Phineas Taylor “P. T.” Barnum, notorious showman, businessman, and founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus and later the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus — which would earn the moniker, “The Greatest Show on Earth” — knew well that there is a little show business in every business.
And he was right. Of course, for companies to thrive they must create a fantastic product or service. That’s a given. But those same businesses are equally tasked with the responsibility of relating to the public what their fantastic products or services are – of “showing” their “business.” Because whether they know it or not, we’re all in the public relations business because we must all relate to our publics. Or we’ll soon be out of business.
I know, you’ve probably already started rolling your eyes at the “P” word – which could be public relations, promotions, or publicity, take your pick – and whispering at the bottom of your voice, “Yea, and the next thing he’s going to write is that we’re all salesman!” But, in a way we are, because every company needs to connect the fruits of their corporate planning, effort, and execution with those who need them – their clients, customers, and audiences.
Of course, we can all relate with the overly slick, fast-talking, pull-the-wool-over-your-eyes, snake-oil salesman types. And we abhor and flee them. But the fact remains, we all need to convincingly communicate our product to the marketplace, and we could all use a few tips about being more effective in publicly relating the offerings and messages of our businesses.
At ThinkWell, we have extensive experience handling personal PR for C-suite professionals as they attempt to widen their scope as thought leaders. We also assist companies with their PR objectives in getting the word out to their current and potential clients. While you may not have the resources or the desire to launch as aggressive and involved a campaign as many of them have, EVERY company needs to relate to their public on a consistent and qualitative basis when significant and defining events occur in the life of your company.
Here are a few things to consider in being more effective in your PR pursuits, particularly in the area of your message content:
A meaningful message
No, the fact that the marketing staff is going to have their annual brainstorming retreat is not news that all your customers need to know. Or the fact that the recent update to your website is finally complete – unless you’ve got an entirely new look and exciting, engaging, and fresh content. The kind of meaningful message that will be exciting to your audience is information that is newsworthy, relevant, and significant. In other words, as my college journalism professor used to say, “Don’t just say something, have something to say.”
Today’s audiences are savvy; they’ve been exposed to just about every type, tone, and texture of “news” possible. They’re also tired and bombarded by what is already too much for their brains and psyches to absorb. It’s important that your “news” stands out from the rest, and that it is original, timely, and of high quality.
A precise perspective
This is what I call the “So what?” or “Why are you telling me this?” test. Pass it and you’re likely to win a fan or follower; fail it and you’ve got someone who’s unconvinced, unresponsive, and undoubtedly annoyed. What makes something memorable and valuable to the receiver of your message is not just the facts themselves, but what those facts mean to them. It answers the age-old, WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) question.
Finding your precise perspective is about finding the right viewpoint, approach, or angle of the facts from which you can create and communicate your message. It’s about making your information relevant and even necessary for your audience. Merely communicating that you’ve hired a new marketing manager is just another HR announcement. Communicating that you’ve hired a bright, talented marketing manager who has experience in multiple industries and wants to aggressively widen your social media and public relations activities and open up several new untapped markets is quite another.
An appropriate audience
Ever get a letter in the mail addressed “To Whom it May Concern”? My guess is you never opened it. Why? It was so generic and impersonal that it might as well have been meant for anyone – actually, it was meant for everyone. In this new age of authentic and genuine communication, if your message, no matter how meaningful and audience-specific, doesn’t come across as personable and appropriate to them, it’s discounted and avoided.
Businesses need to be in the business of knowing their clients and customers. They should be experts at it, knowing well what their audiences like and love as well as what they dislike and downright abhor. And with all the analytics offered today, companies should know what their customers are having for breakfast at what time on any given day. The information companies relate to their audiences needs to not only be relevant to them but exciting, challenging, and inspiring. Communicating the right message to the right audience in the right tone is your goal.
Does your company have a meaningful message to share? And it should if it’s moving forward. Can you pinpoint the precise perspective in which you will shape that message to your audience? And you better if you want people to feel engaged. Have you identified and do you know your target audience well? And if you’re not doing that, what are you doing?
Then you need to relate this to your public.
Every business needs to put a little “show business” in their business plan and communicate their products and services and corporate stories to their key audiences. You don’t have to be pushy, loud, or invasive. Simply find those stories that are worth telling and tell them well.
P.T. Barnum would be proud.
Immediate Action Item:
Think of some current newsworthy information about your company and put it through the meaningful message/precise perspective/appropriate audience test.
In the next blog, we’ll go from a concentration on your actual message to taking a closer look at the public relations process and discuss some ways to make your PR efforts more prominent and productive.
Jim Ramsbottom is ThinkWell's writer-in-residence. When he's not authoring blogs (for clients or himself), white papers, animation scripts, website copy, or marketing content, you can find him writing screenplays or re-watching “Breaking Bad.” He’s an ardent of the Hopi proverb: “He who tells the stories rules the world.”