One of the most common questions I receive from business owners is “When do I start our PR campaign?” The answer isn’t black and white, but there are several guidelines that can support you in making the right decision for your business.
Before we dive in, I think it’s important to outline why public relations is so important. According to acclaimed professor Dr. Glen Broom, public relations is defined as the management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the public, on whom its success or failure depends.
What many people fail to realize is that the goal of a successful public relations campaign revolves around getting a targeted audience to talk about your brand (sometimes we refer to this as “buzz”). Whether those individuals are your extremely satisfied clients, a media professional writing a review, your staff or a social media follower, you are responsible for telling people how to talk about your brand.
Having a public relations component to your business strategy is vital and incredibly valuable for many reasons. The most powerful way public relations can work for you is through earned media opportunities. When a trusted news outlet (or influencer) makes a recommendation, the people you are targeting are much more likely to genuinely buy in to your business. Simply put, third party endorsements give credibility that companies simply cannot buy.
While you might not dive right into a full-fledged media relations or thought leadership campaign, public relations should be integrated into your business from the very beginning because it all starts with messaging. From your internal team to your vendors and straight to your potential clients, you have to make sure people know how to talk about your company in a way that moves you towards your goals.
Don’t worry if you haven’t taken this step, you can start now. Here are some guidelines to support you in making your decision:
- Your business is in need of a public relations firm if your team isn’t consistent with the way they talk about your brand. Many consultants and/or agencies can support you with branding exercises and focus groups to develop messaging that packs a major punch. Once you lock in your messaging, you need to make sure all your marketing assets – from your website to your internal communications – utilize the same consistent brand voice.
- Your business is ready for social media the second you have locked in your brand look and messaging. You can begin engaging your target audience(s) almost immediately by providing them with relevant information that appeals to them. That way, you have an established following once you are ready to launch.
- You can begin a full throttle media relations campaign when your product or service is ready for your end user. There are special situations like the company launch in which you can announce a new business, but a great rule of thumb for a media relations campaign is to announce details about 90 days before launch to top-tier media. This allows the story to hit when you go live or open your doors.
Once you’re ready for PR, the question becomes, “How do I know whether to hire in-house, a consultant or an agency?” Here are the biggest differences for you to consider:
- If you hire in-house, you are investing in a hefty salary of a senior team member (if you want it done right), their benefits, the resources they need to deliver on the job, and you are getting someone who is solely focused on your brand. This person can also support in other areas, but they are only corresponding with the media on your behalf, so they don’t have as many touchpoints as an agency or a consultant.
- A consultant can be much more affordable because you don’t hire them full-time and they do have multiple touchpoints, which allows them to stay deeply entrenched with what media is looking for and the opportunities that are available. They are also required to provide their own resources to deliver the results. Similar to your in-house person, consultants don’t typically have a team of experts to rely on and often work solo.
- An agency will be able to provide you with senior level strategic council, a team lead who will execute a strategic campaign on your behalf and manage a team of people who will support them in delivering on results. They typically have access to more resources, and can leverage the reputation of the agency brand to support you in breaking through quickly. Most often, you will get the most for your money with an agency.
Last, but certainly not least, companies must consider their financials when it comes to PR. When you engage in public relations, you should be in it for the long haul (after all, it’s a relationship). Think about it – these are the people you are hiring to be an extension of your business. You should always make strategic decisions that move your brand forward and public relations is one of the most powerful tools for doing just that. It’s an investment that should very quickly begin paying for itself and more. This should not be considered a temporary line item, but rather a hard cost for doing business. Even Bill Gates once said: “If I were down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations.”
For more information on how public relations may fit into your business, please contact us for a consultation at www.oliveprsolutions.com.