We came across a great read this morning written by Amy Westervelt, titled: “Stop complaining about your PR firm, here’s how the media works,” and it instantly struck a chord with us. Guess there’s no surprise here.
In our line of work, we’re often called on to generate a large number of PR opportunities for our clients. We do this strategically and tactically whether capitalizing on the days news, releasing new data, earnings calls, and more. From the very beginning of a client engagement, we try to work with our clients to explain the PR process and manage expectations so as to maximize the relationship and avoid any trouble or misunderstanding down the road. However, we all have had those clients that no matter what you say or do are just so narrowly focused on “just get us the hits now, we hired you, so make some magic happen,” that they can’t see the forest for the trees.
We have a saying at WISE PR, a good PR program should be like “Rolling Thunder” off in the distance. You should always hear it in the background and it should make itself known — all the time, not just when there is a single big event, which is akin to a “Firecracker” that explodes on the scene yet fades just as quickly.
No matter where you fall on this debate, the amount of work you put into PR is the same you will get out of it. PR does not work in a void. It requires collaboration and engagement from the client as much as it does from the firm. That said, there are some key areas that must be addressed to make the PR machine run smoothly and successfully:
- PR does not work in a vacuum: Hiring an agency does not automatically mean that you’re going to see an increase in earned media. Putting a press release on a newswire does not count. Good PR takes a sincere collaborative effort on both sides — client and firm — to truly develop a PR strategy, maximize the press opportunities and achieve the subsequent business goals, whether its awareness, increased sales, share of voice, thought leadership, capital raise, an exit, etc.
- Establishing relationships: That’s the essence of PR at its core. We advocate for our clients and insist that they establish and cultivate their own relationships with media which we initiate on their behalf. The reality is that you’re going to work with them moving forward and it’s vital that you make yourself available whenever there’s a request for information, an interview, meeting, or comment on a broader industry trend/news.
- Creating content: Words alone are not going to instantly make media cover your story. We need to think about the bigger picture and give the media what they need from the start. This includes digital assets, whether it’s photos, videos, infographics, etc. all with the ability to fully shape the story and give media better context to understand and showcase the coverage to their editors first then to their readers. Press releases are fine, and serve as a fact sheet, but not every announcement will get coverage. Blog posts are fine as well and provide content to link back to. All of the content that’s created is designed to drive traffic back to your site or social channel and improve SEO.
- Are you drinking the kool-aid: Is the story that you’re asking us to pitch that compelling beyond the four walls of your conference room? why should anyone care? If you can answer that, then there’s likely a story there.
- Case studies: A restaurant is judged on its food and service. A tech company is often judged on the clients that it has and sometimes on the amount of money they raise. However, media really just wants to know “can you backup your story” with case studies and proof points? If not, don’t bother, media will not care about your product.
- Speed is essential: We need to be first to respond to breaking news — propose data, comment, etc. — directly to media. If not you, then media will go on to their next source on their list and that person will be perceived as the subject matter expert and not you.
These are some important points to address in what it takes to make a successful PR program. We live in a very data-driven 24/7 news-cycle so it’s more vital than ever to break through the noise, but also bear in mind that good PR is a work in progress and needs to be effective, agile, and savvy to truly make it work. But it also requires the client to also be committed to its success by being an active participant in the PR process.