So many times, when a company is just starting out, there is a checklist of assumed tasks the company's founders want to accomplish quickly:
While PR can be critical to the launch of a company or product, the company leadership needs to come from the right perspective for it to be successful. They need to ask themselves: What are we trying to accomplish as a business? Who are we trying to get in front of with our message? What are the appropriate avenues to reach those audiences? Is PR the right answer for our current situation? Are we just trying to get press coverage for the sake of getting press coverage?
These are tough and sometimes humbling questions to ask as a company is forging ahead on the disruptive entrepreneurial road. But it is important to ask them before spending a lot of time, money and, ultimately, frustration if things don't work out the way they were originally envisioned.
When deciding to move forward with a PR program, determine if this is a short-term launch project or if there is enough news and activity to warrant an ongoing program. Agree to metrics in advance so everyone is on the same page. And most importantly, be patient. Ongoing, worthwhile press coverage doesn't appear overnight and won't be sustainable without the support and participation of the company's leadership.
Today's political climate is, let's just say... tense.
With many of the executive orders and statements being made by the White House over the last few weeks, businesses, particularly those in the tech industry, are being pushed into the spotlight, whether they like it or not. This can be quite frustrating for communications teams, who needs to create statements and policies for their executives and teams with little to no turnaround time.
Several companies like Airbnb, Lyft and Starbucks have seized the opportunity to make bold political statements and the majority of consumers have responded positively. But very very few have come out on top. Others have tried to make statements and fallen flat, while others have attempted to stay silent or issue vague, impersonal quotes that leave consumers looking for more, or worse -- lashing out at and even boycotting the companies.
This is a tricky time for communications professionals. A time to evaluate your company or client's values and culture. How do you want to be perceived when customers, investors and employees look back at this moment in time a year from now? 5 years from now? A decade from now?
How audiences react can certainly be finicky and you'll never know their true reaction until you put your message and actions out there. But it is important for you and your leadership team to not only be comfortable, but proud of how you managed your value messages during this very tenuous time.
Having just survived the Hallmark holiday of Valentine's Day, whether we have significant others or prefer our single status, relationships have been a hot topic. As such, it is the perfect time to talk about a different kind of relationship: that between PR pros and journalists.
This type of relationship is one that you might see on a soap opera or primetime drama. Some times it is complete perfection, other times it is in complete disarray and then there are the times in between. And like all relationships, they vary based on the people and scenarios involved.
Some PR pros absolutely love working closely with journalists while others would rather do any other part of the job than deal with media relations. Similarly, there are journalists who make it their mission in life to talk about their hatred for "PR flacks" while others appreciate what good PR pros can offer.
When it comes down to it, we all need to come to an agreement -- we need each other.
PR pros need journalists to distribute news about their company and clients. Journalists need PR pros and the executives they support to provide context and perspective on the stories they are trying to tell. There will be scenarios where the story doesn't go in the direction the company wanted it to and then there will be times where the journalist may feel like they are writing too much of a puff piece. But we all need to focus on the facts, the interesting stories and the people that matter most -- the readers/viewers.
The news ecosystem requires all participants -- businesses, journalists and PR pros -- to work together in order to provide fair and balanced information and storytelling for readers and viewers. It is then up to them to make their own opinions on the situation.
PR professionals can spend a good amount of time reading the news and helping correct inaccuracies on behalf of their clients. But quite a bit of inaccuracies are actually related to the job itself and people's misconceptions around what we do for a living.
So we asked top PR pros, "What is the biggest PR myth you've had to fight (or continually fight)?" Here are their responses:
"The biggest myth has always been, and continues to be, that PR happens over night. Or that having a 'relationship' with a particular journalist, blogger or outlet = instant coverage. It doesn't work that way."
"Many people still believe that the purpose of PR is to help increase their bottom line and users/customers. This is slightly true but the real purpose of PR is to reinforce your brand equity and help increase awareness in the marketplace."
"The biggest myth or misconception I see about public relations is that we're here to spin or cover up information when in reality, we push to ensure information is communicated effectively, clearly and at the most opportune time for both our consumers and the companies we represent. Most of the time, we are advocating to communicate information, not the other way around."
"That it's easy to get media coverage in national daily media outlets, such as the NY Times or WSJ. Understandably so, clients often believe their products/services are newsworthy 'just because.' They don't understand that a major news hook is needed to even get the reporter to listen, let alone include them in an article. It's a continuing process to educate clients on how PR and the media work."
"The most insidious PR myth is spin. More specifically, the idea that with the right spin fundamental business or product issues or actual facts already in the public eye can simply be made to disappear."
It's only natural to get excited and start sprinting as fast as you can with as much spirit and gusto as you can muster when you start something new, including a new PR program or campaign. This passion and excitement is critical to its success.
But the important elements to any PR program that many tend to forget are focusing on longevity and endurance.
So many times, we jump out of our seats, pulling together our plans, identifying our target reporters and sending out pitches. But if the results aren't immediate or they start slowing down after some initial response, we start getting discouraged and our executives start questioning our processes.
We must always look at PR programs in segments -- both the short-term and the long-term -- and they must work together.
When I ran my first (and only) half-marathon, I mentally broke it into segments, otherwise the entire 13.1 miles seemed practically impossible and I would have failed before even stepping foot on the course. Same thing applies to our PR programs.
We need to look at our immediate and long-term objectives and find ways to weave them together. What do you have to get gone this quarter? How does that change next quarter or the final quarter of the year? Are there messages that can be carried throughout each quarter, but maybe in a different way or from a different angle? Can you convey your messages through different examples or formats?
By approaching our PR programs from both perspectives, we get the immediate returns we need to keep the team excited and motivated, but also allow ourselves the endurance to keep it moving -- consistently -- in the months, quarters and years to come.
Welcome to ROAMings, a compilation of thoughts and musings about the PR and media industries. This is an opportunity to discuss the “here and now” of the industry, interesting events or case studies, pivotal moments that affect how we approach PR, etc. It isn’t about brand loyalties or preferences -- and we will not be publishing self-promotional materials or talk about our clients in this setting -- but how those brands, individuals and events are leveraging (or in some cases abandoning) PR.