Written for Daily Hive by Rachel Thexton, president of Thexton PR
Public relations is often a marketing tool surrounded by confusion. There are small and large businesses dedicated to their PR programs, understanding the value, but often, business leaders wonder if they need PR and whether it’s worth the investment.
With two decades of PR experience in a variety of sectors, I will break it down and clarify what it can do for your business and how to execute it successfully.
Newsrooms are short-staffed, breaking news is constant, and the growth within the digital and social media space continuously requires new tactics. Still, the basics remain. PR is defined as the practice of managing and disseminating information to the public in order to affect the perception of your business. PR is often about sharing stories and information that helps strengthen the relationship between your business and the public. This can support reputation, provide publicity for a product/service, or build a trusted and authentic dialogue, enhancing your understanding of your customer communities’ needs and opinions.
Discuss goals and your definition of success
For some, the goal is building awareness for the company or a new product, while another team may need help managing a potential crisis or negative incident for reputation repair.
A good PR professional works with you to identify goals while developing a plan to achieve them. The pro will also discuss the news and social media landscape, answering questions and digging into where PR can best benefit you. A pro is also realistic regarding the angles and ideas that are most likely to generate the profile you seek, and which may be better suited for another marketing method.
It’s imperative that you and your consultant agree on what success is for you, while then gathering the tools and information needed to execute the plan.
Choose the right PR consultant for your business
When selecting an expert, learn about their experience and recent work, and get to know their style. Ask to see case studies or talk through successes. You also need a pro who respects and understands media, bloggers, and influencers, and this comes with experience and relationship building over time. Often an independent consultant or small shop has their leader executing your project work, but you should know who is executing the work, not just who is pitching you for the business. Large agencies can sometimes be better fits for bigger companies with multiple needs and higher budgets, although some large companies prefer a more personalized approach with a small team.
PR for a specialty industry like real estate or mining is different from PR for restaurants or retail. Make sure your PR pro knows your industry well.
Understand the process and dedicate time to participate
PR consultants must hustle in the current media and evolving digital landscape, but they need your involvement. You are the expert, with knowledge of the issues, stories, and details that PR needs to build and execute a solid strategy. Set aside time for meetings to share your expertise and insight.
You are the voice of your business. It’s important to make an effort to be available for media interviews—sometimes on short notice—and be willing to connect with stakeholders for discussion. Your PR pro will bring opportunities, but your availability and willingness to share is critical. Your pro should offer media training and brief you thoroughly before interviews so that you are comfortable and prepared.
Working together to develop key messages around complex issues is important and serves as a guide, highlighting what you want to communicate. It’s common to become nervous during interviews, and it’s the pro’s job to prepare you.
Set clear and measurable goals together
Since a PR profile is not paid for, it’s called “earned.” Although we build a strong plan, flexibility and adapting to change are often required. This makes some business leaders cautious with no guarantees on where and how their profile, coverage, or connections will be. An experienced pro helps to outline specific goals, giving you confidence that they are doing their best to achieve success based on the results that you have prioritized. When the project is complete, evaluate results and revisit goals. This will allow you to determine how well your PR expert delivered.
PR partnerships are also beneficial as an experienced and connected communicator is available to support your business when it faces challenges. Strategic communication and open dialogue are both vital when your business hits a bump.
Consistency matters: value and budget
Achieving strong PR success takes time, requiring a longer-term strategy, building your connections, and securing opportunities that allow you to share stories and develop dialogue with various communities. Quick wins may help in the short term and look cool on your social media, but longer-term results show commitment to connection, allow time for a variety of profile-building, and often result in brand-building that brings trust and a strong reputation.
For businesses starting PR for the first time or for those who have had a negative experience, a short-term retainer structure is ideal, providing time for your consultant to produce results and giving you access to their expertise, as needed, without a longer commitment that you may not be ready for. A four-to-six-month retainer is an ideal start.
Regarding budget, research advertising costs and note that PR produces earned profile and connections that will likely help your brand more than an ad. PR takes strategic effort, hard work and time, and it is often based on years of relationship-building and experience. There is a place for paid content and in the evolving digital landscape, PR can help with paid blogger/influencer partnerships. For some projects, these partnerships are fantastic opportunities that provide more control over content while maintaining authenticity and showcasing creativity. Most bloggers and influencers work very hard and share skills including photography and videography, along with large and trusted online networks. Digital partnerships can be a positive addition to your PR plan.
Stories are meant to be shared, communication is vital as we are more divided than ever, and companies can have dialogue online like never before. Consider PR. With the right professional, the results will bring many valuable benefits to your business.