I spend a great deal of my time chatting with people (clients, peers, anyone who will listen) about the need for businesses of all types and all sizes to use strategic public relations.
When I work directly with clients (individuals or brands) we spend a lot of time, in the beginning, talking about what pieces need to be in place to ensure that their PR efforts will be successful.
The goals for public relations strategies will differ based on the client, company, industry, and situation. We know that there is never a one-size-fits-all approach in modern communications, however, there are some must-haves that will generally apply to most situations. Having what I call the foundational pieces in place will allow you to execute your PR strategies brilliantly.
Remember, the first thing journalists will do when writing a story that may include you is to Google your name, company, or product on the internet. Everything that goes into your online image—social media, website, online marketing—must be prepared in such a way that it will be informative, accurate, and professional when presented to a journalist. Additionally, your internal processes, information, and planning need to be well-established in order to appropriately and professionally serve your media contacts.
Any program that includes external communications likely needs social media to support, but if you plan to reach out to journalists it is essential that you have at least a basic social media presence. Companies that do not have any social media profiles will likely miss out on some opportunities to grow awareness if they are attempting to communicate with the masses without social media. PR and social media marketing are often two distinct disciplines, but when it comes to customer education, stakeholder engagement, media relations, and public affairs, social media moves under PR to ensure proper messaging and maximum engagement. Prior to launching any media outreach campaigns, take the time to make sure your social media is up to date.
Website design and management is not a PR function (do not even get me started on job descriptions that have web design as part of PR!) however, because the website is such an integral part of how an organization communicates, content and messaging decisions will likely be made by the PR team or within a large company, the public relations staff will work closely with the content team to keep messaging on point. Websites hold information that is important to the media, such as contact details, press releases, a newsroom, and general company information, so the PR team is often engaged to make sure those parts of the website are supporting communications efforts. Prior to launching any media outreach campaigns, take the time to make sure your website is up to date, and offers complete information and easy access for journalists.
Content is everywhere, but what you want to focus on for public relations purposes is the sharable stuff that people (especially journalists) can read, watch, or listen to that cements your expertise and experience. You hear a lot about evergreen content (content that you have created that makes sense or is relevant any time of the year in any situation: for example, Christmas pies is seasonal, how to buy a computer can be posted any time) that should appear in your social media, on your website, and in your marketing material. However, for the purposes of PR and media relations, this is not gated content. Do not make journalists sign up for your newsletter, pay for your e-book, or register for your online class to find out whether or not you are truly an expert in your field. Topics that are considered evergreen will be broad enough to give the content a long shelf life, rather than tied to a news event or a specific time of year. Prior to launching any media outreach campaigns, take the time to develop easy-to-access content that confirms your thought leadership or expertise that journalists can find for free, without signing-ups.
For individuals, startups, and small companies, the marketing team might be one person or only a couple of people, so PR often sits in on branding, business development, sales, and marketing conversations. There is a lot of crossover on small teams, which is awesome, but there is often confusion about where PR starts and ends. I have always said that everything you say and everything you do is PR, but that doesn’t mean I am going to code your website, cold-call customers, or manage your product packaging. A company that engages all of the marketing disciplines together is going to be the most successful. Silos rarely work. Prior to launching any media outreach campaigns, take the time to make sure your marketing is in alignment with your public relations goals.
Your organization, including executives, sales staff, and marketing team needs to be well-prepared to respond quickly and effectively to the media. Taking the time in advance of your public relations campaigns to finalize internal processes, prepared educational pieces and general information, and to plan the expected outcomes of your campaigns will set you up for success with all of your communications—especially your media outreach. Outline your reporting and approval processes with your executive team and department leads ahead of time. Surprising your product manager with the fact that you need new product photos for the media is not going to go over well. Gather, edit, and finalize all pertinent documents, such as product specification sheets, background reports, and client or partner documentation ahead of time. If you have ever pitched a client as part of a news story only to have that company refuse to speak to the media, you know how negatively that impacts your chances of getting coverage. Gather quotes, contact information, and schedule availability ahead of time. Prepare your customers and partners for any campaigns, as you would prepare your staff. Prior to launching any media outreach campaigns, take the time to make sure your internal processes, messaging, and reporting is finalized.
“If you build it, they will come” does not work in real life, but if you DO NOT build it, they for sure will never show up. Non-existent social media, incomplete websites and disconnected branding mean that journalists likely will not respond to your media efforts, as they will assume that you, your company, or your product is not very sophisticated or professional. You must remember that journalists want people to share their work. If you have zero social media influence and are not a verifiable source of expertise, they may not feel compelled to include you in their latest article. You need your digital marketing in place first in order to build a foundation that will make you a reasonable source or expert for journalists to write about later. If you have skipped building your digital presence as outlined above, journalists will be disappointed by what they find and likely will not cover you or your suggested media pitch.
Every brand has a great story to tell.
ZGPR helps to tell yours.