us what to do. Public relations means continually reaching out, suggesting ideas, designing tactics, learning new platforms and doing whatever it takes to ensure we are on the front side of news. It’s our job to see where the story can be told and find a way to tell it.
These days, PR is also about showing ROI. Metrics can tell us if a post was shared, if an online article brought people to your site, if a form was filled out, if a link in an email was clicked or if myriad other actions were performed. These analytics also help us do our job better so we can determine, on a client-by-client basis, what day and time that post should go up, what subject line will work, what publications drive the most qualified leads and more.
At the end of the day, people are at the heart of what we do. We partner with our clients to ensure we tell their stories well and help grow their business. We build relationships with journalists so we know when to contact them and how to best provide them with the sources they need for articles and news segments. And we study what different people and segments like or don’t like, so we can speak to each person in his or her own language. PR professionals are friendly folks, and we have learned how to systematize our friendliness to benefit our clients.
That’s why public relations is more important than ever. We take all those points and more (I’m not giving away all the secrets in our special sauce!), and then we add in your company’s ideas, goals, personalities and plans to create a winning and cohesive communications force that drives interest and sales leads. It builds your brand and makes your advertising more effective. That’s a three-legged stool you can stand on.