"Your launch story might not make the cover of the Wall Street Journal. This does not mean that your agency isn’t doing their job. Be realistic in your expectations, listen to your agency partner about other opportunities, and be confident that as your campaign builds, that one day you might well be featured in that elusive publication. Public relations can make dreams come true…"
Having worked in communications for more years than I care to count, there are some things that don’t change… but probably should. From startups to global corporations, there are a number of misconceptions about Public Relations (PR) that crop up regularly enough to warrant Mojo PR’s list of Top Ten Tips for Clients:
- PR does not stand for Press Release
While not quite the dark art that some people believe it to be, PR isn’t a one-dimensional activity either. There is so much more to an effective PR campaign than the drafting and dissemination of press releases. Yes, they have their place – to announce real news, that is – but they are only one elementary tool in what should be a well-stocked PR toolbox. Likewise, PR doesn’t begin and end at publicity – media coverage is important, but so too are developing connections, building relationships, finding ways to attract top talent to your business, and establishing yourself as an expert in your field. These are all things good PR can do to facilitate. So don’t go to an agency telling them you want 22 press releases. Rather let them know what you’re trying to achieve and who you’re trying to reach – if they’re any good, they’ll know and will be able to recommend the right tools to do the job.
- Think about PR earlier rather than later
We get this all the time… from established entrepreneurs, start-ups, third generation family businesses, even global corporate giants with bustling in-house PR teams. Emails, calls, meetings…. “Hi, can you help? We’re launching our business/ announcing a partnership/ introducing an exciting new widget/ opening a new store/ holding an event/ rolling out a new Vice President… and we need PR.”
“Fabulous,” we say. “Sounds interesting/ intriguing/ compelling/ appealing/ exciting/ ambitious… when will you be doing this?”
Communication is critical for your business, your product, your launch, your activity – and the value in starting your PR conversation while you’re still working out who, what and why you are will be immeasurable.
PR, if done properly, helps shape how you present your brand, in all manner of situations and to all kinds of stakeholders. It can help you define your business – whether answering the phone, speaking to potential customers, presenting to investors or interviewing employees – it’s not only about taking your message out to the media.
If you have the right PR partner – one who understands business and learns all about yours – get them in on your project early. Allow them to advise, focus your message, make connections for you and add additional brainpower – you will only gain from early engagement!
- You don’t know it all…
While you might know everything there is to know about oil & gas, closing deals or diamond cutting, it is unlikely that you are as qualified to identify the most impactful approach to communicating your story. It may not be rocket science, but good PR does use more than one way to tell your story. Trust your agency’s judgement – if they recommend not including something in your communication, there’s probably a valid reason, and if they don’t believe something is newsworthy, it probably isn’t.
- Be in it to Win it
PR isn’t a marketing tap that can be switched on and off, and it certainly isn’t a discipline that can be contracted for one or two months. PR builds, and sometimes it might not seem fast enough, particularly for impatient, adrenalin-driven start-ups or multi-national behemoths who believe the world revolves around them. But build it does, and once that momentum starts, it becomes almost impossible to stop.
- Stay the course
Don’t get derailed by detractors. If one of your interviews, reviews or op-eds doesn’t get quite the rosy response you would have liked, don’t think your PR campaign is a lost cause – appreciate skepticism, feedback and opinion. There is always value in listening to your critics as closely as you listen to your cheerleaders. Just don’t let it distract you from what you’re trying to achieve; rather, take advantage of it, learn from it and build on it. You’re in this for the long haul. And while we’re on the subject, treat your PR firm like a long-term relationship too – they’ll work even harder to keep that relationship going strong.
- Sharing isn’t just caring
Sharing as much information – whether good or bad – with your agency will stand you in good stead because they will ensure that your messages are managed. Keep them updated, informed and in the loop; and they will help you maintain control of your public persona, they’ll be able to identify additional PR opportunities for your business, and they can apply even more creative, but relevant nous to your PR campaign. If it makes you feel better, have your PR agency sign a non-disclosure agreement when they start working with you … they should hold all information confidential anyway, but this just makes it water-tight.
- Time & Money
Understand that investing in a PR campaign means more than committing a sum of money – it requires a serious chunk of your time too. This means being available for interviews, taking the time to contribute commentary, and being ready to respond to meet a reporter’s last minute deadline . If you’re able to do this, you’ll be every media’s darling – and that will go a long, long way to building your PR success story.
- Cheap is not cheerful
While balancing your budget is always necessary, PR is one area where it doesn’t pay to cut corners. Consider additional criteria when selecting a PR agency – the right partner can actively contribute to your bottom line. Look for one with a strategic approach, not one that just presents tactics – they should help you evolve your messaging, streamline your PR approach with your marketing strategy, and present you with strong business ideas that can help you achieve your business objectives.
Consider the work they’ve done for other clients in a space relative to yours. When they talk about the other clients they’ve had , make sure they can effectively communicate who, what, why and how they delivered the results they did. You want to be sure they’ll be able to pitch your business just as well.
Most importantly, you want an agency that truly understands your business – the challenges, the opportunities, the competition, the landscape. Find out how they think, not just how many media contacts they have.
- Team talk
Relationship is everything in PR, so make sure you meet the team who will be actively working on your business. So often you’ll meet the senior people in an agency when they pitch for your business, and then never see them again. You need to be comfortable with the capabilities of everyone who will be working on your business. The best PR partners become an extension of your team, so adopt the same criteria for hiring for your company.
10. Unrealistic expectations
Yes, your business is the most compelling proposition on the planet….and yes, aim for gold. But no, your launch story might not make the cover of the Wall Street Journal. This does not mean that your agency isn’t doing their job. Be realistic in your expectations, listen to your agency about other opportunities, and be confident that as your campaign builds, that one day you might well be featured in that elusive publication. Public relations can make dreams come true…