In today’s guest post, PR professional Laura Ward takes us back to basics by explaining the key PR tools to consider and how to choose the right ones.
So you’ve decided to add public relations to your marketing mix. Or, you’re considering it. Either way, fantastic! Congratulations on making (or, getting ready to make) a very smart business decision.
Public relations helps build brands, generate awareness and visibility, and drive bottom line results. However, simply realizing you need and want public relations doesn’t make developing and executing the right plan any less intimidating or overwhelming. PR is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it for the lazy.
Most times, upon answering questions about what they do for a living, PR professionals are the proud recipients of responses such as, “Oh, that’s nice. So, you write press releases.”
“Among a gazillion other things,” the PR professional thinks without verbally offering anything other than, “Yes, that’s definitely part of my job,” while mustering a polite smile.
Public relations is about much more than just press releases. Basically, PR is a tool kit. The. Ultimate. Tool kit. Its tools are called tactics. Like a drill and a screwdriver, some tactics are used together. Other times, the only one you need is a hammer. It depends upon the project, how it needs to be structured, and what it needs to accomplish.
Whether you want to build, repair, or maintain your business, PR can help. But, how do you choose the right tools for the job?
First, you need to answer a few questions.
Who is your target audience? Identify key audience segments as well as their age ranges and geographic locations (local, regional, national, global).
What do you want to tell these people? Indicate whether you are selling a product/service, raising money for charity, working to change perceptions, educate the public, or simply get noticed.
What media (traditional, online, and social) deliver news and information to your audience? What newspapers, magazines, blogs do they read? What television programs do they watch?
Next, you need to know your options. Public relations tactics, or tools in the tool kit, include (but are definitely not limited to):
- Traditional media relations
- Online media relations
- Social media relations
- Byline articles
- Op Ed pieces
- Letters to the editor
- Trend pitches
- Community relations
Finally, you need to understand how each tool works.
Media Relations – Whether traditional, online, or social, media relations involves the development of a media list inclusive of the most appropriate editors, producers, reporters, Facebook pages, and Twitter handles for your organization’s interactions followed by thoughtful and timely communication/engagement with those on the media list. Successful media relations initiatives can elevate a brand via expert spokesperson placement, feature articles, and prominent social media presence.
Byline Articles – Often ghostwritten, byline articles appear in magazines and newspapers and tend to fit topically/thematically with content dictated by a publication’s editorial calendar.
Op Ed Pieces/Letters to the Editor – When a brand, business, or organization has a position or opinion to communicate about a particular subject/issue, it is often wise to craft and submit for publication an op ed article or letter to the editor.
Blogging/Vlogging – If a brand can make a commitment to posting a new blog and/or video at least once per week, this tactic can prove extremely successful in helping the brand gain traction online by driving web site traffic and building social media buzz.
Trend pitches – Most businesses live and breathe trends, whether setting them or contributing to them. Organizational leaders are automatically experts on those trends and can distinguish their brands by highlighting existing trends in new ways and predicting and introducing future trends.
Community relations – Some of the strongest and most valuable relationships a brand can establish and maintain are those with the communities in which its offices, retail locations, etc. are based. Whether through college scholarship programs or regular donations to local charities or other programs, brands can build reputations as good citizens by giving back to their communities. These good works can and should be publicized.
Events – From press conferences and media tours to fundraisers and community activities that include local celebrities, events of any size can reinforce brand awareness and identity through experiential relationships with various audience segments.
In most cases, the volume of the messages brands communicate is ultimately controlled by two things: budget and resources. Fortunately, public relations tactics can, and most often do, effectively maximize dollars for the greatest possible impact. Dedicating resources, either internally or externally (or both) is paramount, provided those assigned to development and implementation of PR programs are capable of multi-tasking and meeting deadlines, but are not expected to multi-job (e.g., juggle PR, administrative, and financial duties).
Truth be told, most businesses and organizations can stand to benefit from utilizing a carefully mapped out strategic combination of nearly all the aforementioned PR tactics. The more tools plucked from the kit and successfully manipulated to work in concert with one another and speak to target audiences, the louder and more penetrable the messages and the greater their overall impact.
Laura Ward is the award-winning public relations professional behind WardComm Public Relations. She thrives on utilizing the written word, whether via press releases, by-lined articles, newsletters, websites, or social media; creating and executing public relations campaigns; fostering relationships with the media; planning events; multi-tasking and meeting tight deadlines. Follow Laura on Twitter.
Elena is founder of a technology PR agency that works with startups to billion-dollar companies. She is passionate about helping marketers and small business owners with practical publicity strategies, which she's also using for her own bling flip flop company.
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