fired

Questions any public relations pro you pay must be able to answer

January 19, 2013
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fired Questions any public relations pro you pay must be able to answer

Public relations in the new year

It’s early in the New Year and here’s a question to chew on: Have you fired your public relations agency yet?

Maybe I’m being a little harsh, but at a time when corporate communications is being turned on its head, it’s fair to ask your PR agency (or in-house PR resource, for that matter) some questions. Depending on the answers, you may need to think about a change. A few questions that come to mind for me:

1. What’s all the fuss about content marketing?

Tectonic shifts in the PR industry over the past 20 years have dramatically changed the communications landscape. The Internet. Email. Blogs and citizen journalists. High-speed bandwidth. Social media. The latest, and perhaps the most powerful / exciting from a PR perspective, is content marketing.

No need to define content marketing here. Just Google it and stand back from the fire hose. Simply put, it enables companies to communicate directly to their audiences in credible, cost-effective ways without relying on third-party media.

Brands large and small are embracing content marketing, and PR pros are scrambling to keep up because it calls for a new skill set in order to do it well. You have to be equal parts journalist, PR flack, project manager, graphic designer and technology geek, with a dash or two of picture editor and video producer thrown in for good measure.



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Visit Florida, the flagship Web site for Florida’s tourism industry, is a terrific example of powerful content marketing. Great stories, images and video, much of it sourced from professional journalists. It reads like a great newspaper that’s all Florida tourism, all the time. It’s so good, in fact, that some professional news outlets are publishing its content, just as they would from Associated Press or another news wire.

You don’t need a huge budget to deliver great content to your target audience, just a vision and commitment to make it happen. If your PR team isn’t bugging you about it, you need to be bugging them about it.

2. Are we hyper-targeting our media outreach?

Or are we making the mistake of trying to cast a great big net over dozens, maybe hundreds of media contacts? If that’s your approach, then you need an attitude adjustment, my friend.

Truth be told, there are probably only a handful of media targets that are going to be interested in your company’s story and even fewer media targets that are relevant to your business. For the record, relevance = heightened awareness and credibility for your people, products and services, and ultimately, increased sales.

Invest some time and energy in identifying those relevant media and then go deep. Understand what makes them tick and what tickles their interests. Follow them on Twitter and other social media outlets and engage them when appropriate.

Stay focused and strive for meaty relationships with a handful of media. You’ll likely see more meaningful coverage that ultimately is distributed across a broad spectrum, given the viral nature of news these days.

3. Are we distributing news, not just hype?

Want to quickly alienate the media and erode your PR cred with them? Then simply grind out press releases and story pitches that only tout your company, products, and services. Any smart PR pro won’t make guarantees when it comes to media relations. But if this is your approach, I can guarantee that your PR efforts are going to be a waste of time, money, and company resources.

Think outside of your own four walls in order to make the story bigger and therefore more appealing to a reporter. Provide context. Help the reporter understand why this matters in general and more importantly, why it matters to his/her audience of readers or viewers. Offer up some other sources in addition to your company, even if you suggest that he talks to a competitor. He’s going to do it anyway, so make it your idea, not his.

In short, be a resource, not just a honk. It will pay some long-term PR dividends down the road.

4. Are we building effective working relationships with our key media?

When was the last time that your PR team posed this question to a reporter: “What can I do to help you do your job?” If the answer is ‘never,’ you definitely need to make a change.

Good PR pros make their living by being a resource to the media; exceptional ones excel at it by offering ideas, news tips and feedback (yes, constructive criticism) to their target media – even when… no, make that especially when it has nothing to do with their clients.

Go out of your way to be a resource. Great relationships will follow, and so will great results from your PR efforts.

Bob Silver is one of the West Coast's most respected PR professionals. He has built two successful independent PR agencies and worked with clients ranging from global brands to entrepreneurial early-stage companies. Along the way, Bob was named one of the 10 PR professionals “that clients dream about working with” by Upside magazine.