PR as Part of the Modern Marketing Mix – Part 2
This is the second part of the article discussing PR as a necessity to a modern marketing mix. Name recognition and visibility are keys to growing your business and public relations is one of the best ways to make your company more visible. Did you know Public Relations can even help your SEO/SEM results? To read Part 1, click HERE
Different combinations of vehicles can help you accomplish different things. Depending on your goals and your budget, you may want to use some vehicles more often, some less often, and some not at all. Below are continued descriptions of vehicles, uses, and outcomes. See which ones are best suited for your business.
Now that you’ve chosen your spokesperson, you must get started on media training right away. This should include identifying and memorizing the company’s key message points, preparing the speaker for awkward questions, and teaching repetition and bridging techniques to ensure your spokesperson stays focused on the key message points. Ideally, your messages will be included, verbatim, in the interviewer’s article. Many PR firms have media training capabilities that include video and audio recording to prepare for broadcast interviews. One thing to remember about media training is that you want to limit yourself to between three and five message points and be sure to stick with them. Editors won’t remember more than that. To be most effective, the message points should be phrased as benefits or differentiators and repeated as often as possible.
Face-to-face briefings are a great way to build company recognition and trust with the media. Your spokesperson can tell reporters “the story behind the story,” demonstrate the product or service your company provides, and comment on current topics within your industry. Use your meetings to develop long-term relationships with editors, rather than a one-time pitch and run.
Briefings can be scheduled while your media relations team is making calls on behalf of your latest news. Editors are seldom able to leave the newsroom, so offer to stop by their offices during lunch, or just after deadlines close, with food. Since time is limited, don’t waste it. Take a media kit, your strongest messages, and solid insight into the writer’s beat for best results.
Arranging for experts in your company to speak at industry conferences, tradeshows, association meetings, seminars, or other forums allows direct contact with those decision-makers within your peer, customer, and vertical market groups. 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, not merely plugging your product or service. Address the needs of the audience with relevant information.
If you’ve decided to make a large financial and time commitment by exhibiting at a tradeshow, break through the clutter of all those competitors by pre-briefing attending editors with your announcements before the show. This not only gets you more attention; it actually causes editors to specifically search for 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 pressrooms, information kiosks and post them online through the organizer of the show.
Effective case histories are stories written in a “problem, solution, result” format, showing your target audience how customers benefited from using your product or service. By showing how your company solved a real-life customer problem, you not only add credibility to your message, you also help editors flesh out stories by providing them additional sources. 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. It’s great publicity for their company too, so it’s a two-way street. You can get a lot of mileage from case histories: Your sales people can take them on calls or pitches, and you can include them in your advertising campaign.
Corporate 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 for awards can be the most productive time you ever spend because you uncover more in-depth information about your business. Your clients and customers will also like buying from a “winner.”
These bylined articles help position you and your company as authorities in your market space. 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 on his or her own. And once the article is written, you can use it as a sales tool by sending reprints to your current and potential customers. Frequently, they can be leveraged as speaking topics, as well.
If your company’s budget and resources can support it, community relations is a fun and effective way to connect with your customers, while strengthening the image and reputation of the business. By spearheading or sponsoring community events, your company can demonstrate its commitment to providing for the neighborhood and the people in it. If your small business is consumer-focused, hand out samples of your product at the event. If your company attracts business customers, donate your product or service to a school, community center, or non-profit organization. These feel-good sponsorships are great fodder for other PR vehicles: press releases, case histories, and campaign award nominations.
Web/Online Press Kit
With the internet, you can welcome your customers and potential customers into your world with just a few clicks. Make sure your site has the same look and feel, and similar content, as your other marketing materials, and that it’s easy to navigate. Some important links or pages your site should contain include:
- Company background
- Description of products and services
- Contacts (who’s who and what they do)
- Media room
All PR vehicles serve a purpose, but some vehicles are more important to small businesses than others. My experience tells me that the three most essential PR vehicles are media relations, speaking engagements, and authored articles. These three allow you to advance your position in your industry, help you reach your target audiences, and attract customers more efficiently.
Small businesses have an advantage over large corporations when it comes to making the most of current events and trends. There are fewer approvals to get when the marketing department wants to launch a new campaign. Smaller companies have better focus on their market segment. Because small businesses have that one-to-one interaction with a customer base, they understand problems and pains better.
Public Relations success is spelled with three P’s: persistence, perseverance, and propensity for action. No PR plan, no matter how well thought-out or well-funded, will work if the people executing the program aren’t in it 100%. Relations with the media take time to cultivate and may not always bring the desired results, but it’s crucial to continue.
Weekly meetings are also vital to your program. Rally the troops over bagels and coffee, and invite them to share ideas, challenges, and successes from the previous week. These meetings also give you a chance to communicate goings-on in other departments, especially those that have an impact on marketing activities like new product developments, new hires, and changes in service offerings.