PR is individual

What does a PR consultant do?

In the many years that I’ve worked with companies to develop public relations plans, the number one misperception regarding PR is that it is a simple set of activities that can be done quickly, like creating one widget after another from the same die.

Just as each owner of a company, entrepreneur or executive in a corporation is an individual, so is each firm’s public relations plan. Many clients perceive that PR is fast, simple, cheap and easy. Not true. There is no cookie cutter way to implement public relations. However, there are common activities for all clients. PR done correctly these tasks are time-intensive and require one-to-one approaches.

So, just what exactly is Public Relations? Is it sending press releases to media contacts? Staging attention grabbing activities at major public gathering points? Sending product samples to celebrities?

What is Public Relations?

Public relations is the on-going, continuous building of a wave of conversation and information in the public realm or segment. Public relations, as the name says, is the development of relationships with the many audiences of an enterprise. Public relations is cumulative, long-term and carries different perceptions as opposed to advertising, which I believe PR must support. Public relations creates an environment which makes sales and marketing activities successful. In many respects, public relations is the fertilizer for the seeds sown by advertising, sales and marketing activities.

I counsel and support my clients as they seek to:

  • Be authoritative (speak about issues, teach, present, comment)
  • Be alert to opportunity; Make the news
  • Look for trends and comment on them; Be visible in the news
  • Have a blog and post weekly
  • Seek out and communicate with bloggers, forums and others talking about subjects of interest to your consumers
  • Have whitepapers on the company website so the company is positioned with authority.
  • Conduct webinars
  • Take polls and announce the results
  • Post all news releases on the company website
  • Post all news releases on searchable sites and make sure your news is in a syndicated feed
  • Post information about the company in contributed articles on sites that accept contributed articles

Specifically, public relations activities can be organized into 5 discrete sets of activities:

  1. Media relations activity
    1. Media releases
      1. Creation of media materials (formerly called press kit)
    2. Creation of storylines and pitches to gain publicity
    3. Contributed articles
    4. Creation of white papers
    5. Responding to media / journalist’s queries for experts
    6. Coaching regarding on how to be interviewed
  2. Conversation origination, participation and relationship building
    1. Customers
    2. Bloggers
    3. Forums
    4. Bulletin Boards
  3. Special events
    1. Media events (such as photo opps or interesting attention getting activities)
    2. Customer focused events
    3. Product Launches
    4. Grand openings
    5. Expos/Trade shows
    6. Conferences development, planning and organization
    7. Development of Speaking engagements/Speaker’s Bureau
  4. Reputation management
    1. Being ready with talking points on potential issues with regard to a company
    2. Keeping management apprised of issues that might effect their company
    3. Coaching management on how to conduct interviews
  5. Crisis communications

In addition, your PR consultant should assist you and your firm by creating messages, to communication touch points. A PR pro helps you learn to stay on message and keep all messages aligned to support long-term goals.

Many entrepreneurs and companies conduct their own public relations activities, however, as an entrepreneur, it is hard to develop a company and stay focused on the specifics of your PR plan.

For those who need support, we recommend you consult a communications professional to develop plans, as well as coach and guide the firm to the plan’s implementation. It’s worth your time, money and energy to plan wisely and work with a professional.

Public Relations is Not Media Relations and Vice Versa

Video taping a news interview

It’s highly unlikely that your business will be covered in mainline media

Have you ever said to yourself, “If I could get some PR then more people would buy our services/products.”

What you probably meant was if your potential customers could read an article about your company or view a video segment about your company or listen to an interview with your CEO, then they might be more interested in your company.

Did you know that the likelihood of your getting your business covered by a broadcast news outlet or by your daily newspaper is low?

Getting coverage in the news is based on newsworthy events and happenings, not just being in business. Read more about what news is and isn’t.

I’ve observed that business owners are often focused solely on one aspect of PR, that of media relations—and they think this is all that there is to PR. Even more specifically, they are focused on trying to get members of the media to write or broadcast stories about one’s business or products in the news or in magazines. Read more about suggesting story ideas to the media.

“Many people use the terms public relations and media relations interchangeably; however, doing so is incorrect. Media relations refer to the relationship that a company or organization develops with journalists, while public relations extend that relationship beyond the media to the general public.” Read the Wikipedia article on media relations.

Public relations is not necessarily media relations

Media relations is a specific area of public relations practice in which PR firms, or company representatives interface with members of media covering a specific industry segment or topic. Sometimes that involves suggesting story ideas to a reporter or blogger. Sometimes it involves answering a journalist’s questions about a crisis in your business. Rarely does it involve sending unsolicited press releases to a broad range of reporters in hopes one of them will just reprint your release.

Getting coverage in the media is more about crafting story ideas on topics of interest to a news outlets viewers, listeners or watchers.

Public relations beyond media relations

Because most business owners have the entire Web at their disposal, there are more efficient ways to share news and information about your company and your innovations with the public.

These days if you want to have your CEO interviewed, you can do that and record it and publish it to SoundCloud and distribute it yourself via the social web. Want to have your new product featured in a video? Shoot the video and post it to YouTube. Want to call attention to your radical new shipping methods? Write a blog post on the topic. Read more about how to gain new earned media placement.

Don’t wait for members of the “Fourth Estate” to cover your business. Create your own content.

Implement a few of these PR and media relations tactics to increase visibility and awareness of your firm.

  • Writing and publishing blog posts on your company blog
  • Sharing a story idea with a journalist or reporter who covers your industry segment
  • Supporting a story idea with a well written, specific press release
  • Making a Twitter list of bloggers who write about your industry
  • Getting to know local TV, radio and newspaper reporters on Twitter
  • Publishing a white paper of valuable information for your customers
  • Partnering with another local business to host an event
  • Making presentations for clubs, organizations, professional associations
  • Presenting free, educational seminars
  • Participating in appropriate social media channels
  • Sharing your blog posts via social media
  • Having a complete website with photos of your products; general fact sheets and downloadable materials about your company

These outdated practices should no longer be used by your or your PR consultant.

  • Sending out hundreds of press releases to long lists of journalists
  • Bugging reporters to write about your business
  • Calling reporters to find out when they will write about your business
  • Expecting news coverage because you are in business
  • Expecting that because you advertise, you’ll get an article published about your firm (Yes, there are some pay to play publications. Ignore them.)

For questions about what PR can do for your company, or how to use your own publishing power to gain attention for your company, contact me.