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With 20 years PR experience under my belt, I’ve gotten good at recognizing common mistakes made by well-meaning clients seeking wider publicity. Executives come to PR firms looking for a magic bullet that will bring them fame. Little do they know that without these crucial steps, even the most seasoned PR vet won’t be able to jump-start their strategy.
What is the common mistake you may be wondering? Misled customers have not taken the time to craft a clear message for their offerings. Simple as that. They also lack clear storylines for internal stakeholders such as founders and c-suite executives.
While it’s the PR team’s job to refine the coverage and share it with the masses, ultimately it’s the client’s job to have a clear sense of direction. They must make it clear why they are worthy of the attention of the press. Clients should have an idea of the gap they are filling in their respective industries and what they really want to achieve with a PR team.
If you’re thinking about embarking on a PR strategy but struggling to identify those building blocks, here are three simple steps that will save you time and money.
Related: 4 guiding principles for building and implementing a great PR strategy
Step 1: Determine your North Star
Each aspiration must have a clear north star. It’s the first question any PR agency worth your while will ask you to articulate when trying to engage them. Be realistic with your goals when you put this North Star on paper. Ending world hunger is a noble endeavor, but one that will not appeal to journalists. What attributes does your company have that make it well equipped to tackle the global macro problem? List them carefully and think about the qualities you possess that no one else has. Think of operations in a specific region, doing something with fewer resources or combining two disciplines. Once you’ve identified those unique characteristics, align your goals with them. Map back to your North Star using the properties only you can provide on the market.
Every organization has a story to tell, but not everyone in that organization is best equipped to tell it. Once you’ve identified your bigger goals, figure out who in the organization is best equipped to talk about them. Your chief marketing officer may get animated when he talks about creative pursuits within the company, but he may lose his audience when he talks about numbers. And your vice president of marketing may love to dive into the details of advertising strategies, but he can get caught up in the details and jump into unrelated tangents in the middle of a conversation. Identify each person within the organization you want to give a voice in the press. After those names are noted, establish a storyline for each that will help them represent your company. Engaging stakeholders for opportunities that allow them to speak on areas that excite them makes interviews more authentic and effective. It will make them authorities in their space and will have journalists proactively reaching out to them seeking their expertise.
Related: 4 tips to launch your first effective PR campaign
Step 3: Create a Branded “Bible”
Journalists usually write for a wide variety of outlets. Nevertheless, each outlet remains consistent as they release a style guide for freelancers and contributors for reference. The style guide contains easy-to-understand do’s and don’ts. This proven method can also work for your brand or company. Making a branded bible doesn’t have to be complicated. Write down all the key messages that external stakeholders should get from your interactions. Think about the ways you want to reference your brand or business and write those things down as well. Think of ways you never want to encounter and write them down. Voila, you’ve just created your first brand bible. This document can be accessed at any time during any campaign by both internal executives and external PR stakeholders. This will also serve as a map of where you’re going and where your employers and PR team can turn if they have fundamental questions about your brand.
These three simple steps will greatly help a PR team and ultimately your company in several ways. Following the guidelines above will ensure that you and the hired PR team are on the same wavelength and share a unified vision of how your company, product or story wants to be portrayed in the media. In addition, by creating a cohesive brand identity and defining a consistent voice, your chosen public relations agency will better understand the company’s target demographic and be able to take significant steps to help you achieve long-term goals. A clear sense of direction not only helps PR teams find the most relevant connections, outlets and publications for your business, but also helps them build large-scale campaigns aimed at growing customers, reaching the most ideal press contacts and representing your business in the best possible way.