5 Steps To Prepare For A Media Interview

Just because your CEO or top-level management players are industry experts does not mean they have the skills necessary to prepare for and master an interview or top-tier media coverage. Whether your interview is designed to promote an upcoming event or launch your newest product, or the result of a crisis, the way the interviewees appear, sound, respond and behave during the interview make a big impact on viewers and followers. 

This is why we always recommend working with a professional PR team – even if it’s only a one-time, interview training consult basis. The professional tips you will glean, and the opportunity to have practice runs are vital to the impression you make on the audience. 

Train For A Media Interview In Five Steps

Our PR firm has worked with entrepreneurs, company management teams, and leading social media influencers, preparing them for media interviews and other public coverage. While we always believe authenticity is best, we also know that learning to control voice modulation, to breathe deep before delivering a passionate response, and practicing to answer questions succinctly is essential to making a good impression.  

It’s also as essential to know what not to answer as it is to answer questions well. And, never underestimate how important it is to make a good impression, even if it is in the middle of a crisis. Confidence, honesty, composure, integrity – even in the worst of situations – all go a long way towards earning respect from followers, customers, and prospects. 

Research the publication/channel and the interviewer

You should never say, “Yes,” to an interview until you’ve completed this first step. It is important that you are very familiar with the media outlet, as well as the interviewer or journalist(s), so you know what to expect. You should watch or read as many previous interviews from the interviewer as you can. If the interviewer is also a journalist, you’ll want to read a fair amount of articles they have written.  

Opting into an interview that is designed to be controversial or to intentionally put you on the spot is never a good idea if you are new to this. While big names and corporations may have the occasional, anecdotal idea that “even bad press is good press,” that is almost never the case for small and medium-sized businesses. You want your top-tier mentions and presence to have a positive impact – the majority of the time. 

In addition to familiarizing yourself with the voice, angle, and points-of-view an interviewer or media personality is most likely to take with you, your knowledge of their work makes a positive impression. That can reap bonus points down the road – like having an immediate “in” the next time you’d like to gain an interview to promote a product, service, or event.  

On the flip side, knowing who you are dealing with may cause you to wisely bow out with a, “no thank you,” to their interview or guest spot invitation; or can help you to prepare stats, figures, and statements if you sense there may be a bit of a clash ahead. 

Ask for the list of questions ahead of time

Interviewers plan ahead because, like you, they want to appear prepared, organized, and confident to their audience members. They should be able to provide you with a list of questions they plan to cover, although the wording may vary a bit from the paper to the personality. Keep in mind, however, that knowing the questions ahead of time is not a fail-safe plan.  

Of the hundreds of professionals and celebrities we have coached for interviews over the years, we can count on two hands the number of interviews that only included the questions provided for preparation. In other words, be very prepared for the interview to go “off book.” Some of our team of all-star PR pros were journalists and interviewers in our previous career lives, so we understand exactly how enticing going “off book” is as it gets your interviewee out of the rehearsed routine and into the realm of unplanned, unscripted, and unedited.  

That said, the combination of a prepared list of questions, your research on the media outlet, and the journalist or influencer who plans to interview you, and your sense of the audience (see #3 next) will be plenty to guide your practice responses. You may also determine that Your Research + Their List of Potential Questions = A “No Thanks: we’ll pass on the interview,” because the potential drama or fallout is already written on the wall.  

Feel free to ask them more about the interview or the “bigger picture” aim and the point of your time together before you formalize your yes or no RSVP. For example: 

  • What is the story about and how does it relate to your company? 
  • Where will the interview take place? Your office? Theirs? Off-site? Or ZoomThis is especially important now with COVID-19, but it also helps you to prepare. For example, if the interview or media coverage is taking place on your turf, in response to a crisis, you don’t want your logo in the background.  
  • Is the interview live or pre-recorded? If it’s pre-recorded, be prepared for the editing reality of a long interview being recapped or reframed into a short clip. 
  • Will anyone else be interviewed? For example a disgruntled customer or employee? A competitor? A pressure group’s rep? That will help to frame your tone. 

Get a clear sense of the media channel’s audience

You have to intimately understand the needs, wants, and concerns of your brand’s target audience. You will need to do your homework about who the media outlet’s audience members are: age, demographics, opinions/leanings, and pain points. Watch, listen, and read a fair amount of materials they produce or publish. Their social media channels are also an excellent place to glean audience/follower information. 

Having a sense of who your interviewer’s audience members are will help you strike the right tone and “energy” when you speak, to gauge your language, and to avoid topics or statements that could be inflammatory, offensive, or a trigger to a notable percentage of the audience. This is not at all to be confused with being fake or acting like you are something that you’re not. In the bigger-picture plan where you may garner future followers or customers from the positive impression you make, the audience members will encounter you again. If you aren’t consistent in who you are, they’ll notice and it will compromise your brand’s authenticity. 

Being truthful and authentic – albeit wisely nuanced – is important in the long-term. While certain politicians or stars may get away with bold-faced lies, most brand representatives are offloaded by their companies pretty quickly when they’re caught being dishonest or unethical. 

Know how to answer the tough or off-limit questions

The minute you are triggered or uncomfortable about a question, it will show on your face, in your nervous stutter, and resulting body language/fidgeting. For this reason, you must train yourself and your employees on how to respond to what you consider “off-limit questions,” or the questions that are unable to be answered by yourself or the delegated interviewee. 

Responses to these questions begin something like: 

  • I’m not able to answer that, but what I will tell you is… 
  • I’m the (Job Title) and that question would need to be directed to our (appropriate Job Title) 
  • You’ve touched on a confidential matter and I’m not at liberty to answer that… 
  • I wish I could answer that directly but we don’t have all of the facts yet… 
  • While I’m not qualified to respond to that, you should speak to (qualified expert they could ask…) 

Also, be extremely cautious about what you share “off the record.” If the journalist asks to go “off-record,” politely decline. If they make small talk before the interview or during breaks, know that anything you say can be brought into the interview or used at a different time. Pleasant neutrality is the theme of any and all “off-record” conversations. 

Practice makes comfortable when it comes to your upcoming media interview

One of the main reasons we recommend consulting with a PR agency to prepare for a media interview is that repeat, educated, and informed practice makes comfortable – if not perfect. Even if you handle your company’s PR in-house, for now, the ROI of investing in professional media interview training and practice is invaluable. In some cases, it can transform the trajectory of your brand’s reputation. 

In addition to expanding on all-of-the-above, your PR consultants will practice with you, spinning potential interview directions and helping you develop a comfortable “on-camera/mic/page” persona that may not come naturally if you haven’t had experience in the media limelight. 

Contact Segal Communications to begin preparing for your upcoming media coverage. We’ve got your back and will make sure your brand puts its best foot, voice, face, and impressions forward.

How Public Relations And Marketing Work Together

When your in-house marketing team hears you’re thinking about bringing on a public relations agency, odds are they will be a bit nervous or potentially miffed. Even if they know that wider outreach and media relations are critical to your brand’s growth and public image, knowing your moving from a DIY to a professional PR approach can make marketing pros feel as if they are now having to bow down to a foreign company that doesn’t know the company and its brand like they do. 

This is entirely understandable. And, the truth remains that brands experience greater recognition, growth, and exposure when public relations and marketing teams work together. Helping your marketing team to understand this will be a symbiotic relationship and finding a PR agency that is compassionate and works in collaboration with your marketing team is key to the process. 

In a SpinSucks article about the importance of collaborative public relations and marketing efforts, author Jessica Canfield writes, “…[PR and marketing teams] share similar goals of building the brand and engaging audiences. And their complementary skills allow them to collaborate on rich, engaging content that drives results.” 

So, while they probably shouldn’t share an office, it is essential that they work together to achieve their overarching goals. 

Marketing Data Is Essential To Your Public Relations Efforts 

While this is not necessarily the priority for the PR team, we think appealing to the marketing team’s prowess is a smart way to go about the transition. If they have done a great job at tracking benchmarks, data, and analytics, they have already done so much to help the incoming PR team.  

A few years back, The International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) co-hosted a Measurement Week in NYC where attendees listened to multiple industry leaders speak about how integral marketing professionals and their statistics are to the PR cause when it comes to measuring the results of our efforts. 

These statistics are invaluable for looking at where you are, helping your PR team to shape where you want to go or what you’d like to change, and then working together to get there. As the PR professionals work to generate new promotional outlets, reframe your story (if necessary), and to gain more media attention, your marketing team will be helping to share, promote, and celebrate the increased audience and will have the data to reflect whether or not “it is working.” 

Public relations professionals need to know: 

  • Are they working? 
  • Where they are working? 
  • Which target audiences respond to, engage with, or share certain stories, events, or launches. 

Without your marketing team’s hard work and metric data to analyze, we would be firing blind. So, first and foremost, your marketing team should always feel essential to the PR cause. 

Engage with audience members across “the right” social media channels 

In a TrendKite article, PR and tech expert Lacy Miller wrote, “PR will always be about brand reputation and storytelling but that does not mean the technical aspects of the practice can be ignored,” emphasizing that public relations agencies will increasingly rely on marketing automation, social listening, SEO, measurement and PR tools throughout all campaigns.”  

This is a good segue from our former point about analytics because successful analytics rely on knowing which social media channels or platforms are the most useful at any particular moment and for specific campaigns and goals. 

A large majority of public relations professionals have a love of marketing and promotion but it is viewed through the lens of journalism and media. We are media relations whizzes, and we can amplify your story through our experience-driven connections. Your marketing team has similar “connections” in the technology world in the sense they typically have their fingers on the pulse of the most happening social media platforms of the moment. They also have a data-based awareness of where particular target audience members spend the most time. 

As we work to create different pitches and angles to frame your story – selling it to new prospects and building loyalty within your existing customer base – we rely heavily on your marketing team’s inside-scoop about which channels are the most active, which ones feel best for starting a particular conversation, the best voice or tone to use in the media, etc.  

Create a streamlined, value-driven content marketing strategy

Sure, some people sit down to watch the evening news, but most rely on their personal networks and the content-driven, 24-hours news feed to remain informed. Thus, traditional PR pitches fall flat because even the tried-and-true journalists know to only promote content that will inspire audience engagement. Similarly, content creation is what breathes life, energy, and continued engagement into successful campaigns. 

As a result, the Content is King mantra continues to prevail. Written content is the way most of us receive our information these days, and while your PR team can create content all day long, it’s always a major bonus to work with a savvy marketing team as we create streamlined, value-drive content marketing strategies in a synergizing way. In the aforementioned SpinSucks article, Jessical Miller states, “PR reaches new audiences and builds company credibility through third-party validation.” 

Content marketing keeps audience members engaged with your brand and that’s essential to continuing the good work the public agency will continue to do on your behalf. 

How public relations and marketing work together? 

The best way to ensure your PR and marketing teams work together is to build the bridge as fast as possible and continue to foster communication and relationship between the two departments.  

If you are contracting with a PR agency, they will have their own brick-and-mortar office, so sharing space isn’t an option. However, it is perfectly reasonable to bring the two teams together from the get-go as the PR firm begins to download the ins-and-outs and nuances of your brand. Once they are completely onboarded, keep the communication channels open and collaborative. Set the tone that this is a partnership or a symbiotic relationship and continue to make sure that’s the case. 

You can do this by including both teams in strategy meetings, having a monthly working lunch where they can share their experiences and throw out ideas, or hosting weekly team huddles (Zooming is always an option) with clear itineraries and goals. You’d be amazed at what a well-designed 30-minute meeting can bring about.

Public Relations And Marketing Make A Winning Team

Would you like to hire a PR firm that understands how invaluable it is for public relations and marketing to work together to achieve success? Contact us here at Segal Communications.

What Is A Media Outlet, Anyway?

In the beginning, it was your words in simple print – your brand vision, your mission statement, your first launched website. Then there were the blogs and social media connections, not to mention hefty Google ad marketing expenses, that grew your network. From there, your products and services, as well as your in-house marketing efforts, continued to grow brand visibility and profits. 

Now, however, you’re ready for “The Next Level” of brand exposure, and that depends on high-quality (top tier) media coverage. 

PR Agencies Promote Top-Tier Visibility On Media Outlets 

Unless your small- to mid-size company has incredible connections or happens to create that one-in-a-million product or service that puts you on the nation’s radar, you’re going to need some professional PR help. 

Without developing the right connections with media outlets that go beyond your local area’s freebie or subscription newspapers, or occasional spots on a local radio station, you will struggle to garner published press releases, interviews, or – what we refer to as “top tier placement” – by more major media outlets.  

But what are those said media outlets, anyway? And how do you learn which media outlets are the best to get certain messages out, to a specific target market/audience, about a particular type of product, service, or good work you’ve done? That is easier said than done, and it requires an understanding of the various types of media outlets available to you, as well as which ones are best to work with for any given situation. 

Media Outlet Types: The Big Five 

There are five general categories of media outlets. We’ll go through each of them below, giving a general description and explaining how you can best use them to promote your brand.  

Again, even if you aren’t employing a full-time PR agency, contracting with a reputable firm exclusively to help you build media recognition is a smart and budget-savvy way to get a great bang for your PR bucks. 

Social Media 

The most powerful thing about social media is that it allows you to connect directly with your brand’s followers and prospects. This is a very personal way to communicate, and odds are that many of your long-term followers feel like “part of the family” if you actively engage with them via Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, and so on. 

Social media outlets are ideal for sharing: 

  • Information about yourself AND others (don’t forget to share the wealth by sharing other, similarly aligned brands to gain bonus points) 
  • Photos, videos, infographics, studies/research, etc. 
  • Links to other media outlet features and spotlights 
  • Your stories in vignette form (or long format in the case of YouTube video options) 
  • Information galore (with blogs being a wonderful way to share longer-format pieces) 

Routine, frequent posts are the key to successful social media branding. Ideally, brands should be interacting at least three or more times a week (daily is ideal). Otherwise, it’s impossible to generate the level of momentum you need to expand your network. 

Newspapers 

Newspaper features offer both long- and short-format options for brands to make themselves known in the community, and the greater world-at-large. Even bigger regional, state and national newspapers still prefer to share news from a local- or community-based angle. 

Depending on whether you are promoting upcoming events, volunteering or community giving experiences, post-event recaps/coverage, new or re-launched products, and services, or your solutions to current events or issues, the newspaper offers perfectly segmented opportunities to share. Those include: 

  • General assignment/general news 
  • Lifestyle/Features   
  • Op-Ed page/Letters to the Editor 
  • Health  Business 
  • Consumer  Education 
  • Calendar of Events/Events  Political 
  • Photo Desk 

The general news is typically fielded by the city or managing editor. You can find their information, as well as the section editors’ and beat reporters’ information on the newspaper’s website.  

It’s essential to pay close attention to how they want to learn about your event, deadlines for submittals (often weeks ahead of deadlines), etc. Not following their instructions to the letter means not getting your information through their outlet.   

Also, odds are – unless you’re already “famous,” they will not invest in available staff to take pictures or cover your events. Cover your own events with professional photographic/videographic style so you have compelling visual content to round out your submissions. 

Television 

Again, like their larger newspaper counterparts, television journalists know that stories with heart are the way to win an audience. Television networks work hard to create angles that generate feelings in their audience through the combination of text/scripts, visuals, editing, and music/sound.  

Television segments can run the gamut from standard commercials (expensive) to spots on specialty programs positioning you as the “expert” in your field. In that case, your brand’s representative should be completely comfortable in front of the camera, having the ability to remain calm, answer off-thecuff questions, and to make tech/science/complex concepts easily comprehensible to the audience. The ability to share quick and compelling soundbites, succinct information that gets to the point, or your brand representatives’ ability to be captivating in their appearance, attitude, or voice is a bonus. 

If you are able to generate enough interest that a TV station is willing to cover your event, more power to you. That’s a wonderful way to share your brand with thousands or even millions of viewers, especially if audience members respond positively. That puts you in position for more features by them in the future. 

Like newspapers, TV stations need at least two to three weeks warning, possibly more, as they are always working ahead. News releases and media alerts should follow the station’s guidelines, available on their website. And, as you can imagine, the bigger the TV network the better connections it is to have if you want to catch a glimmer of their spotlight. 

Radio

The great news about radio is that your spots can be ultra-short and sweet (think 10 to 30 seconds), repeatable (because they are recorded and re-used in breaks between songs and segments, or they can be on the longer side as you sit in as an expert interviewee or the radio station chooses to broadcast live from your sponsored event. 

Again, those who present on your behalf via radio stations should be personable, warm, and have a voice that soothes rather than grates on the audience members’ ears. Depending on the station or the event, your audience may be smaller and niche-oriented, or you may make yourself visible (or, shall we say, “audible”) to thousands. If you’re a small business, and none of your key players have a “radio voice” it can be worth it to pay for voice-overs for commercials or promotional spots that don’t require an “expert” on hand. 

Words and scripts are essential because unlike newspaper or TV spots, where visuals are as important more so than the text, radio depends on words and expressive voices to tell your brand’s story 

Not surprisingly, radio stations typically prefer a lead time of three weeks or longer. 

Magazines 

Magazines are a niche audience dream market for advertisers. The only people who pick up and/or subscribe to magazines are those who are aligned with the magazine’s core values or features. Magazines are a fantastic collaboration of print and visual content and give you the ability to reach both your local market as well as national or international niche/trade publications. 

Unlike the two to three week lead time required by newspapers, TV, and radio stations, magazine issues are planned months in advance. You’ll want to begin communicating with key editors/writers (again, you’ll find these on the magazines’ websites) at least three to six months in advance unless specified otherwise. Also, rather than a typical press release or similar, AP-style content, magazines will also respond to high-quality photos or graphics that support the content so they can get an idea of whether it’s a good fit for their brand and style. 

There’s no doubt that the right network connections (and a history of successful features) pave the way to top tier media coverage. Working to make those connections will pay off, but if high-quality media exposure is a goal for your next level of brand development, you are better served by forging a partnership with a good PR agency. 

Is Your Business In Need Of More Exposure?

Looking to forge a partnership with a media-savvy PR agency that gets results? Contact us here at Segal Communications. We can’t wait to tell your story. 

10 Steps To Better Handle A PR Crisis

The impact of a PR crisis is like a shot heard ‘round the world. What used to take a matter of weeks, months, or even years to leak out can now be spread through the vast social media network in a matter of minutes and hours. The more prepared companies are for the potential of a crisis, the more able they are to take essential steps to handle the fallout. 

Having a crisis management plan in place gives you a go-to manual or guide that you can review when your media coverage goes from golden to murky. If you’ve enlisted the support of a professional PR firm, speak to them about whether they have a crisis management plan in place for your business.  

If you’re currently on the DIY public relations track, use the following information to craft a crisis management plan and then carefully review it with key investors, management, and staff. 

What Could Go Wrong When You Must Handle A PR Crisis?  

Let’s do a quick review of what a PR crisis looks like for the average business owner. We like the 5 broad categories Hubspot uses to define the types of crises you might have to handle over time: 

Financial. Financial crises span the gamut from insider trading or embezzlement to mismanagement of funds, plummeting stock value, or the basic inability to pay your vendors’ bill. 

Personnel. Whoopsie! Someone in your company (probably someone important) did something they shouldn’t have – lied, cheated, stole, made a racist comment, or participated in some other legal or unethical act. 

Organizational. Your organization took advantage of its customers to profit or to glean information that wasn’t yours to glean without permission. 

Technological. Usually, this means your servers crashed or are glitching in a way that interferes with customers’ use of your website, software, etc. Once is typically not a big deal; repeat incidences create distrust and a feeling that your company isn’t as stable – or conscientious – as it should be. 

Natural. Whew! As this goes to press, we’re all in the midst of a natural crisis: COVID-19. Sheltering-in-place has been brutal for businesses, especially restaurants and coffee shops. This one has had long-term effects. Other times, a brief power outage (PG&E power outages during fire season in California, for example), or a major natural disaster (hurricane Katrina) can prevent digital and brick-and-mortar business and/or communications. 

An overarching crisis management plan should address all of the above, putting special emphasis on the ones more apt to affect the way your target markets view your brand.  

If those categories don’t resonate with you, consider these definitions of a general scenario you would consider being a PR crisis. These were used in a PR News survey, and the percentages presented in their findings: 

  • When more departments than my own need to be involved33% 
  • When it needs to be on the CEO’s radar63% 
  • When it’s related to a previous issue34% 
  • When a situation was entirely unexpected43% 
  • When share count or social visibility reaches a predefined point33% 
  • When a high-profile press outlet picks it up60% 
  • When a high-profile influencer gets involved47% 

Pull Your Brand Out Of A PR Crisis With These 10 Steps 

In our experience, every crisis management can be turned around with the following 10 steps.

Be prepared and proactive

Don’t think of a PR crisis as an “If.” Instead, consider it a “When,” and then pat yourself on the back if you retire before you ever need to implement your plan. Being prepared, most specifically with the creation and implementation of a crisis management plan is essential to your ability to act swiftly, articulately, and in an organized way. 

Assess your vulnerabilities

Take a good hard look at the areas where your company seems the most vulnerable and make a list of the potential communications or PR hiccups most likely to affect you.

Align with a PR agency if you haven’t already

This doesn’t mean you need to hire a PR firm. Your business may not be big enough (yet) to benefit from the financial investment. However, PR firms also offer more a la carte services – helping you to organize a big event, to support a product launch, etc. – and these can help you establish a baseline if you need their PR crisis management services in the future.

Identify your crisis management team

Typically, the CEO would head this up, but if the CEO is a part of the scandal, you’ll also want a Plan B. Other members include your in-house PR/marketing spokespeople. If they are currently inexperienced in this realm, work with a local PR firm and invest in some training so they are prepared. If you have legal counsel in place, include them in the crisis management training as well. They need to understand that the boilerplate, “no comment…” looks like “our clients are guilty,” in the public eye.

Train the team

We can’t emphasize this enough. Your stated PR crisis management team must have thorough and ongoing training. It’s not a one-and-done type of thing. The people you select need to have the right skills, knowledge, and reflexes to handle whatever is thrown at them. 

Regularly review how to handle a PR crisis with the team

Segueing from the idea of “one and done,” your crisis management plan – and the team you’ve identified to activate it – should be reviewed on an annual basis. Putting it on the shelf and allowing it to collect dust puts you at risk for having an outdated plan and a crisis management team that no longer works for you. 

Create a communications template

You’re expected to respond immediately when a crisis occurs, but you want to make sure the team is all on the same page. Thus, it’s a good idea to create communications templates you can implement ASAP in a way that honors your investors’/customers’/followers’ expectations but without giving too much away until you’ve had time to regroup.

Get everyone together ASAP

In addition to your crisis management response team, you need to get all customer-facing team members together. Share what happened, the response plan, what to say and not say, etc. They are also your on-the-ground reporters about what your followers/public are saying across social and general media channels.

Take a short- and long-term view

Is this something that will have an immediate, short-term, and or long-term impact on your business? Your response should be planned accordingly – and viewed with the same lens. Don’t do/say anything that can come back to bite you later on, which can cause a PR crisis aftershock – sometimes more damaging than the initial impact.

Learn from the process

Everyone will learn from the process, and these learnings should be incorporated into your next PR crisis management plan. That said, pay attention to other company/brand crises and watch their response like a hawk. Learning from others – what went well for them and what didn’t – is a smart way to handle your own crisis with greater grace and integrity. 

Segal Communications is a professional PR agency that specializes in crisis management. We are happy to help your brand create a relevant PR crisis management plan, or to manage your crisis response. We’re also happy to train your PR response team to help prepare them for all of the future possibilities. Contact us to learn more 

Five Essential Steps In PR Campaign Planning

Remember when you learned to write informative essays using the 5 W’s (Who, What, Where, When, and Why)? Understanding how to manipulate the five Ws also translates directly to the five essential steps for PR campaign planning.  

In this case, however, you’ll change the order around just a bit – getting clear about: 

  1. Why: Why are you launching this campaign? What are your ultimate goal(s) or desired outcomes? 
  2. Who: Who are you trying to reach? And who are the connections you have that can expand your network across bigger, larger channels? 
  3. What: What communication approaches and verbiage will you use to communicate with the public? 
  4. Where: Where do you plan to engage target audience members? 
  5. When: The timeline that will track the start and end to each of your communications?  

5 W’s Of PR Campaign Planning

If you and your PR team are not clear on these key steps in a campaign’s framework, it will be a struggle to gain the momentum required to make the campaign a success.

The Why: Setting clear goals is your first step 

Establishing the campaign’s ultimate goal(s) is essential to know where you want to end up, and who and what you’ll leverage to achieve that. While “increase sales” may be the obvious goal, each of your campaigns should tackle that ultimate goal. 

And, of course, there isn’t just one Why in a campaign; there are several: 

  • Why are we doing this? 
  • Why are we using the words and verbiage we’ve created? 
  • Why are we using these particular outlets, platforms, or PR channels? 
  • Why are we doing it now?  

These “why” questions aren’t a one-and-done event. Rather, they should be asked every step of the campaign’s way so messaging, targeting, outlets, timing, etc. are always aligned in the same, thoughtful direction. 

If you go about things willy-nilly, without a focused approach to the various “whys,” a campaign can take on a chaotic life of its own, and the final destination may be far from where you intended it to be. 

The Who: PR campaign planning should have a target audience  

There will be plenty of Whos to consider, from the audience members you want to reach out to and engage with, to those who help you publish, promote, and share the messages you send out into the world. 

In addition to your obvious targets – the people you want to sell products and services to (current and prospective customers) – there are other Whos worth considering such as: 

  • The internal stakeholders (board members, investors, key company players) 
  • The general public 
  • Colleagues or competitors 
  • Vendors, partners, and/or sponsors 
  • Influencers, community movers-and-shakers, and celebrities 
  • The media 

Come back to this list over and over again throughout the campaign journey (always keeping the Whys in mind), so you reach out to the right people, at the right time. 

If you are launching a new business or are still in the beginning phases of developing brand awareness, you’ll use a DIY PR approach, leveraging your personal/staff contacts and community network. Once you are big enough to work with a professional public relations agency, you’ll find that their Whos are part of what makes your investment worthwhile because they have the network contacts and media VIP lists required to launch your campaign in bigger and better ways. 

The What: How will you create and generate effective content and messaging?  

From your initial announcements and content that addresses your target audience’s immediate questions, the What is all about content, messaging, and more content and messaging. 

The smaller “Whats” of the greater What is in perpetual motion. With each message, promotional content piece, media spotlight, etc., you’ll always address the questions: 

  • What are we trying to say here with respect to our audience? Keep in mind these messages may vary depending on the target demographics or a particular channel. For example, if you gain a spotlight on a talk show about mindfulness, you’ll use a different language and approach than you would during a local sports show feature.  
  • What questions will the audience have for me? If you’ll be speaking in an interview, you’ll have practiced a range of responses. If you are producing text-based content, you’ll want to have links to your FAQs where prospects can learn more. 
  • Are there tough questions to answer? If you foresee tough questions, prepare, prepare, and prepare some more. If you contract with PR firm, be prepared to undergo training around these questions so you know how to answer them, or how to pause, remain neutral, and formulate the most appropriate response.  
  • What communication channels make the most sense for this message? Blogs and press releases are an entirely different species than Tweets and Facebook posts. Keep messages aligned within the parameters of potential channels or platforms. That said, your messages should always have a unified theme. If a family gathers at dinner and discusses what they learned about your campaign from their individual information streams, the basic gist of your message should be the same across the board. 

The Where: Where do you plan to get the word out? 

Along those same lines, an essential step in your campaign planning is deciding where you plan to get the word out. Cover all of your bases, including:

  • Your website 
  • Newsletters 
  • Social media channels 
  • Your blog 
  • Traditional media 
  • Advertising channels (including print, TV, movie theater ads, radio broadcasts, etc.) 
  • Podcasts 
  • Press conference(s) 
  • Newswire distributions 

The list goes on. Again, without onboarding a PR firm, you will need to access in-house and network connections to coordinate the best “in” to access channels outside of your own digital platforms. 

The When: How do you create a savvy timeline? 

Finally, you need to create a campaign timeline. And, you’ll need to work backward. This is a challenging thing to learn when you’re new at PR campaign planning, but practice makes better – if not always perfect.  

First and foremost, make sure all of your stakeholders, investors, and key players understand the timeline so nobody releases information before it is supposed to be released. The wrong “spoiler alert” can blow (or deflate) the whole campaign. 

As you review the channels available to broadcast your message, you’ll need to work backward to figure out a savvy deadline schedule. Each columnist, newspaper, monthly publications, news channel, and so on have their own deadlines for when (and how) information needs to be received. You need to sync your timeline – and messaging – in accordance with their deadlines. Finally, you’ll need to correlate and sync the release of pertinent information across all channels.

Searching For A PR Agency?

Looking for some assistance so you don’t miss any of the five essential steps in PR campaign planning? Contact us here at Segal Communications. We can work a set amount of time to help you set up your campaign, or we can work with you every step of the way to ensure your goals are met as planned.

How Much Does A PR Agency Cost?

The subject of public relations agencies and the average cost is a complex one because the fees associated with PR services are not set in stone. Depending on your brand and what it needs, your PR agency of choice may provide a one-time service for a big event, or they may step in to handle post-crisis management for a set or hourly cost. If you need more comprehensive PR work to grow your image and your followers, to rebrand, or to handle the communication and publicity stream for the long-haul, you may be paying monthly retainer fees. 

Each of these public relations scenarios requires a different strategic approach, and the associated costs are variables. It is impossible to give a black-and-white answer to questions around how much a PR agency costs. Ultimately, it depends on what you need. 

PR Agency Cost And Variables 

Instead, we can give you a very generalized overview of standard PR costs and the variables that play into those costs.  

If you are a small company or a newer kid on the brand block, you may find it wise to hone your DIY public relations skills, reserving the PR budget for special, unique, or more-than-you-can-handle events. Once your brand is big enough, and you’ve outgrown your DIY PR britches (meaning, you ain’t got time for that) you’ll know it’s time to branch into the bigger PR arena. 

Visit our post What Does a Public Relations Agency Do for more specifics about the services we talk about below. A basic rundown of PR services looks something like: 

  • Reputation management 
  • Media relations 
  • Media training (coaching your peeps on how to interact, engage with, respond to media) 
  • Social media 
  • Community outreach 
  • Event planning 
  • Speech writing 
  • Content creation 
  • Market research 
  • Crisis (or post-crisis) management 
  • Product/service launches 

Most PR agencies bill clients based on estimations of the number of hours per month it will take to get the job done. As a result, PR agency cost is charged via: 

Retainer Fees (PR Agency Cost For The Longer-Haul) 

If your company is looking for a long-term, heavier hitting PR approach, such as reputation management, public communication, and outreach, content creation or internal copywriting, etc., the agency will probably require a retainer. The current average monthly retainer fee for PR services ranges from $2000 to $25,000 per month. That said, large corporations spend hundreds of thousands per month on industry-recognized public relations firms. 

Note that retainer-based services are all longer-term in nature. You can’t manage a brand’s reputation for a month or two; it takes exponentially longer than that to develop positive brand recognition, a reputation, and to grow that reputation over time. At that point, reputation management requires consistent marketing, public outreach, and communication to maintain a media-worthy brand presence.  

In some cases, the retainer is a set price, and together you’ll negotiate what you get for that fee. So, perhaps your $2000/month retainer fee will cover specific services: a few blogs per month, at least one top-tier media feature, a press release, and so on. Other times, larger and more successful firms may require a base retainer just to work with them, billing on top of that for services or output they provide for you. 

Since monthly retainers may be a bit beyond what small or medium-sized business budgets can accommodate, especially earlier on in the brand development phase, many companies start out using PR agencies in a more a-la-carte style. 

Project-Based Costs 

Perhaps your company is capable of handling the day-to-day PR needs for now, but an upcoming launch, promotion, or event requires more work than the in-house team can provide. In that case, PR agencies can be contracted for a single project or two at a time. 

You will sit down to discuss the project scope. Together you and your PR agency will come up with a list of services or output required. Once you’re in agreement, you will get an estimate for project-based services. It’s a one-and-done deal, so to speak. The good news about using a PR agency to support an upcoming project or event is multifold.  

First, your own team gets to continue doing what they do best – without the added stress or workload that takes away from their well-matched and experienced offerings. Secondly, you get to experience a professional PR approach to handling your projects, providing the opportunity to observe ideas and tricks you never would have thought about or been able to execute in-house. Finally, you gain great exposure to the PR agencies available in your area, forming relationships that will ease the way later on when you’re ready for broader scope or longer-term, retainer-based work.  

Hourly Rates 

Then, just like any business, a PR agency may charge you by the hour. The average hourly rate ranges from $125 to $500 or more. These rates are set by who did what for a given project or service. As you would imagine, junior staff are billed at less per hour, while more experienced managers and executives are billed at higher rates. 

Just as a set retainer can be a gamble for PR agencies who may underestimate the hours/costs required for a given account, hourly rates can be a gamble for your company. You may balk at a monthly retainer fee, only to find the hour rates wind up equalling or exceeding those. Finding a PR firm you trust is key to feeling good about the payment method you choose at the start. 

Payment-By-Results 

If you’re reticent to commit to a monthly retainer fee, but it looks like your account may require expensive hourly rate totals, the agency may offer a payment-by-result package. This is like a middle ground to soothe wary clients because you pay a lower base fee (sort of like a retainer) and then get billed by the month, according to stats-based results.  

Most reputable PR agencies do not offer a “pay-per-placement and if they do, it should be a red flag not to work with them as they may use some shady methods to get you coverage. That said, some contractors do offer this as an option but if they don’t get traction for your product, service, or brand launch after a full day of pitching may not be incentive to pitch that 9th hour. With a retainer or project fee, you can rest assured pitching will continue no matter what.

We’re Here When You’re Ready

On the fence about whether or not you need a professional PR agency by your side? The creative team at Segal Communications would love to hear your concerns. We’ll show you how we work, what we’ve done for clients in the past and present, and how our agency can tell your story in newer, bigger, and more marketable ways. Contact us and we’ll start dreaming and scheming together.  

12 Things You Should Know Before Hiring a PR Agency

Whoa, there, movers, shakers, and game-changers! Before you go out and hire the first public relations agency with five-star reviews, there are at least 10 things you need to know about what PR folks do.

First, you may find you don’t even need a PR firm (yet!). Or, your savvy quest may lead to the realization that not all PR agencies are created equal, and some are more suited to your brand vision and goals than others.

10 Things You Should Know Before Hiring Public Relations Pros (+ 2 bonus tips)

To that end, we’ve put together a list of the at least a dozen things every business owner should know before signing any dotted lines.

1. Are you clear about what PR agencies are and what they do?

We’ll be blunt; you’d be amazed at how many business owners don’t really know what a PR firm is anyway but heard they need to get themselves one. More commonly, owners confuse public relations and marketing. It’s easy to do, so don’t get shy if you fall into this category. Admitting what you aren’t clear about allows space to learn more so you can make better, strategic decisions for your company.

PR agencies are focused on creating compelling stories about your brand and keeping them fresh. We also handle pre- and post-crisis management planning. And, although we certainly leverage the power of social media, we’re more focused on getting your story out using mainstream media coverage and positive exposure via influencers. Then, just keep you on your toes, there are PR firms (like us) who are happy to serve as both PR and marketing strategists if you don’t have your own marketing team and those that don’t.

For a more detailed explanation, read What Does a Public Relations Agency Do? If you’re still not clear, consults with prospective PR agencies will provide further clarity. Understanding what a PR company does is the first step in establishing whether your company or brand is ready to invest in professional public relations.

2. Do you need a PR firm…yet?

There are times when we recommend entrepreneurs align with a PR agency right off the bat because the brand is prepared to grow bigger and broader. There are other times when, as much as we’d love to promote a brand, we feel like the company needs to identify their story, stretch, and grow a bit more before making the investment.

You may determine that you’re not quite ready for professional PR, in which case we recommend, How to Do Your Own PR.

You’re probably ready to hire a PR agency if/when:

  • Your niche is relatively saturated, and you aren’t able to rank above major competitors
  • The local market is aware of you, but you’re ready to build brand recognition at the next level(s)
  • You’ve realized that staying relevant requires long-term vision, goals, and continued communication with media/influencers sucks up too much inhouse time/energy
  • It’s been a while since you’ve been front-and-center in any top-tier media outlets (journalists, podcasters, industry or mainstream magazines, newspapers, the guest on a local show, etc.)
  • You’re not a great writer or speaker (or marketer, or videographer, or photographer), which is necessary to achieve the latter-mentioned journalist showboating required for good PR OR you are good at those things but are trying to run a business and don’t have the time.

Do one or more of those resonate with you? Start looking for PR agencies who speak your brand’s language.

3. Are they in your price range?

As you can imagine, PR firms are wildly successful self-publicists. So, the agency that caught your eye may be way out of your price range. Every business likes to be a bit sneaky, luring in prospects and then forming such a warm and fuzzy bond that the consumer will just hit “Buy Now!” in ecstatic glee.

You, however, are a business owner with a closely guarded bottom line, so budget is king. Honor that and be upfront with what your budget boundaries. There’s no point in hiring public relations gurus if the investment puts you out of business before they can work their magic.

Also, don’t forget to ask how they bill. By project? By the hour? By the service tier?

Time for Internal Reflection and Data Collection

If you’re more grounded in those first four considerations, we’ll continue with the meaty stuff.
These are the things you’d want to establish with your company’s key players when meeting before meeting with potential PR teams for your brand.

4. Can you provide definitive and salient story points?

Remember that we said PR is all about telling the right stories? PR stories are like sagas – with a beginning and a middle…and, the goal being to not have an end for quite some time. A compelling saga requires:

  • Heroes (your brand, products, and services, employees and customer service peeps)
  • Villains (your customer pain points and, possibly, your competition but that’s delicate)
  • A plot that makes hearts swell with engaged emotion
  • Great visuals and other experiential features

For your PR team to take all that and write great stories, you’ll need to be clear on your brand’s salient “story points” such as:

  • Do you have the makings of a cool, heartwarming, exciting, or “I get that!” kind of story about the brand’s origin? Or its growth? Or key customers/employees? Company miracles?
  • Can you define your niche?
  • Do you have a clear idea of who your target audience members are, in detailed demographics?
  • Are you able to name clear ways you’re different from your competitor(s)?

The more you can concisely synthesize the story, feeling, energy, and nuances of your brand, the better prospective PR agencies can present their ideas and strategies for you.

5. What are your main objectives for the PR agency (i.e., why the heck are you hiring them?)

If you don’t have concrete objectives to bring to the table, a client-hungry firm will eat you right up. They’ll create fluffy, beautiful, rosy goals and objectives for your brand, using so many industry terms and acronyms that you’ll be dizzy with desire. Then, you’ll walk away feeling confused about what just happened.

Being clear about your objectives, and what you plan to achieve through public relations support, protects you from investing too early or selecting the wrong company to represent you.

6. Do you have market research to present?

Don’t get us wrong. Your PR team will do their homework and research once you’ve contracted with them. If they really want you, they may even do some proactive research to wow you with their intuitive greatness.

Regardless, bring any solid market research you have via in-house efforts or consultant/analysts you’ve used in the past (this includes HubSpot or website host’s analytics about website and social media performance). Gather up videos and print footage, or any other public exposure you’ve had. This gives the PR firm more information to brainstorm further goals, suggestions, and strategies based on where you’ve been, where you are now, what’s worked and what hasn’t and where you plan to be in X years down the road.

7. Are your key players and team onboard? And, who’s the point person?

We highly recommend meeting with management, key players, and staff/employees before you hire PR help. In #4, we mentioned that your staff and customer service peeps are heroes in your stories. At the very least, they’re Main Characters.

Let them know that hiring a PR firm means change may be on the horizon. Your brand reps need to tell a unified story, and that requires specific language, lingo, customer interaction, etc. It also requires a unified company language and culture. Those are all things the PR pros may come in and work with via in-person or webinar training, rewording of existing content/documents/customer service scripts, etc., and specific instructions regarding internal and external communication.

You’ll also want to identify a point person, lead contact, or PR manager who is there from the beginning and is the chief liaison between your company and the PR agency.

Ask PR Agencies the Right Questions

If you’ve considered all of the above and you’re moving forward with hiring a professional PR agency, it’s time to learn what prospective agencies can do for you.

8. What are your niches? And are we one of them?

Some PR firms operate across the industry spectrum, but most have a few “favorites” or niche industries/brand markets based on their team’s experience and passions. You want to select a PR firm that specializes in and has experience with your brand’s niche.

Some PR firms offer the roundabout of services and have specific industry niches. Others are oriented around specific aspects of public relations services, specializing in particulars such as communication, media relations, community-based brand development, internal employee/staff communication and policies, non-profit promotion, or public affairs PR.

9. Do they offer the services your brand needs most?

The PR world can be hard to define. It uses marketing, we’re experienced at marketing, but we’re not the same as a marketing firm. Some of us offer only the services that reflect our niche expertise. Examples of prospective services or attributes include:

  • Brand and product launches
  • Media training for you and your key players
  • Event conception and planning
  • Tradeshow planning
  • Promotional events and publicity stunts
  • Community event planning and publicity stunts
  • Established relationships with your industry’s influencers and game-changers
  • Content amplification
  • Social media monitoring
  • Pre- and Post-crisis communication planning and training
  • Creative direction and advertising campaigns

The list goes on, and many companies offer a bit of all-of-the-above. Your job is to find the one with service focuses in sync with your brand’s short- and long-term objectives. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can speak to current and former clients to see if they got what they paid for, and to learn more about prospective PR agencies’ strengths and weaknesses

10. How do they work with existing marketing teams?

If you don’t have a marketing team, your PR firm will take over that role, or they’ll refer you to marketers they trust. If you have an existing marketing team, and you love them, prospective PR firms should provide clear information about how they integrate with client teams.

The goal is for the public relations/marketing team integration to happen slowly, smoothly, and consistently, with the two sides’ cultures similar or complementary enough to enjoy a symbiotic relationship.

Finally, Some PR Hiring Bonus Tips

Here are the two bonus tips to round out your ideal, HR hiring preparation process.

11. Who will you be working with? And, do you like them?

Bells and whistles, stats and numbers – those are all terrific. However, there are enough PR firms out there that the best on paper, and the one with the most compelling promises, might not be the right one for your brand.

You owe it to yourselves and your employees (not to mention your customers) to like the people working for your PR agency.

Ask who, specifically, you’d be working with. If they aren’t there, ask for a meeting with him/her/them as well. Make sure you feel comfortable telling them what you like, what you don’t, and also being comfortable receiving feedback and constructive feedback or training about how you can do better. Optimally, you’ll be working with these individuals – and the agency – for many years to come.

12. Are you ready to work with someone else to promote your brand?

This is a partnership. Your brand’s success will happen faster, stronger, and more organically if you’ve found a PR agency you’re excited to work with on a regular basis. If you like the idea of hiring a PR agency, but you are struggling with giving up control or are a micro-manager by nature, do some internal work first so your PR partnership can be successful from the start.

Segal Communications is a Bay Area public relations firm that thrives on helping clients’ brands shine bigger and brighter, land regular, top-tier media coverage, and who is as happy to consult with you in the short-term as we are to form a lifelong partnership. Contact us to get started.

How to Do Your Own PR

The Ultimate Guide on Doing Your Own PR

Before reading the below how-to I would like to preface this with a recent post from a well-respected journalist outlining the reason why he prefers to work with journalists and ignores “pitches that come from individuals themselves.”

  1. Publicists want to maintain a good relationship with the journalist, so they are polite, courteous and professional. Individuals don’t care as much. I have received the most egregiously rude emails from individuals who tried to do it themselves.
  2. Having a publicist is like one step in a vetting process. It usually means the interviewee has a certain degree of success and savvy.
  3. The publicist invests energy to make sure the images sent in are good quality, the content is well-edited, etc. Without a publicist, it’s usually not the case. In almost all cases, interviews that come back with the assistance of publicist come out much, much better.
  4. Publicists usually understand the system: e.g.: you can’t make changes after its live, it won’t come down after its live, you can’t suggest headlines, you can’t review it before it’s published, you can’t pay money to a journalist, etc. etc. Individuals don’t understand this.

Yes, this may not be the case with all journalists. So, I give you the below guidance if you choose to go it alone.

According to Forbes, as much as one-third of the U.S. workforce will be self-employed by the end of 2020. That explains why so many business owners are becoming DIY public relations agents. As a small business owner, you may be able to save a small fortune by learning how to do your own PR and once your brand reaches the level of visibility and success you’re striving for, you can reward yourself by hiring an experienced, reputable public relations (PR) firm who will take over from there.

Until then, applying practical PR tips advances your brand’s visibility and social engagement, and cultivates the positive reputation required to be successful in a fiercely competitive business market. Achieving that level of brand legitimacy requires demystifying what PR is and how public relations professionals go about it.

This guide distills public relations how-tos down to five general areas.

  1. What is PR and what’s the point?
  2. How PR differs from marketing
  3. Identifying your company’s story (and how to own your, expertise, niche, and prowess)
  4. Earned Media (what it is, why you want it, how you get it)
  5. Measuring your PR results

Ready? Set? Let’s Go…

What is PR and What’s the Point?

o define PR, we go directly to the source – the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA):

Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics. At its core, public relations is about influencing, engaging and building a relationship with key stakeholders across numerous platforms in order to shape and frame the public perception of an organization.

While PR is a 20th-century concept, the strategies, themes, and modalities continue to evolve in response to societal and cultural shifts combined with technological advancement.

The trickiest thing about PR is that companies have to straddle the border between humility and boastfulness, especially when getting their brand up and off the ground. Successful publicity and relationship building do not happen because you’re incessantly bragging about being the best fill-in-the-blank in the world; they transpire as followers, investors, employees, media gurus, major influencers, fellow industry experts, and loyal customers boast to the world about how great you are.

When that happens, repeatedly – over extended periods – garnering awards, newsworthy mentions, or record revenues – only then you may boast a little (but only so much and no more). Like we said, it’s a tricky balance.

We also recommend taking advantage of the wealth of free webinars, videos, and affordable, multi-week, PR courses available to you via the internet. If you’re going to tackle the PR beast on your own, or with a small, in-house team, recurring deep-dives into PR basics are essential to your success.

PRSA identifies the multiple disciplines and functions of successful PR strategies as:

  • Corporate Communications
  • Crisis Communications (even bad press is good press when you handle is quickly and professionally; savvy crisis response can benefit your brand)
  • Executive Communications
  • Internal Communications
  • Investor Relations Communications
  • Marketing Communications
  • Integrated Marketing/Integrated Marketing Communications
  • Media Relations (cultivate genuine relationships/connections with key media personas)
  • Content Creation
  • Events (get yourself out there in front of the right audience members)
  • Social Media (prioritizing social media channels your target audience uses most)
  • Multimedia
  • Reputation Management
  • Speechwriting (pay for a speechwriting consultant if public speaking isn’t your forte)
  • Brand Journalism

While this guide won’t dive into them all, it’s worth visibly posting a list of key PR disciplines and functions in your office. They’ll keep you focused on a more well-rounded approach as you tailor your business’s PR strategies and practices, and the comprehensive list will prevent you from one of the biggest DIY PR mistakes – confusing PR with marketing.

How PR Differs From Marketing

It was easier to view PR from a holistic approach prior to the digital era. Things moved slower and it was easier to develop personal relationships with press and media influencers because communities were smaller and more engaged on a face-to-face level by nature. As times have evolved, and screen/digital media moved to the forefront, it’s been easy for younger business owners and entrepreneurs to equate PR with digital marketing.

While marketing is a major component of PR, it is only one component of the whole. Within the past decade, major public relations firms divide their mission into two categories: traditional PR and digital PR, and strategize accordingly.

It’s also important to distinguish that PR has far more to do with telling a story, managing that story, and editing and re-creating the story. If need be, that includes editing the story in the face of negative press or a brand crisis. The majority of PR work is actually free in terms of cash (but costly in terms of labor/energy expense). This is different from marketing, which almost always requires some type of paid advertising or investment.

Here are some quick PR vs. Marketing comparisons to highlight the difference:

  • ACTIVITIES/TACTICS
    PR – Focused on big-picture, long-term reputation management via typical positive digital, media, and stakeholder coverage
    Marketing – Uses promotions, direct ads, and other outlets to focus on real-time campaigns that direct sales
  • TARGETED AUDIENCE
    PR – Broadcasts and shares information to make a positive impression on anyone who has an interest in the business, from customers to employees and investors
    Marketing – Creates content and information almost solely for qualified prospects, leads, and customers
  • DIFFERENCE IN GOALS
    PR – Focuses on selling the company and the brand image Marketing – Focuses on direct sales of products and services
  • FOCUS OF MESSAGE LEGITIMACY
    PR – Tries to move content and information onto/into more reputable platforms and media channels to gain/maintain legitimacy.
    Marketing – Is more concerned about promoting sales messages anywhere and everywhere, and the majority are created in-house.
  • QUANTIFYING ROI
    PR – ROI is challenging to measure because it is based more on public image, feelings, and beliefs about your company and brand. The arc is often longer.
    Marketing – ROI is easier to measure because there is a direct and immediate correlation between click-throughs, ads/sales, campaigns, and numbers-based revenue.
  • LONGEVITY
    PR – As mentioned above, a PR arc is long. PR pros are working in forward-thinking, big-picture, and long-view.
    Marketing – Marketing experts are forward-thinking and following trends but campaigns/ads/promotions are typically cyclical with clear, shorter start-to-finish timelines.

Identifying Your Company/Brand’s Story

Clearly identifying your brand/company story is essential for PR work to be successful. Your story and its emotional impacts are the stuff that solid PR strategies are spun from, and that marketing will utilize to leverage interest, engagement, trust, and sales. As a business owner, your company’s story is typically your story in one form or another. This is an essential component to understand.

If your personal or company story lacks definition, confidence, or a true and empowered owning of your own expertise, prowess, your PR story will fall flat. Amazon’s story is a prime (pun intended) example of how story and brand unite.

Owner Jeff Bezos (former vice president of a Wall Street firm) knew exactly what he wanted to create, an unrivaled internet store that brought goods directly to consumer’s doors in record time. After a couple of trials-and-errors, he settled on the brand name Amazon because, “The Amazon River, he noted, was the biggest river in the world, and he planned to make his store the biggest bookstore in the world.” Also, Bezos started out selling and shipping the five things he felt were easiest to sell online (books, CDs, videos, and computer software and hardware). Then, he launched the business out of a garage and used $250,000 invested by his parents. Once the stage was set, he quickly moved into a larger location and exponentially increased the goods he sold/shipped to serve the needs of online shoppers.

That single paragraph, sums up Bezos’s expertise, the ultimate business goal, how he curated a savvy brand name/image and it has telling story points. That is the beginning of great PR. Your story should allow people to get to know you, trust you, and like you.

Don’t forget the importance of an empowered mindset

Dina Behrman is a UK-based PR expert who helps women grow their businesses. In an article on Forbes.com Behrman emphasizes the importance of developing an empowered mindset around your personal expertise, wisdom, and specialized niches; acknowledge them and claim them.  Without a certain level of confidence in what your brand brings to the world, its story lacks backbone and will be less compelling to prospective audience members.

Underselling yourself, deferring to others’ expertise, and undercharging for products and services will stymie PR momentum.

Earned Media (what it is, why you want it, how you get it)

As mentioned above, your story – aka the foundation of your PR mission – is really about people getting to know you, trust you, and like you. This could also be viewed as cultivating brand legitimacy, trust, and a solid reputation. When you gain that level of public recognition, your brand has better opportunities to be featured via media publications or channels governed by editorial control.

Earned media features are a great sign that your PR is paying off. If you are implementing the right strategies, and your marketing team is sound, earned media is the natural payoff. The best form of earned media is top-tier coverage – meaning your brand’s presence in major media publications, productions, and spotlights. Daily, positive mentions, are the ultimate sign that you have arrived.

The less-good news is that earning media attention from major influencers and legitimate journalists is easier said than done. Earned media can mean being featured or recommended in an op-ed, interviewed on a podcast with a generous following, gaining mention or more elaborate promotion on a website, blog, or other social media trendsetter, etc.

In order to earn that, you’ll need to:

  • Establish a following and active website and social media platforms
  • Understand and focus on the media channels and outlets most likely to be viewed, read or consumed by your target audience(s)
  • Identify small-, medium-, and big-time influencers in your industry
  • Build steady, long-term relationships with said influencers
  • Engage with, follow, and build relationships with local/distant reputable journalists with an interest in your industry/brand
  • De-prioritize press releases and, instead, utilize relationships with influencers/journalists via meet and greets, email communication (to specific addresses, not the general one given at the end of many articles), social media channels and Tweets, so you can comfortably approach them with ideas and pitches that are interesting/relevant to them, their audience, and the larger newsfeed.

Then, use a wide variety of methods to write up and promote your ideas. These include good ol’ fashioned press releases and sending emails to key editors, journalists and influencers to writing guest blogs, and interviewing industry movers/shakers who will then feature that interview via their own networks and channels. Consider doing product reviews, landing guest appearances on local news shows, radio segments, and podcasts, or providing topical commentary when news features cover topics, products, or services relevant to your brand.

Your business may do well locally via highly-targeted marketing and less emphasis on PR and is likely to make decent splashes here and there. However, if you lack a full-fledged PR strategy those splashes will never accumulate into bona fide waves that consistently make it to shore. That’s the kind of power you need to continually grow your brand. Applying the right PR tips and strategies will take you to that next level, yielding recurring top-tier media attention.

Finally, don’t forget that earned media attention can also be your greatest ally in the face of a brand crisis. If influencers trust you, and like you, they’ll stand by you in the hard times to help your brand rise out of the ashes resulting from an internal scandal or general bad publicity. If you haven’t used consistent PR strategies to build a widespread, positive brand reputation, 9-1-1 marketing strategies won’t be able to pull you out of the crisis quagmire.

Understanding the importance of measuring PR results

Remember the table above that compared PR vs. marketing? We mentioned that it’s more difficult to measure the ROI from PR the same way we can with marketing/sales. This is because it is more challenging to quantify the public’s thoughts, opinions, or feelings about you. Measuring PR results requires a combo analysis of public mentions, spotlights, and visibility – and the sentiments associated with those mentions – along with marketing-based benchmarks, metrics, and analytics.

Measuring the success of your PR team planning

To measure the success of your PR team’s planning, and the resulting public reactions to your brand voice, you’ll depend on two different sets of data: key performance indicators and key output metrics.

Key Performance Indicators (KPI)

While PR is not marketing, your marketing team’s KPI are a good litmus test of how your brand is doing in the larger, public sphere. If your brand image is up, the numbers will be too. These include:

  • Website referral traffic
  • Organic traffic
  • Social engagements
  • Lead volume
  • Conversions

Key output metrics

Key output metrics analyze your earned media credits and indicate whether your planning, strategies, and actions are paying off via credible media mentions. Key output metrics quantify:

  • Media mentions (Google Alerts and SocialMention are great tools to support this)
  • Share of voice (how do your media mentions compare with competitors in terms of both numbers and sentiment/opinion)
  • Number of backlinks earned
  • General sentiment/opinion
  • End audience reach (are earned media mentions visible to your target audience or are they being sent out there into left field?)

Continued analysis – always looking back at the last benchmark and assessing if you’ve achieved the next set of goals in a timely manner – provides long-view measurements of your PR successes, flat lines, or failures. These results allow you to regroup and re-strategize. If your brand isn’t performing the way you had hoped, continue reviewing the original bullet point topics pertaining to the disciplines and functions of successful PR, and make sure you’re addressing them all in your own PR planning.

One more piece of advice when doing your own PR work – don’t hesitate to contact experienced PR firms and take advantage of fee-based consultations. In addition to deepening your PR prowess, you’ll get a feel for which firm is the best fit when your brand is financially able to support professional PR experts that let you get back to doing the work you were made to do.

What Does a Public Relations Agency Do?

Public Relations Agencies Cultivate Successful Brand Reputations

A public relations (PR) agency works in alliance with companies to foster brand success. This is facilitated in alignment with the brand’s mission, vision, and both immediate and long-term goals.

We take “The Good” brands

For some companies, this means taking their newly launched company and managing all aspects of marketing, messaging, content, press releases, media exposure, and other multichannel publicity outlets to build brand recognition and following in a positive light. Think Starbucks’s launch from a small Seattle coffee shop to a brand that is recognized and loved in more than 31,000 stores and 80+ different countries around the world.

We take “The Bad(ish)” brands

Sometimes, we take brands that used to be popular but have faded over time, and make them a brilliant success again. Think Converse, an athletic shoe brand that was a trendsetter from the 1940s to the 1970s, rendered nearly obsolete through much of the 80s and early 90s, and then came back with a must-have vengeance (the result of savvy PR firm work around a nostalgic, “retro” campaign).

We’ll even transform The Ugly brands

Finally, a genuinely talented PR firm revels in turning an “ugly” brand’s bad press and negative public perception into a major success story via creative and strategic planning. Think Nike’s turnaround from sweatshop monger – and the resulting tanked sales – into its current ranking as “the most valuable apparel brand,” worth around $32.4 billion.

Ultimately, your public relations agency works closely in alliance with your key players and brand visionaries to keep your company at the forefront of your prospects’ and clients’ awareness, building loyal, trusting, and positive impressions for a lifetime.

Your PR Firm in Day-to-Day-Action

So, that’s a lofty, philosophical explanation of what the typical public relations agency handles in a big-picture sense. Now, let’s talk about what a PR agency does in the day-to-day realm.

We develop a plan that aligns with your goals

First and foremost, we form an intimate bond with your brand’s top players so that we live, breathe, and understand your company, mission, products, and services from the inside out. We also listen to where you’ve been, where you are now, and where you see your brand in the future.

From this, we create a mutual set of goals, and then we set to work to achieve them one by one, using smartly played strategy, creativity, and professional experience and expertise.

PR firms produce content via print, media, digital, and any other means possible

To develop brand recognition and a positive reputation, you need to be out there like nobody’s business. Your target market should be able to recognize your brand’s color scheme and logo on a highway billboard or Tweet as quickly as they recognize the iconic “orange Wheaties box” and the outline of the telltale Wheaties name-stamp.

Our PR firm has the privileged opportunity to craft our clients’ stories from the get-go, because we all know s/he who controls the story wins. However, we are equally happy to take your story, dust it off, and relaunch it in a new light to generate new levels of awareness and positive brand perception.

We achieve that level of marketing success by creating…

Content, Content and More Content

We’re always thinking and dreaming of more creative ways to market brands via a myriad of content platforms and modalities:

Analytical content that allows us to analyze, interpret, and – ultimately – anticipate public interpretations of your products, services, and image so we can proactively and reactively control the public’s emotional narrative.

Editorial and print content that supports each of your campaigns, every step of the way (readers, viewers, and followers should be taken on a guided journey – such that they never realize we’re holding their hands)

Nudges, pokes, and full-fledged connections that put you in the view of the industry’s influences, producers, editors, journalists, and the best photographers and videographers out there.

Images and videos are essential in our digital, screen-oriented culture and era. You need to be read, heard, and seen, so we brainstorm and execute the visual content that makes that happen.

Website and social media content allows audiences to engage with your brand on a more personal level, and in shorter and more relevant ways.

Creative content creation generates brand interest and loyalty

The content we create, in all of its forms, connects you to clients, prospects, and the local (and global) community, so your consumers feel bonded – and more loyal – to your brand.

3 Specific Examples of What a PR Agency Should Do For You

Now, we’ll take those every day, real-world content bullet points, and explain how we put them to work using three specific examples.

1. Using metrics, data, and ROI to craft smarter, targeted, and more compelling stories

A public relations professional is obsessed with metrics. S/he constantly reviews dashboard metrics and analytics pertaining to every aspect of how the outside world is – or isn’t – engaging with your brand, who they’re sharing it with and how often, what they’re sharing about you, and so on.

The information we glean via cold, hard numbers, measured results, and data is recycled right back into our think-tanks and creative visioning sessions to generate ever-increasing returns on your investment via custom narratives.

2. Positive promotion of awards, accolades, and general successes

While the world may love underdogs in Hollywood films and professional sporting events, they prefer top dogs when it comes to investing hard-earned cash in your products and services.

Therefore, PR firms go nuts when we have the chance to publicly promote your company’s awards, accolades, and general success stories (in humble and heartwarming ways, of course) via multi-channel public relations. Followers will celebrate and share how great you are.

3. Thriving in the face of crisis management

Finally, we don’t shy away from the negative stuff. We respond quickly, promptly, and professionally to any poor online reviews, negative social media frenzies, or any other unpleasant buzz that may crop up from time to time about your company.

If you’re in the midst of a crisis stemming from genuine, in-house slip-ups that threaten the integrity of your brand or that risks alienating your customer base, an adept PR agency gets right in the thick of it. We strategically plan the best way to get the company back into everyone’s good races again. All the previously mentioned metric data and analytics mean we know precisely which story threads to cut away and which ones to add or weave back together again for synergistic success.

Looking For the Right Public Relations Agency Match?

Public relations agencies do everything, anything, and all of the things necessary to get the right information, to the right people, and at the right time. PR work, and the realm of multichannel publicity, requires public relations professionals who are fluent and at ease in the constantly evolving field of print, digital, and social media – not to mention the human social- psycho-emotional perspective.

To find the right match for you, search for PR firms with content that speaks to you, a roster of clients you’re familiar with and respect, and who wow you with their portfolio. Take a peek at their team bios and look for diversity, creativity, enthusiasm, and a spectrum of work experience – all of which bodes well for creative, innovative, and next-generation strategy formulation.

If you can check all those boxes, odds are your prospective PR agency will do what it takes to take your brand and its reputation to the next level, and then the next – and the next.