Public relations (PR) is an ‘imprecise science’ – and, perhaps, this makes it unpopular in today’s culture of specifying and measuring ‘success’ as objectively as possible.
PR is part of the ‘marketing mix’, which includes advertising. Advertising is what you say about yourself: you create the message and buy the space in which to put it. Conversely – and to complement advertising, along with other marketing activities – PR is what other people say about you. So, PR is more credible than advertising but much more difficult to engineer and evaluate.
If you want your PR activities to be successful, you will need to:
i) Link PR to your organization’s priorities and goals.
ii) Measure results – against those priorities and goals.
iii) Look for and use new media outlets – as technology and communications develop.
iv) Focus on known successful strategies but be prepared to consider a new approach.
v) Take the advice of a PR professional who has a proved track record of success.
Some of the key points to note about business-to-business PR are:
1. There can be, of course, no guarantees of media coverage – unless you own the media! This is why more organizations are turning towards producing their own marketing materials in support of their media activity. In PR terms, each story issued must be newsworthy for it to stand a chance of competing successfully with all the other stories that are being issued each day. Moreover, editors of ‘hard copy’ publications must recognize the value of the stories before the readers of their publications are given a chance to do so – and must have the space available in a soon-to-be-published edition of their publication for the story to have a chance of being published.
2. Any PR campaign will need at least three to four months to take effect and for its effects to be seen – if only because of the lead times on some publications and the frequency with which they are published (for example, editions of monthlies and bi-monthlies are being finalized two to three months before publication date – so a campaign starting in, say, January, could not expect to see many results until about March or April). These days, however, web-based news sites and newswires offer a more instant return on investment in PR. The key, however, is to know which of these sites are widely read and, thus, are influential – and which are not.
3. Before recruiting a PR consultant you should ask yourself:
i) Does this person have the right range and depth of experience to help me achieve my business goals? Somebody who can get your name into a newspaper but can’t get this appearance put into an appropriate strategic or marketing context, isn’t up to the job.
ii) Is the person who is going to promote your company’s products able to understand the technical aspects of what you do and then translate them into benefits for the end-user? Does s/he have the written and oral skills to turn them into a newsworthy story?
4. While clients will want their media coverage to bring sales, this relationship is impossible to assess. For example, will a potential customer ‘buy’ from the client after reading one item of news, or two – or more – and in what timescale? Nonetheless, a growing volume of media coverage should help to at least:
i) increase the client’s profile in the market,
ii) improve the client’s credibility in the market,
iii) raise traffic to the client’s website and
iv) increase sales enquiries.
5. It is important that, once press coverage occurs, the client generates the maximum value from that – via reprints/copies to use in pressbooks during sales pitches and as enclosures with direct mail letters. If this does not happen, this will adversely affect the ‘metrics’ relating to the effectiveness of the PR campaign – and this is one of the many contributory factors that are not within the PR agency’s control.
6. The most successful PR people don’t try to solve their client’s problems. They try to help editors solve their readers’ problems.
A Few Quick fixes for your PR needs –
Many Small and Medium businesses (SMB’s) struggle for a piece of the action in very competitive markets. They find it difficult to spend great amounts of money on advertising, yet fear being left behind if they don’t. Public Relations can be a cheap or even free alternative to regular marketing and advertising efforts, sometimes producing even better results (since news items are considered more trustworthy than advertising).
Below I list some ideas to help you run creative Public Relations campaigns.
Better get those phone lines ready – your business is about to get some attention!
Clearly the following ideas must be adapted to your type of business, your strategy, your clients, and the available media and journalists, but they should provide you with a general direction you may follow:
A) Turn a part of your business into a unique community meeting place:
a) Getting people to come to your business is obviously the first step on the road to making them your costumers. If your business is off the beaten track, or if there’s a lot of competition in the area, you can start getting people to visit your business by providing them with a special meeting place.
b) You need to choose a theme for the meeting place which fulfills the following criteria:
i) Provides an interesting activity to members of your community (such as a mini-museum, a lecture, some fun game).
ii) Is more likely to be a “Hot” news item – something that has never been done before in that area, and that deals with an issue of concern to the majority of the community.
iii) Is related to your business service, strategy and reputation as much as possible (if you are selling natural food additives, for example, a meeting place related to environmental preservation).
c) Organizing all this does not necessarily require high costs. You may find ways to keep this cost very low, for instance by:
i) Offering young performers and professionals a place they can gain experience and recognition, without having to pay them much (these could be aspiring artists, comedians, hairdressers, etc.).
ii) Invite and convince volunteers to help you with the project. This should not be too difficult if you link this meeting place with some good-will or charity activity – such as preparing gifts for kids at the local hospital, etc.
B) Try to break a record or hold a special competition:
a) If your place is a diner, for example, organize an event in which people will attempt to break a Guinness World record in eating a certain food. If you are a carpenter, try to set a record yourself for making a chair in the shortest possible time, and invite customers and their families to bet on the result.
b) Organize competitions for special groups of people, that are likely to make it to the news, such as:
i) Competitions for unique and “interesting-news-items” groups of people (children, homeless people, disabled people)
ii) Provocative competitions – do this only if this is what you wish your business image to be – provocative!
iii) “Man against Machine” type competitions – against the computer, a vehicle, a robot (all should be related to your business).
Try these points and let us know about the results in the comments section.