Most people start a PR programme because they want to engage the media. While PR is not just about press coverage, a positive article in the right publication can transform a business. It can change your position in the market place and give you authority and credibility that is otherwise difficult for most businesses to achieve.
However, PR can take time to deliver tangible results and, in some cases, it may never deliver the return on investment you need. When is it worth spending your valuable time and budget on it? And how can you be sure that you get a return for that investment?
Ask the Right Questions…
Before you engage a PR agency (or employ someone in-house), ask yourself a number of questions.
- Do you have an interesting story to tell? Journalists will look for the human angle, and for something that is topical, relevant and original.
- Are you prepared to tell your story openly and publicly? PR can’t be controlled like advertising: journalists will not restrict their questions to the areas you decide and will almost never give you copy approval. Despite what many people assume, not all publicity is good publicity (ask Gerald Ratner) so consider the opportunities and risks.
- Do you have time for PR? It is not something that you can simply delegate to someone else and walk away. It will take significant amounts of your time, particularly in the early days.
Get the Right Results
How can you ensure you get the results you need?
- Be clear about the business results you want to see. Agree measurable goals with the agency at the outset and make them part of the contract. Remember, great PR can drive customers to your business – but it can’t close sales.
- Be a great spokesperson. The media use spokespeople that editors know are reliable, available and able to talk with authority.
- Respond quickly to e-mails and phone calls. The quicker you respond, the better the chance you have of being used in reactive opportunities.
- Ensure your approval process is short and quick. News moves fast. If you’re able to answer a question within half an hour, you’ll be the expert the media uses.
- Trust the agency. Everyone thinks they understand PR and everyone thinks they can write. However, PR professionals spend every day talking to journalists and finding out what works – and what doesn’t. When they advise you, it’s worth listening to them.
- Recognise that you have to make compromises to get the media to talk about you. Your advertising copy simply won’t work.
- Ensure you keep the agency well briefed. Tell them your news before it happens, and give them all the assets they need, such as professional images.
Great PR requires hard work and commitment from both you and the agency but PR can deliver astonishing results.
Anne Cantelo is founder and MD of Onyx, with over 30 years experience. She’s worked on both client and agency side, for start ups, blue-chips and the public sector (including the Cabinet Office) – and knows that PR has to make a difference. If you’d like her help, get in touch..