In many of our business meetings, we ask why the decision was made to engage public relations. We ask this question because too often, there exists a lack of understanding not only about what public relations is, but how it can impact overall business goals. Over time, we’ve learned that asking that question provides a perfect launch pad to highlight that PR is not just press releases, wire distribution and crisis communication.
In fact, in its most concise definition, PR is storytelling.
Whether engaging journalists, influencers, or targeted internal and external demographics, our focus is on communicating information that establishes narratives, shifts perceptions and evokes not just emotion, but action.
To accomplish results, there are a handful of best practices we encourage our clients to keep top of mind, to ensure communications campaign success:
- Become a valuable resource. Those businesses that serve the media ultimately rise to the top of the new cycle. For example, the Halloween holiday is coming up next week. For the last three, many media outlets have published not just one, but several stories relating to Halloween (costumes, candy, décor, safety, gadgets, etc.) Businesses that have a stake in this holiday have gained profile as they offer information that is timely and topical for news agencies seeking content. Giving the media what they want, when they want it, is a key to PR success.
- Understand the news cycle. The dawn of the digital age has ensured that the news cycle is literally 24×7, with the ability to live-stream content as it happens. Breaking news will forever own command position at the top of the cycle, even if that means a product announcement gets buried (or missed). Journalists (and their editor) know all too well that “if it bleeds, it leads.” Your news may be compelling, but it is also competing for the same amount of space and time as others. If you don’t earn top billing in one cycle, another rotation is on its way.
- Think like a journalist. One of the most difficult conversations to have with clients is one where we counsel that what they believe is news, isn’t newsworthy. The formula for creating news is to think like a journalist, a professional seeking timely, relevant, newsworthy information. Not all news is prime for the Wall Street Journal or VICE. Know first that relevant, timely and noteworthy information is the stuff of journalist’s dreams. (Even better if you have something exclusive)!
- Value and appreciate engagement at every level. Write a news release or a pitch? Fan mail or follow? DM on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn? When working with the media, learn preferred methods for communication (quickly) and abide by those guidelines. Most media representatives receive upwards of 200+ emails a day and each maintains their own individual methods for managing the influx. Some use Twitter to source information and contacts, while others merely read an email subject heading before opening or deleting. To become familiar, consider engagement at every level to learn more about the journalists, bloggers, vloggers and podcasters with whom you work. Follow their social feeds and interact. Contact them when you have valuable information to share or wish to comment on a published work. Media are human beings. Treat them as you wish to be treated and you will earn friends for life.
- Remember that PR is about others, not you: Just like any other job, news media has to meet deadlines and answer to demanding bosses who want them to do more, with less, to write grammatically correct stories with meaning, scoop exclusives when possible, and always punctuate properly. The question to ask is whether your company news is equally as important to others? To whom and how is the new product being introduced advantageous? On what way will the merger affect stock value and constituents. By presenting your news with consideration to and relevance for others, it becomes newsworthy. Otherwise, it isn’t news.
Public relations is often confused as marketing. Although the lines between social, marketing, advertising and PR are becoming more blurred, a key point of difference is the word, earned. If news media believes what you are doing is valuable and newsworthy, the headlines will be yours. Follow the above five steps to solidify a good start to your own PR. Should you want to take your program to the next level, consider collaboration with a PR agency, which can further guide you along your storytelling journey.
For an example of our storytelling abilities, watch this video and see how CGPR followed the rules above and turned a two-man hiking adventure into national headlines.