Find Your PR Sweet Spot

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There’s never been a better time to do public relations.

Organizations of all sizes and in all industries can mount successful PR campaigns, efforts that yield real results. These PR programs can be used to bolster reputation, fill your sales pipeline, react to crises and a host of other business-critical goals.

But there’s a catch. In order to be successful, you must pick those PR activities that work for your particular organization. This is where most companies veer off course.

The problem is context. Most businesspeople think of PR in a one-dimensional way: traditional media relations. This is understandable, since for many years reaching out to newspapers, magazines, TV and radio with press releases was the bulk of what PR had to offer. If you got clips for your outreach, success! If not, failure.

Fortunately, the game has changed. Today, PR does not have to rely upon traditional media relations. We can create our own content and make it available through a variety of channels, some of which we create ourselves. We can tap into social media networks with audiences so large they easily outstrip the reach of the traditional media. In other words, we have options. The key is selecting the right ones.

Traditional Media Relations. Let’s start with the most well-known first. Here, we are in the realm of reaching out to reporters and producers with stories of our own creation, hoping to get quoted or interviewed. This tends to work best for certain kinds of organizations:

  • Well-known companies/individuals with established brands and reputations.
  • Companies operating in industries with a lot of media attention, such as financial services.
  • Organizations with a “celebrity” CEO or founder.
  • Local companies serving a distinct geography.

There are lots of organizations that fall outside these categories, though. Successful, innovative companies in industries that don’t get much of a following in the traditional media, for example, can have a very difficult time winning traditional media attention. Midsize companies in an industry full of giants can also have difficulty breaking through. Technology startups, likewise, can have a hard time with the mainstream press. You get the idea.

Content-Based PR. This is an exciting area where companies literally create the stories, videos and audio interviews that the traditional media would have done instead. Importantly, when you create your own, there’s no reporter or editor to get in the way of your message. Tis definitely the season for this type of approach, as the tools and talent needed to pursue such a strategy are available in abundance.

For example, a company that wants to announce new service offering could create a YouTube video interviewing its CEO and then email the link to prospective clients, existing customers and other influencers. The video could also be posted to social networks and the company’s website/blog. This won’t reach as many people as, say, appearing on CNBC. But it will reach the right ones.

In fact, in terms of hitting the right audiences, content-based PR may be significantly more effective. It works for organizations of all sizes and in all industries.

Social Network Outreach. Here I am referring to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like. Social networks today are huge, reaching millions upon millions of users. They are a direct line to your customers and influencers in a way that has never before been possible.

Creating a following on these networks does take a bit of work, but the payoff is pure PR gold. You can put your content — produced just as you wish — directly in front of a large and targeted audience.

There are two keys to being successful in this area. First, you must spend the time to build a following, whether friends, followers or contacts. Second, you must have something interesting to say to these individuals. Exactly what this is depends a great deal on what your business is all about and what kind of content you are able to produce. Obviously, social network outreach works hand-in-hand with content-based PR.

Again, social networking works for organizations of all sizes and in all industries. The key is to just stick with it.

OK, so what’s the next step?

Let’s say you have a midsize company that is national in scope but in an industry that is relatively obscure, without a lot of media coverage. Be honest in assessing this. An industry story every six months in The Wall Street Journal is not a big-time media focus.

In this case, traditional media relations probably won’t move the needle. It’s perhaps worth some effort, but it should not be a major focus of your PR efforts. You need something that can consistently create value. What should that be? A content-based program might be a good fit. You could start a podcast, newsletter or video series. Create stories that will add value to your audience and highlight your expertise.

Then, add a social media component by creating a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Engage with your new audience and share the content you’ve created in these networks. Continue to build your following over time and the value of your content-based PR will expand exponentially.

This won’t be the perfect strategy for every organization — as each should do its own analysis — and there are details and approaches that I’ve skipped over for brevity.

However, the overall concept holds true no matter who you are and what you are doing. Assess your organization and industry environment honestly and then create a PR program whose components are the best possible match. Stick with your program and watch the results accrue over time.

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