Public Relations Tactics: Strategies and Tips

Sections of this topic

    Sections of This Topic Include

    • What is Public Relations?
    • Why Do Public Relations?
    • Develop a Public Relations Plan
    • How to Interview a Social Media Marketing Firm
    • Examples of Companies’ Successful and Unsuccessful Use of Public Relations
    • Guidelines for Successful Public Relations
    • General Resources

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    What is Public Relations?

    Public relations activities aim to cultivate a strong, positive image of the organization among its stakeholders. Similar to effective advertising and promotions, effective public relations often depends on designing and implementing a well-designed public relations plan. The plan often includes a description of what you want to convey to whom, how you plan to convey it, who is responsible for conveying it and by when, and how much money is budgeted to fund these activities.

    Similar to advertising and promotions, a media plan and calendar can be very useful, which specifies what media methods to use and when. One of the more recent, important public relations activities is maintaining — and sometimes restoring — a strong public image on the Web.

    Why Do Public Relations?

    © Copyright Martin Keller

    Do you have a new business or a business that’s mature but needs some greater visibility? Are you launching a new product? If you’re a non-profit, are policy issues or board blow-ups finding their way into the community you serve? Are you looking for new employees who understand what you do?

    These are just a few examples of why a company or non-profit (new, small, or large), or an individual would undertake a public relations campaign. The goal of PR in general is to influence positive activities and outcomes related to what you do. If you’re a new business, what better way to create visibility than to do publicity? Nearly every city of any size has a business section of the daily paper, and many cities have weekly business publications and at least one monthly business magazine (in the media-rich area like Minneapolis-St. Paul where I’m based, we have three business magazines and two business weeklies — plus some specialty publications for banking and financial services!!)

    If your company is established but hasn’t been in the news lately and could use some fresh ink about your growth, new initiatives, innovations, or perhaps an acquisition, consider sharing the news. Even new hires will get some notice in the business pubs. And don’t overlook something interesting one of your employees or your CEO might be doing.

    For example, a longtime client who founded an IT company specializing in Business Intelligence (BI), is also an accomplished photographer and has traveled on several trips around the globe to places like India for the annual Camel Fair and Kabul with the world-renowned National Geographic photographer, Steve McCurry (best known for his haunting “Afghan Girl” portrait), doing photography seminars in-country. Think that story didn’t get told here …..a lot…? Putting another dimension on business people helps show their human side and helps keep the company name in the public realm.

    New product launches scream for a PR campaign, especially if it’s a consumer product that we all need — or a new twist on an old one. For people involved in public policy issues, there are many tools in the PR toolbox to help clearly portray your issue or message to constituents, legislators, targeted associations,
    neighborhood groups, or other special interest organizations. We’ll cover both areas more in separate, future blogs.

    Why not just buy an ad? Ideally, you would tie a PR campaign to an integrated marketing program — providing you have the budget and advertising is an appropriate vehicle for what you are trying to accomplish. However — and I’m biased, of course — the return on PR is usually, 95% of the time, much better. It has a longer shelf, life, it can be leveraged time and again, and best of all, it has a third-party credibility that advertising cannot usually provide. Unless you have landed somebody like Michael Jordan, or the celebrity du jour, to appear in your ad campaign. Good luck with that.

    Develop a Public Relations Plan

    © Copyright Lisa Chapman

    How to Get Your Name in the News

    Do you think Lady Gaga, a marketing genius, achieved the distinction of being the most-searched woman on Google without a PR plan? According to, “Lady Gaga was ranked 3rd overall in news coverage, in magazine websites and music blogs, with 4,326 articles.”

    Most businesses barely have a marketing plan, much less a written, strategically developed PR Plan. Yet it could be the very thing that helps you save advertising dollars AND gain an edge over your competition.

    Review Last Year’s PR

    If you received PR coverage, review it for its content. Compare it to last year’s plan. What got the media’s attention and what didn’t? Which editors gave you positive coverage and which gave you negative coverage? Can you tell me why? Consider calling them to discuss it.

    Search online for all results that include the name of your business. Now do the same thing for your closest competitors. Why did they get the coverage? Were their stories particularly interesting in some way? Did they target media that you didn’t target? Make a list of these angles and media targets to add to your list of PR objectives.

    Articulate Your PR Objectives

    When you take a vacation, you choose the destination first, right? So start by putting your PR objectives in writing. It can be simple – even a bullet-pointed list will suffice. Topics to cover will depend upon the type of business, your customers, your competition, and your target media.

    Example objectives might include:

    • New product or service launch coverage
    • Company events announced
    • Employee promotions or additions spotlighted

    PR Tactics and Tools

    With your written PR objectives in front of you, brainstorm activities that will help you plan and execute effective and consistent PR tactics. Consistency is the key, so get out a calendar or create a timeline as an integral part of your plan.

    Try these additional PR tactics:

    • Create a comprehensive PR contact list, with their preferred method of being contacted (ex: email or fax?)
    • For each media, list their deadlines. If they come up short for content at the last minute, your press release just might fill that need.
    • Schedule time on YOUR calendar for PR activities. Make an appointment with yourself!
    • Call the media contacts and introduce yourself. Offer yourself as a subject matter expert. Sooner or later, they’ll likely call you when they need a quote on a story in your field.
    • Don’t forget about blogs and social media. These days, PR online might even eclipse PR offline.

    How to Interview a Social Media Marketing Firm

    © Copyright Lisa Chapman

    Start With Your Company’s Goals

    In the last post, we discussed the importance of defining and articulating your company’s offline marketing goals and social media marketing goals. Together, they serve as the target by which you measure success.

    If a social media marketing firm doesn’t first seek to understand certain core fundamentals about your business and competitive environment, they are likely not a good fit for you. You’re looking for a firm that understands savvy, successful business as well as social media technicalities and online campaign execution. That’s a tall order. So it’s important to take time, interview several firms, and find the right fit for you. If you don’t put in this effort upfront, you may waste a lot of time, energy, and money.

    Example Interview Questions

    Keep in mind that YOU are the hiring authority. Even though you may not know a lot about how social media campaigns are run, it is still the social media marketing firm that must pass YOUR scrutiny. So drill the questions at them and hold their feet to the fire.

    Gather your management team together for each interview session. Many ears with different areas of expertise will hear the firm’s answers in different ways. Ask these questions:

    • How will you incorporate our company goals into online strategies and social media campaigns?
    • Do you have actual client campaign examples that got measurable results from your social media campaigns?
    • How did you measure results in those campaigns?
    • How did you determine success?
    • Have you had experiences in which clients did NOT achieve their goals, or were unhappy with their social media campaigns? Why? What would you do differently?
    • Do you establish baseline metrics to measure progress? Give me an example from a client campaign.
    • What has been your biggest client challenge or problem, and how did you solve it?
    • What methods have you used: To identify a niche audience and grow it? To engage that audience? To convert them into customers?
    • How will you go about determining the right social media campaign to reach OUR goals?
    • How do you price your services?
    • What if we’re not satisfied?

    I highly recommend interviewing THREE firms. Ask all these questions verbatim. With your management team at each interview, have each person write down all the answers. After all the interviews are over, have your team pow-wow to compare notes and discuss preferences. A clear winner will probably emerge during your discussion.

    After all this, you will have gone up a very steep learning curve in a relatively short time period. It’s well worth the investment because social media will continue to grow in importance for all companies around the globe.

    Examples of Companies’ Successful and Unsuccessful Use of Public Relations

    Guidelines for Successful Public Relations

    General Resources About Public Relations

    For the Category of Public Relations:

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