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.

When is a plan not a plan?

It happens all the time. A client seeks and retains a marketing and PR firm for their counsel and implementation of plans.

The professional researches the market, analyzes the situation and drafts a plan with a unique selling proposition and positioning. The client reviews the plan and determines that only one of fifteen items is important to them; however, the fifteen items are all interdependent and support the client’s stated goal. The PR / marketing professional reformats the plan, frequently offering guidance that as reformulated the results may not meet the client’s goals. The professional ultimately implements the items that the client authorizes and then results aren’t what the client seeks.

Whose fault is this? The client’s or the professional’s?

When a client pays their hard earned dollars for PR and marketing advice, and then ignores what they’ve paid for and won’t undertake the campaign the way it is presented we should reformulate. The client must understand that reformulating the plan costs time and money…and many clients don’t feel they have additional amounts of either to sustain a second round of planning.

Not every client has all the resources to undertake everything we plan. We create plans that meet a client’s stated goals and resources. However, it is exasperating when we spend our time, wisdom, experience, energy and knowledge writing a plan that is ignored.

So, going into the planning process the client must be absolutely frank about what they can afford, sustain, and ultimately what budget resources they have to focus on their goal.

If you are a business who would like to retain a marketing and PR firm, analyze what and why you want to work with a firm. Understand what resources (money, personnel) you have and then be forthright with your prospective firm. Understand that when you tell your prospective counsel what you need, want and can pay for and then reject sound advice you have just wasted your money.

As professionals we must make sure we comprehend what a client is asking of us. Often we’d love to give them an “all in” project where every initiative we can think of is included, but if the client didn’t ask us for that we’re wasting our time and their money.

A successful marketing and PR initiative is one that is carefully crafted to be of use, return results and fit the budget. If the budget isn’t adequate to gain the desired results, let the client know that you can’t assist them. It’s hard to say, “No, thank you.” but sometimes it is worth it.