Like any journey, choosing the right vehicle determines when – and if – you’ll reach your destination. The public relations journey is no different. Depending on your destination, the types of PR journeys include marketing public relations, investor relations, crisis management, issues management, community relations and international public relations. For each type of journey there is an array of vehicles ready to whisk you there. Like planning any trip however, before you choose your mode of transportation, you must first establish the goals and objectives of your trip.
Most companies embarking on a marketing public relations journey choose the following goals and objectives:
- Raise image and awareness
- Influence product, market and corporate positioning
- Position company executives as industry experts
- Pursue articles/placements to generate leads
Good marketing public relations helps overcome the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) factor that many customers harbor: The beauty of effective public relations is that you gain third party credibility through editors and analysts. The articles and product reviews these people generate provide some of the most qualified sales leads a company can get.
One client of ours, Database Solutions, received a product review in InfoWorld magazine that generated so many leads that the company actually had to reduce its other marketing communications tactics to allow its sales force to catch up with all the new prospects generated by that one article.
Results like this are no accident – savvy marketers realize that 20 percent of the individuals in a market will influence the other 80 percent. So they first identify the most influential publications, editors and analysts within the segment of the market who are most likely to purchase their product or service.
Here are some popular vehicles to consider for your journey.
Core List. It’s best to begin by developing a core list for each clients’ marketing public relations programs. This is a list of 20-30 key media players including print and broadcast journalists and industry analysts at the top firms like Forrester Research, The Gartner Group and The Yankee Group. Then cultivate long-term relationships with these leaders to place stories that educate your target market and their readers and subscribers. You then become a resource to them.
Media Training. Your spokesperson should be the highest ranked executive possible and he or she should have the technical expertise and media training to handle the toughest questions. Your media training should include the process of finding the key message points that you want the press to relate back to you. In interviews, use bridging techniques where you answer the question that you are asked and then bridge back to a key message point.
Press kits. Press Kits are important because they help editors do their jobs more effectively. Anything that makes an editor’s job easier increases your opportunities for exposure. A good press kit includes the following:
- Recent press releases
- Case histories
- Article reprints
- Product or service information
- Company background information
- Biographies of spokespeople
- Customer or reference list
The final consideration before choosing your marketing PR vehicles is to decide if your goal is to better position yourself against other products, other markets or other companies. Each PR vehicle is designed to assist in different positioning.
Press releases. When writing press releases for editors and analysts send them through the medium they most prefer – mail, fax, e-mail or courier. Then remember the WIIFT rule – What’s In It For Them?
If an editor looks at the headline of your press release and asks himself, “Why should I care?” it’s not a newsworthy topic and you might as well save the paper and use it for something else that’s going to get his attention.
It also helps to write your releases in the style editors are used to – the inverted pyramid. Put the most important information in the first paragraph and use the following paragraphs to fill in the details. If someone is getting a hundred press releases across his desk every single day, you want to make sure that yours captures him in the first paragraph.
Editor briefings. Face-to-face meetings are a great way to build company recognition. If you can take a knowledgeable executive with you to answer editor questions, all the better. Use your meetings to develop long-term relationships with editors rather than a one-time pitch and run.
Tradeshows. Since you’re making a huge financial and time commitment by exhibiting at a tradeshow, break through the clutter of all those competitors by pre-briefing editors with your announcements before the show. This not only gets you more attention, it actually causes editors to specifically search out your booth. Save some information for the show itself however, so you have a reason to meet with the press again. You should also leave your briefing materials in press rooms, information kiosks and post them online through the organizer of the show.
Case histories. By showing how your product or service solved a real-life customer problem, you not only add credibility to your message, you help editors flesh out stories by providing them additional sources. But make sure you get approval before you use one of your customers as a reference. Also, try to get them on board with the message points you most want to stress. Its great publicity for their company too, so it’s a two-way street.
Speaking engagements. Promoting the experts within your company through speaking engagements at conferences, association meetings or seminars also captures attention. But remember that these are not self-promotional excursions. You really want to make sure that you’re speaking to the audience and giving them information they can use.
Awards. Corporate awards and product awards add credibility to your organization and message but they rarely “just happen” on their own. Learn about the nomination process by speaking with the review boards, past winners and judges. The time spent researching and applying can be the most productive time you ever spend.
Authored articles. These bylined articles help position you and your company as authorities in your market. They don’t necessarily have to be written by the individuals at your organization. Good PR agencies work with freelancers who ghost write articles on behalf of their clients. So if an opportunity arises where an editor is looking for an authored article, your expert doesn’t have to take the time to write it herself.
On the marketing public relations journey, the ultimate goal is receiving a feature article about your company, product or service. A great suggestion is to take your core list of publications, gather all the editorial calendars and create a master editorial calendar using all the opportunities relevant to your company. You can then contact the publications to pitch your angle and increase coverage.
With knowledge of all these public relations vehicles, even missed opportunities can become opportunities. For example, if you see an article that’s written about one of your competitors or a technology trend story that you think you should have been included in, this is a great opportunity to make a new friend. Call the editor and tell him you saw that article, your company is very heavily into that market and you’d like to tell him a little bit about what you’re doing. After all, the editor’s primary function – like yours – is to inform the marketplace.