,PR teams and agencies fight fires on a daily basis. While we all have grand ideas of proactive programs, most of the time, unless resources are unlimited, we end up focusing the majority of our time on reactive activities.
Particularly when someone new joins the PR team or a new agency is brought on board, it is way too easy to quickly share existing materials and have everyone hit the ground running. Jump into media briefings to build or maintain press relationships from previous roles. Start executing on new campaigns and pitches. All this, possibly, without knowing whether the company or product messaging is finalized, fully understanding the objective of the briefings, and in some cases without taking a step back and making sure the overarching messages and objectives still hold within those new pitch angles.
How often do we really take the time to review, taken inventory and update the fundamental materials needed for a successful PR program? (These are just a few of the typical fundamentals but they are dependent on the company's industry and PR program needs.)
Whether your PR program is brand new, longstanding or somewhere in between, the end of the year is a good time to take inventory of your program. Here are a few key questions to ask when taking stock of your materials:
Does your PR team make the grade with your PR fundamentals? Or you need to take some time to create a stronger foundation for your PR program ahead of 2017?
The terms "soft launch" and "hard launch" have started to make their ways back into start-up vocabulary, particularly as they pertain to PR strategy, recently.
For those that aren't familiar, a "soft launch" is when a product is made available with little to no fanfare, while a "hard launch" is when the company pulls out all of the stops to make sure everyone knows a new product has come to market. A soft launch allows the company to get feedback on the new feature or product as well as get an understanding of organic growth without putting a lot of marketing dollars behind the endeavor. With a soft launch, the company isn't trying to get much public attention or press coverage in this scenario so expectations tend to be lower. On the other hand, a hard launch usually is set in place for larger announcements and requires more marketing dollars and a stronger coordination between product, marketing and PR.
While these two types of launches mostly exist for companies from a product and marketing perspective, PR is an entirely different beast. From a PR perspective, a launch is a launch, whether it is "soft" or "hard." Once any information is publicly available, it is no longer considered news to most reporters. You can't ask a reporter to accept an embargo for information that can be found in an app store, on LinkedIn, social media channels or anywhere on the interwebs.
PR can be incredibly important to the launching of a company or product. But it shouldn't be the one and only lever pulled for launch. And your launch timing and strategy should rarely hinge on PR. Rather, companies need to look at their business objectives to determine how a launch should work for them: Are you simply looking for user growth? Are you concerned about scalability? Is your product or feature truly revolutionary?
Depending on your answers to these and other questions, your launch approach will be very different and sometimes PR may just not be the answer. And that's okay.
Words you thought you'd never hear from a PR professional: Sometimes PR isn't the answer. But it's true.
Executed properly, a communications program can serve as a catalyst for a variety of business objectives. But it should not stand alone or be a company's only avenue to success. There are too many startups that hire PR firms too quickly, way before they truly need the on-going assistance. Sadly, many hire big agencies with big budget requirements simply because they think that will prove to reporters and potential investors that they’ve hit the big time. Instead, they are draining their cash.
Whether a company is consumer-facing or focused on business-to-business transactions, its success revolves around its customers. Without customers, you have no company. Throughout your company’s history and particularly early on, you need to devote your attention to the product and your customer base. The PR will come over time.
PR is a complementary component of any successful marketing and customer acquisition campaign. It should not be a stand alone program on which you spend all of your effort or budget, especially if you are early on in your founding. Your key objective should be acquiring customers.
For example, if you haven’t officially launched your company -- that means your website and social media channels aren’t live or if they are, they don’t share any details of what you are doing and who is involved -- it might be beneficial to have a short-term PR program to help make the announcement. But you should not be spending your entire marketing or customer acquisition budget on an on-going PR engagement -- at least not yet.
Have conversations with various agencies and freelancers about short-term campaigns early on so you understand what they need to be successful on your behalf. Identify company and product milestones that you believe are critical for external parties to hear about. Really look at whether that list warrants full-time PR support or if small engagements will suffice.
Sometimes PR just isn’t the answer.
It may only be early November and your company may still be in the thick of finishing out the quarter -- and the year -- strong. But in reality, with Thanksgiving and the winter holidays quickly approaching, there are really only 5 weeks left in 2016.
We'll pause for a minute to let that sink in.
In addition to completing your 2016 objectives and programs, it's time to start the 2017 planning process. This can be challenging for the communications team if the business hasn't yet started the planning process. BUT IT CAN BE DONE!
Here are a few ways to get started on the 2017 communications planning process:
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.