Monthly Archives: June 2008

Five Things PR is Not

For all the discussion on what public relations can do for your bottom line, I think it’s helpful to put to rest some notions that PR is a cure-all for getting the word out about your business. So in the spirit of ruthless honesty, PR is not:

1) A replacement for a well-conceived Marketing and Advertising program; PR should support the initiatives of the marketing plan, not replace it. The very nature of PR is that it is “earned” media, therefore coverage is never guaranteed. Media Relations (just one part of your PR arsenal) for a company who has never made it a priority is a process that can take weeks, if not months to establish. Ad buys do not carry that third party stamp of approval, but you’re obviously guaranteed the space.

2) A way to become rich and famous overnight; certainly there are celebrity publicists who may have the cache to call in a few favors, but those contacts are rare, few and far between. Unless you have (or you are) a product that the can really get some air time or ink, the publicist can not afford to use those contacts up simply for a fee. Make sure your business has already achieved some important benchmarks (or is breaking new ground in an already established business) before hiring a PR representative.

3) Something to take lightly; Once you send out a press release, it can never be recalled. With that said, many businesses still go one of two ways when dealing with this fact. 1) They obsessively revise, review, edit and put through the grinder a perfectly simple, straightforward press release. I’ve experienced situations where up to fifteen people had to “sign off” on a release. After that, it was a mere shadow of itself… and that’s before it even got to the legal department. 2) They ignore this fact altogether and just want to “get it out”. There is a happy medium here. Let your PR person carefully craft the release. Provide honest and insightful feedback that can be incorporated. If you’re a public company or dealing with sensitive material, have your legal representative review it before it goes out. No big deal.

4) Not going to “save” your business; businesses who are pooling their resources to scrape together a fee in order to afford PR help gave bigger problems than their lack of PR. Don’t let your business become so cash poor that PR becomes a last ditch effort to save it. Invest in PR right off the bat. For independent filmmakers, this is especially important. Make sure to build in a PR budget in your line items. I’ve seen too many brilliant small films gasp for air when the director relaizes there’s no money left to promote the project. And, by the way, any publicist who is willing to defer payment either is trying to build a portfolio and has very little experience, or simply doesn’t have clients– which could be for a variety of reasons. Just something to think about.

5) A made-up business that anyone can instantly do; Yes, public relations is an actual profession. We have the Public Relations Society of America, we sign an ethics oath, and we even have an advanced certification program (though this is growing, the certified APR practitioners are on the rise). When you’re dealing with a PR person, allow them the same courtesy you would an accountant, an attorney, a physician. You certainly have the right to ask questions, even question methodologies. But, no, reading the Dummies Guide to PR would be like reading How to Represent Yourself in Court or The ABCs of Mending Your Broken Arm. Enthusiastically ask questions, but let the pro do their job. Should be fine.

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Filed under marketing communications, media, PR for Non-Profits, PR for Small Biz, PR Resources, Press Releases, Public Relations, publicity

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: When Media “Hits” are Hard to Come By

So what happens when you’ve sent out press releases, pitch e-mails and done your “call downs” aka follow-up calls with media and still all you hear is the sound of chriping crickets? It happens all the time. And, no, there is no possible way to have deep, meaningful relationships with every single journalist on your dozens of media lists. It’s not always possible to pick up the phone and say, “Hey, Jim. Can you do me this one favor and write something up on my client? They’re really fantastic. It’s a great story.” Nope. Even your best reporter friends can’t always say “yes” if their editor says “no.” When the media hits stop coming, or they never came at all, it’s time to stop an reevaluate your story. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re auditing a media relations plan:

1) Do you have realistic expectations about the hits you’re going for, and when those hits might happen? Remember, it takes weeks, sometimes several months to get on a journalist’s radar if they’ve never heard of you before or have a very limited idea of what your company does. Be persistent and continue to send releases, pitches and advisories. Eventually, they’ll get the sense that you’re a legitimate company with ongoing news to offer their audience.

1) Is this a new angle on an ongoing news story, or are you simply promoting your service or business? It’s important to remember that public relations is an “arm” of marketing. Avoid using marketing speak or language that is too entrenched in selling your product or service. Always default to “what kind of news content can I provide that will be of service to this reporter’s audience?”

2) Are you positioning yourself as an expert resource that can be called upon again and again for similar news items? It’s important that you’re not perceived as a one trick pony or that you’ve never done this before. Make certain that spokespeople are trained appropriately and are ready to go when that hit comes.

3) What are your media friends saying about your pitch? Solicit some honest feedback from sources you’ve used before. They may not be your target media, but every journalist has an idea of what makes for a good pitch and, subsequently, a better story.

4) Are you sending out your news in a variety of ways, i.e. pitch e-mails, press releases, letters to the editor, op/ed pieces. Are you using newswire services or sending targeted information to specific journalists? Take stock of what distribution methodologies you’ve used. If something is not producing results, step back and say “let’s try something else” and get back to media relations in a couple of weeks. Remember, media relations is not the whole of what public relations is. Sit down with your marketing director and discuss other strategies for raising awareness about the business that does not involve pestering journalists.

5) Are you offering third party interviews from people who are not in your organization? If you have great relationships with industry analysts, use them! Or how about great customers that can attest to how brilliant you are? Solicit support from your fans and ask if they would be willing to be included in your pitch to the media. Make certain they have talking points, but encourage them to be enthusiastic and frank about your business.

Doing a quick “reality check” in your media relations plan is helpful in not only keeping pace with the industry, but developing new strategies for getting the word out. And don’t worry if reporters aren’t jumping to interview you. Step back, take a break, try something else and get back to it later. You do not want to exhaust the contacts that you have, and it’s always advisable to review messaging during those dry editorial periods.

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