Get Results From Your Public Relations Firm: Do’s and Don’ts for Start-Ups Seeking Publicity

Most new business owners know the value of publicity for promoting their company’s reputation and selling their product or service. However, many don’t know how to go about getting it. They may hire a public relations firm – a good idea even for start-ups – then be disappointed with the results.

This does not have to be the case. If you are the owner of a new business, you can have a successful working relationship with your public relations firm and achieve your goals simply by following some basic guidelines.

Here are some Do’s and Don’ts that should put you on the right track.

DO:

1. Expect honest representation. Your public relations firm should have a good idea of what will – and will not – get attention in the news media. They should also know the best media outlets and reporters to approach to get editorial coverage for your business. Listen to them. Problems in a PR firm-client relationship often stem from public relations counselors going against their better judgment and pitching a story they know will not fly, just to please an insistent client. Media pitches for a company with a reputation of sending out material that isn’t newsworthy are likely to be ignored.

2. Communicate everything about your business to your public relations counselor – not just what you think he or she needs to know. You may have some hidden gems of stories in your business that you – being an insider and not attuned to media interests – may not think are all that interesting. You should also share information about any potential problems or embarrassing situations. A PR professional will keep your confidences and help you manage negative publicity, should it occur.

3. Ask for a crisis communication plan. You may never have to utilize it – and let’s hope that’s true – but having a crisis communication plan in place and circulated among top officers of your company will come in handy to tap down negative stories before they balloon into major problems that could damage your company’s reputation.

4. Have a media contact procedure in place. Everyone – from the receptionist to the president – needs to know what to do if and when the media calls. The best advice is to have everyone refer calls from the news media to the public relations firm. They can sort out all the particulars and arrange for any interviews.

5. Respond quickly to interview requests as they are presented to you by your public relations person. Media interviews are an opportunity for you to present your company the way you want it presented. But reporters have deadlines; if you aren’t available, they will interview someone else, and you may miss out on an opportunity to get positive media coverage.

DON’T:

1. Expect a guarantee. Media coverage cannot be guaranteed, unless you do a “pay-for-play” agreement with a particular publication, in which you buy advertising and get an article on your company in return. Other than that type of arrangement – usually referred to as an “advertorial” – no public relations firm can, or should, guarantee coverage.

2. Be a one-hit wonder. One big round of publicity is not going to carry you very far. A good public relations program is an ongoing enterprise, and often a “drip-drip-drip” strategy is better than a one-time splashy feature.

3. Be caught unprepared. Ask for media training. You may be a great communicator in many ways, but doing a media interview is a special skill. Having some knowledge of how the media works, developing strong messages, and practicing delivering them will make you a better, more confident company representative.

4. Expect media coverage to do it all. There are many other ways to reach your targeted audience, including social media, marketing communications, and opportunities for direct engagement. A good PR person will look at your firm – its goals, its product or service offerings, its target markets – and design a communication strategy specific to your needs.

5. Be discouraged if your plan takes a while to get off the ground. You want to have everything – messages, action plan, trained spokespersons, etc. – in place before you go public. First impressions are lasting ones.

Crafting Your Public Relations Strategy

Public relation is the process of developing a public image for any business or brand. It is the function of PR to ensure that the brand, service or company is positively positioned in the minds of the public.

In the view of many experts, branding and public relation go hand in hand. Brand managers and other brand development personnel are accustomed to the PR concepts because they are responsible for ensuring that the brand has a positive public identity.

The basic characteristic of a successful PR campaign is that it remains invisible. Unlike advertising or marketing, a campaign leaves no trace of its existence in any form. It is the most intangible form of brand development and customer loyalty.

Hence, we can confidently say that public relation works towards news generation. When a brand launches a marketing campaign and news channels air its happening, it is also categorized. The viewer of the channel is totally unaware that whatever he/she is viewing is part of the PR campaign.

Public relations tend to work from behind the scenes. It never leads from the front; instead, it supports the brand from the back-end. Yet, it is public relations that take the company and its brand forward. Only through proper PR campaign can a brand succeed in generating consumer interest. Once the interest is generated, customer ends up purchasing the product. Hence, public relation can translate into profit generation as well.

Another benefit of a successful public relation campaign is that it brings the brand to the notice of the target audience. It results in providing the brand such mobility that it can conveniently walk up to the customer and convince him/her that it is what he/she desires.

However, it must not be misunderstood that public relation is all about messages and their delivery. In relation to brands, public relation is the crucial function of giving the consumers a feeling that “this brand is for me”. It creates an identity of the brand that the consumers can easily associate them to. It communicates to them the importance of a certain brand that can have in their lives. It gives them the confidence that no other product or brand can satisfy their particular need. And the best part lies in the fact that all this is done without the consumer even knowing about it.

Another objective that it achieves is that it creates feelings of familiarity and reliability in the consumer mind. Being marketers, we all know how critical building customer relationship is for the success of our brands. PR helps us in doing just that. Once a customer associates himself to a certain brand, he will always feel towards it as if it were his own. And this serves our purpose!

Sexy – Creating a Stand-Out Online Public Relations Plan (Part 1 of 2)

Some people mistakenly assume that “Public Relations” has only to do with mitigating bad press. However, when we consider the concept of public relations in a broader context, we see the value in developing and implementing an ongoing strategy for handling our company’s public image. All businesses, whether they are sole proprietorships or publicly-held corporations, need to ensure that their public image is consistent, positive and appropriate for their industry. Public relations involve many levels, including the image we present not only to customers, but also to vendors and even employees.

One of the greatest advantages of online PR is that we have a unique opportunity to bypass the traditional media filters used to determine the few stories that make it to the public. Now, with web portals like Yahoo and Google, along with “vertical sites,” which actually pull several websites of common interest together, you can go directly to the media source. The biggest challenge becomes, however, how you ensure that your message rises to the top. After all, people can only identify you as an expert in your field if they know you exist!

The quality of your public relations plan can be the difference between success and failure, but how do we begin, and how do we know how well it’s working? Following are a few simple steps to follow when creating your professional public relations plan:

Step 1 – Hit Your Target: Your business needs to have a public relations plan, just as it has a business plan and a marketing plan. In today’s information-saturated market, sending out a few press releases a year to the local paper doesn’t qualify as a viable PR plan. With the benefit of the Internet, news about your services and achievements can be distributed nationally, and even globally, as well as to local media outlets. Newspapers, ezines, blogs, business and social networking sites all can help you get your message to the public for little or no cost. However, be careful to not waste your time with a shotgun-blast approach to publicity. Taking the time to identify your target markets, and recognizing which media outlets are most likely to connect with that target, can save you time and headaches in the long-term.

Step 2 – Become a Virtual Networking Guru: Online Public Relations involves connecting with people in a personal way that is more effective than advertising alone ever could be.

  • Social Networking sites: Free sites such as MySpace, Friendster, Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo and others allow you to set up a profile, keep it current and get to know other like-minded people.
  • Newsgroups and message boards: Do an Internet search for your type of business. Find out where people are “hanging out” online. Spend your time on the busiest boards for maximum exposure. You have to be ready to invest your time and resources in others too; don’t just advertise. Give advice, seek advice, and get to know your fellow posters, and they’ll come to see you as a valuable business partner.
  • Referral and affiliate programs: Offer tangible incentives to people who bring business your way. It’s good business etiquette to spend as much time thanking and recognizing people as you spend asking them for something. Always recognize when a lead comes from an associate, and make it worth their while to do it again.

Step 3 – Be an expert in your field: Having knowledge that others need makes people come to you, which is always better then you going to them! How do you become an expert? You’ll have to come back next month to find out. Read Part two of Online Public Relations in the April Issue.

Hotel Public Relations Explained – How to Jumpstart Your Public Relations Hotel Marketing Plan

Most hotels think of hotel public relations and marketing as afterthoughts. Advertising a hotel is a great first step, but in these days of both out-of-the box thinking and remarkable new ways to approach media, advertising alone won’t do it. A strong, strategic message that encompasses everything from social media to event planning, along with more traditional marketing/advertising such as direct mail, ensures that your hotel or chain will stand out from the crowd.

What is Hotel PR?

Hotel public relations includes a diverse set of activities, such as newsletters and traditional press relations, planning special events, creating trips for travel writers (so they will favorably cover your hotel), and online marketing including developing a social media presence, as well as some unexpected choices, such as community philanthropy.

PR is the unsung hero in the sales/marketing/branding world. Done right, it can establish your credibility with potential new clients, raise awareness of your brand, and cost you much less than traditional advertising. In fact, probably the most cost-effective method available to you is hotel public relations. Creating story seeds, or even full-blown stories, with the modern media means being featured in blogs, on web sites, and with aggregators, as well as in traditional print and online magazines, trade journals, and newspapers.

Think Vegas…

You’ve seen the hotels on the Vegas strip, each more gaudy than the last, or more elegant, or both. How do they stand out in a marketplace so crowded there is literally nothing else? They learn to differentiate themselves (the hook), to tell a story unlike the others (the theme) and to build relationships with the media and their clients (the network).

Hotel public relations starts by determining your PR strategies and allocating a budget. This will include distribution of traditional media releases (which these days include multimedia elements such as photography), developing special events, and creating opportunities to interact with and entertain reporters and travel writers. Skip the clipping service in favor of having your PR rep set up Google Alerts, and know that everything in this area of your business is changing faster than you can keep up. That’s where your PR expert will really earn their money.

Hire Right!

Allocate staff to act as spokespersons to each hotel – a media rep – and start by outsourcing your PR. Hotel public relations must be done properly, by experts and not as an afterthought; you can always change your mind later and bring the position in-house, but the job will require someone who can speak to the media, write a strong well-worded press release with a headline that will make the phone ring, and who will bring existing media relationships to the table, thereby jump-starting your PR with no ramp-up time, which translates into dollars saved for you.

If you can give yourself a year’s window to see the results of your hotel public relations campaign, you’ll note an uptick in awareness and an ongoing strategic base you can draw your customers from, which should also translate into increased sales and perhaps also a welcome reduction in your advertising budget.

Stick with hotel PR and you will notice the long-term benefits of continued awareness and loyalty among customers who demand that they are not just advertised to, and appreciate the more subtle marketing of good PR.