Billboards. Direct Mail. Telesales. Traditional (TV, radio, print) ad buys. Issuing press releases. Each of these was once the core of many successful businesses’ marketing and public relations campaigns and are still utilized effectively across many industries — especially when the core audience resides in the same market as the company with which they are looking to do business. Yet, the challenge in nearly all cases is measurement of these tactics and associated costs. How can you justify spending precious marketing dollars if you can’t measure the effectiveness of tactics through your CRM?
For many businesses, efforts to reach customers are nationwide or even global in their reach. Visitors come to you through inbound best practices, largely revolving around crafting compelling content that draws in customers. Your website is front and center, and your solutions are visible to millions who are only a Google search away.
Oftentimes, lost in the shuffle of an effective marketing plan is a public relations (PR) strategy that supports your content marketing efforts. And truth be told, it’s not surprising. Good PR is predicated on building relationships and having something newsworthy enough to promote. Media attention is earned, builds trust and can drive a whole new audience to your business.
According to the Public Relations Society of America, Inc. (PRSA), public relations is “a strategic communication process that helps to build mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and its audience.” Taking this a bit further, let’s delve into what an effective public relations strategy entails:
An effective public relations strategy should always first determine not only the tactics to be successful but also the measurement in which to say to ourselves, 'Hey, this stuff really works!' Consider a mix of high-level goals and easier-to-achieve goals, or quick wins. Quick wins make a huge difference in sustaining momentum and getting continued buy-in from leadership.
You’ve met with your internal stakeholders, have a mutually-shared desire to embark on PR efforts, and you’ve put the KPIs in place to determine measurable success. Now you need to work toward determining who your audiences are. Who will these communications reach? Look at your goals and identify potential writers and reporters who can help you achieve them. Also, focus on the quick wins by reaching out to local reporters who cover similar topics in your client’s hometown.
Your audiences aren’t one size fits all, and your messaging shouldn’t be either. These are one-to-one communications, and your hope is that someone will take an interest in what you’ve written. To this end, your messaging should reflect your intended audience.
Throughout your outreach efforts, be prepared to look at open rates of sent emails, responses received, and most importantly, be flexible while staying within budget. Again, starting out, those quick wins can really keep the momentum going.
If the above strategies and tips sound oh-so-familiar to you as a marketer, they should. These are strategies nearly all successful marketers live by. So why does PR often get pushed aside?
As with any business challenge, let’s first examine the barriers that can stop more companies from having a public relations strategy and ways you can utilize best practices to conquer them.
The short answer is, social media doesn’t replace PR efforts — at least not always. Just as you need to be cognizant of your audiences with your content marketing efforts, it’s important to note that your organic social media posts are reaching everyone at the same time.
If you’re sharing major company news on social media, you’re limiting your chance at earning exclusive media coverage that could result in widespread attention on even a national or global scale. Sure, with the right followers and influencers in your corner, you could still get a story out of it, but why not pitch to the largest, most desirable media outlets first.
If you don’t have those valued relationships to support PR goals, now is a great opportunity to build them. Just be sure to give yourself the flexibility to go after those quick wins, too. Think local coverage, smaller print publications, guest blog opportunities, and advertorial/sponsored coverage opportunities — provided the budget exists to make these things happen.
Strong media attention is most definitely earned — and your competitors who always seem to get major news coverage didn’t just get lucky; they developed an approach that works.
Across the country, newsrooms have been sliced and diced, with reporters being stretched to their max, and many have taken on several beats versus focusing on one area of expertise. Their responsibilities have also grown and diversified. It’s not uncommon to see the same reporter write about real estate development, a new craft brewery, and even manufacturing trends. As a marketer looking to build relationships with news outlets, this can work in your favor. There are fewer reporters, and they have a greater need for content.
So how do you go about forging these relationships? Start small, even locally to earn quick wins. Is there a community paper that has written a similar story? Reach out to the reporter, introduce yourself, reference a previous article they’ve written, and then share the news in the body of the email as a pitch. Keep it short and simple. The reporter is busy and not waiting by their inbox for your pitch. Follow up if you haven’t heard anything in a few days, using the same email thread as your initial pitch. If that initial outreach is met with a rejection, don’t be so down on yourself: this may present a great opportunity to revise your approach based on an angle…
A few years back, I was introduced to the owner of a locally-based design company of smart wearable devices who happened to serve on the same board as a current client. I was granted a meeting, and the owner spent time reviewing the products and processes he was looking to promote. I started to connect this with thoughts of reporters and publications who have covered similar manufacturers. I felt comfortable that what they were doing was newsworthy, but a lot of what I saw was prototypes, with software in a beta stage. I pressed on to learn more about his process. Why did he do what he did? What challenges were there in getting to this point?
Then, he hit me with it:
The client had tested a handful of his products by walking — literally on foot — from New York City to California to test these products. It took somewhere around a month to complete the trek, and he slept outside most nights, only staying in a handful of hotels to refresh.
This raised a whole other opportunity that covered the perception of a CEO. This was grit and determination like I had never seen before. We ended up getting a major print publication to cover this as an exclusive, which had been my goal all along! The client was blown away and I ended up working with him for years as those products successfully launched and his business was acquired by a major wearables manufacturer.
Herein lies the lesson; it’s not always about what’s in front of you, the tangible product itself, that’s newsworthy — it’s often the process of how a company got there. And it doesn’t take extreme examples like walking across the United States. Look for angles within those processes — the how we got here — as avenues to a pitch.
The same rule of thumb applies if your pitch is met with no response at all. Think about retooling and revising your messaging. Look for those angles! If you hear nothing after your second follow-up, send one more follow-up before moving on. This is about being flexible.
Remind yourself that your content marketing efforts didn’t happen overnight, either. Blog subscribers didn't all sign up at once, your social media channels took time to foster, and quality email lists didn’t build themselves. Cultivating mutually-beneficial media relationships has to start somewhere, too. Hone your craft and consider this route to build out your PR plan before subscribing to a costly PR service.
Any good public relations strategy is built on relationships. Gone are the days of crafting a press release, sharing it with a few dozen reporters, and waiting for them to contact you about your news. Personally, even 15 years ago, this approach didn’t work well. I can vividly recall sending press releases to reporters in bulk for a touring theater production, with the hope that reporters would want to interview cast members before a performance. What this largely resulted in was countless ticket requests for “possible” reviews, which often ran after the performance left town. When we switched gears and asked each individual reporter for something specific — such as inviting them to the theater for a sit-down interview, to host a pre-performance lecture, or to have the cast participate in a fun morning radio quiz — we saw much better results.
That’s not to say you should pass on creating press releases. You should always consider writing one for newsworthy events or company-wide news, and include it on your company's resources page. Instead, when reaching out to media contacts, lead with your pitch and include the press release as an attachment. The reporter will use the press release as a reference, and very well may pass it along to their editor to review.
When writing your press release, make it clear why readers should care, and use data to support your case. Also, the media loves to see how your news benefits others. If the focus resonates with the community you’ve pitched the release to, or even further out, all the better. Ideally, releases should include at least one quote if possible and be limited to one page, even in the event of multiple quotes, sponsorships, and logos. Reporters should have a clear direction on who to contact with follow-up questions. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point.
In many ways, your press release is like any piece of valuable gated content. You don’t want to send valuable content, such as a podcast, eBook, or buyer’s guide, out to the masses without asking for something in return. Pitch wisely at first and position the news story as an exclusive to each reporter. Avoid copying and pasting the press release into the body of the email without a personalized note.
Finally, you’ll need a press release to send out via wire services like PR.com or PR Newswire. Depending on the type of news you want to promote, targeted industries may be low cost and even free in some cases. These sources provide great value in making the story searchable online, but don’t expect a community-based publication, much less CNN, to come calling from these efforts alone. Consider sending the release out via wire services after reporters have responded to your pitch, either positively, negatively, or not at all. Wire services provide credibility, and your wire-distributed press release will appear in search results. Stakeholders will also most likely see benefit in having the story appear.
Like your content marketing plan, strategic PR takes a keen eye and relies on both planning and timing. Just as you plan the publishing of blog posts around campaigns, your public relations efforts should be coordinated into a similar schedule.
Many news stories present themselves to companies, with mergers or acquisitions being a prime example. Other press-worthy initiatives are based around the time of year, such as company-wide philanthropic events or event sponsorships. Keep PR campaigns in mind when mapping out your yearly marketing plans and look for opportunities to simultaneously engage with the media, or slightly ahead of schedule. If an annual event like a corporate sporting event sponsorship takes place in the summer, reach out to reporters the month before. Extend that window if you are looking for a media member to be the emcee/ambassador for an event like an annual company meeting or anniversary gala.
When making company announcements over social media, adjust your cadence to reflect your audience — who are likely your customers, not the media. Present company stories in a way that benefits them. Ask yourself: What reaction do I want my customers (and the public) to have? How do I want them to feel about this news? What action do I want them to take?
You’ve put a few of the above PR tactics into practice and earned some good wins, but you feel there’s a missing link in your public relations strategy puzzle. Now, you want to take your newly-earned press success to elevated heights. Enter social media influencer marketing — a $100 billion industry that includes everything from A-list celebrity endorsements to unboxing videos of the latest tech toys on YouTube.
Businesses looking to engage with social media influencers might want to start with micro influencers — those with 1,000-100,000 social media followers. Micro influencers tend to have a more tailored, focused audience of respected experts in their field. These individuals can champion your brand, provide a level of trust and buy-in with your potential customers, and fuel strong engagement rates. And they’re less expensive than larger influencers.
So how do you go about finding these influencers? If your company is a manufacturer of fasteners, look at your industry verticals to find an influencer who can discuss the merits of using your products. If one of your verticals is agriculture, find an influencer who can talk about using fasteners on farming equipment. Sound too niche? You’d be surprised: This booming industry serves all industries, not just high-end sports cars, perfumes, or adult beverages!
(Tip: When searching for an influencer, prioritize their engagement level, not their follower count.)
Like other facets of your marketing plan, clearly define your goals with influencer partnerships. Consider adding and monitoring metrics like brand awareness, increased engagement, website visits and, ultimately, closing more sales.
At Kuno Creative, we’ve been successful in deploying effective public relations strategies for numerous clients across a multitude of industries. Among these examples are a collection of news articles in the agricultural field, local news segments for trendsetting clients in healthcare, and major media coverage in Forbes and Inc. for clients in the SaaS space. We’ve also partnered with clients to produce compelling content through industry-focused podcasts and webinars.
To get the conversation started, schedule a consultation with us. We’d love to discuss ways to complement your content marketing efforts with a comprehensive public relations plan where we can help you build valuable relationships while delivering on key metrics.
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