You company may not be able to boast that it’s “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Then again, it might. But if you are and you don’t promote yourself, it really doesn’t matter, does it? No one will know it. That’s what P. T. Barnum understood: that there’s a little “show business” in every business. And with some planning and hard work, you too can be effective at relating the messages you want to your clients, customers, and key audiences.
Like it or not, you’ve got a public relations department at your business. It might not be organized, sophisticated, efficient, or even barely viable, but you’ve undoubtedly got a constant flow of product and company news and it’s probably being released in some form to some audience. Why not take charge and be more in control of the messages you issue?
In my previous blog, I wrote about the “what” of your PR efforts: your message. I looked at how your news must be meaningful, not just adding to an already overloaded ocean of data everyone is bombarded by. You also need to find the precise aspect of the news that makes it newsworthy — the specific and applicable angle that sets it apart from the rest. And you always need to keep an ever-present eye and ear out to your audience in knowing what they want and need to know and why.
After you’ve mastered the “what,” it’s important to concentrate on the “how” of relating to your public (or it’s personal relations, right?). It’s one thing having something significant to communicate; it’s another to be able to push it through the process – amid all the other messages vying for the attention of your audience.
Consider having a nice stereo system — without speakers. You have the ability to hear some great tunes, but you just don’t have all the necessary elements or infrastructure to hear it. You have a message but not the medium to communicate it. It’s the same with your PR efforts. Behind every story there needs to be some conduit or means through which to get your information to a larger audience.
Before the internet, it was largely a process of getting on the phone, mailing out material, or making a personal visit to a news source. It’s much easier today with an innumerable number of outlets. The key is finding the places where your customers reside and engage them there. It’s largely a process of establishing networks and friendships. Once you’ve got the right contacts set up, you can distribute them the information as needed.
It’s not enough to have newsworthy news, with a good angle, directed to your target audience, and a contact to feed it to. To be effective, you need a steady flow of information to multiple sources within a consistent timeframe if you want people not just to become aware of you, but to follow you and look forward to what you’re doing next. What you’re after isn’t just attraction or interest, but engagement and adoption.
That means having a plan of what to send, when to send it, and on what platforms. Of course, this all depends on the amount of news you have, the nature of your news, how aggressive you want your PR program to be, and how much time and resources you have to devote to relating to your public. Your plan may be to write a monthly in-depth blog, a series of weekly (or maybe even daily) Tweets or Facebook posts, and as-needed product or corporate news. That’s great — and ambitious. The key at first is not so much quantity of material but quality and consistency. After you find your pace and your audience, you can adjust your sights on becoming more prolific and efficient.
Once you get into a rhythm of sending quality and constant information, you’ll find that you’ll be able to streamline your process as you plan ahead and look for more opportunities. You can even enlist other staff members in helping with various parts of the process as coworkers who have skills in these certain areas surface. It’s also a good way to get internal feedback on content, process, and your overall PR program.
Perhaps one of the most significant allies you can enlist in your public relations program comes in the form of external feedback. The most reliable and detailed place to find how you’re doing, who you’re reaching, and where you should redirect your efforts comes from the data analytics that you can gather from your online PR efforts.
This is another area where a skilled PR department or knowledgeable professional can give you a tremendous advantage. Not only will they allow you to locate the data you need, but they know how to analyze it, and what to do in response to it. You don’t even have to expend many resources or too many dollars to get a good handle on the condition and effect of your public relations initiatives.
Of course, it goes without saying that once you create an online audience and engage your public, it’s just as important to be personal, timely, and helpful in your response to those who engage you. There’s no use reaching out and creating a communications forum if you’re not going to be an active participant in it. The deeper you develop your contacts and audiences, the more that opportunities will present themselves.
Creating material, disseminating it, and following up in your public relations pursuits is not easy. It takes a high level of talent and craftsmanship. The qualities of tenacity, hard work, devotion, and courage are just as important in an overall effective PR program. But the potential rewards in connecting with your audience and telling your corporate story are endless.
P.T. Barnum summarized his PR philosophy this way: “Without promotion, something terrible happens … nothing.” And what you want for your company, your employees, and your customers is for something to happen. Everyone has the ability and resources to be effective at it. You just have to make a commitment, get started, and keep at it.
What are you waiting for?
Immediate Action Item:
After you’ve identified some meaningful company news, think of one or several people you know who could publish it (and benefit from doing so). Then write it up and get it to them.
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.”