January 31, 2015
Over the course of my career, I have worked both in-house and at one of the world’s largest PR & advertising agencies. I’ve counseled scores of C-level executives from a wide variety of sectors: professional services firms, hospital and medical research facilities, life sciences firms, energy companies, food companies, Internet start ups, financial institutions, universities and governmental agencies. Regardless of what industry you work in, however, all successful PR programs are predicated on the following five tenets:
1. PR is about building relationships
A very intelligent and otherwise sophisticated executive once asked me if PR was short for Press Releases. PR professionals do both ourselves and the larger business world a disservice by always using the abbreviated term for public relations; in doing so, we fail to highlight its main purpose—to forge and strengthen relationships with targeted audiences to enhance the ability of the organization to meets its mission. In other words, public relations draws on a number of disciplines and deploys a variety of communications vehicles, including media outreach, to establish an ongoing dialogue with your key audiences based on empathy, investment, openness, trust and mutual benefit in order to build brand loyalty and commitment.
2. Media coverage is just the first stop on the way to your final destination
Securing positive press coverage should never be an end until itself; working proactively with journalists and their organizations allows you to expand the number of target members you wish to reach and goes a long way in establishing your credibility with those targets. Being quoted by, or publishing an article in, a media outlet that your constituents rely on to get valuable news and information helps you demonstrate your understanding of your target audiences’ needs and pain points, and when a trusted third party entity like The New York Times or Forbes calls you an “expert” or “leading authority” it carries far more weight and value with your publics than if you say it yourself.
3. Tell your story before others tell it for you
While an unwelcome tweet by a disgruntled employee or unhappy customer may seem no more than a minor irritation, it can quickly gain momentum in the ethersphere, particularly if others outside the organization start to repeat what was said as a statement of fact. If a journalist, or someone else in or outside of your organization, posts something that is factually inaccurate, be sure that person is contacted and provided with the correct information. If the inaccurate information continues to circulate, you may want to respond by issuing a short statement that contains the accurate details via your website, LinkedIn, Facebook or other social media pages. The best way to ensure that information is factual in the first place is to proactively share news about your organization on an ongoing basis with your target audiences, including your own employees.
4. Dress content accordingly
Content may be king, but make sure your king isn’t caught not wearing any clothes. Far too often, web content and other promotional materials are overwritten, unclear as to who they are being written for, and confusing in terms of message. To avoid eroding trust, only create written and visual content that advances the dialogue you wish to have with your publics and focuses on your organization’s top goals and priorities. Content developers must have the background and skill to translate highly complex concepts into plain English that speaks directly to your target audiences and write in a clean, unpretentious style free of passive voice, annoying jargon and confusing acronyms.
5. Feed and nurture
Continuously feed and nurture your business relationships if you want them to thrive. When was the last time you called a client or customer just to check in? When did you or other senior executives last speak at an industry conference or write an editorial? Are you working directly with your PR team to regularly identify fresh news angles to share with relevant journalists or industry analysts? Do you actively solicit feedback from your customers and/or other target audiences to assess how well you are serving them or what you can do better? If so, what, if any, changes have you made at your organization in response to that feedback? Has your organization publicly shared a noteworthy achievement in the past week? If your company has one or more blogs, are new entries being posted at least once a week? If you have a Twitter handle, are you tweeting compelling news at least two times a week? Is someone reviewing, forwarding and/or responding to comments posted on your Facebook or LinkedIn page?