On Public Relations

It’s all about the story

Advertising alone is not enough to build a brand and generate sales.

No marketing campaign is complete without a public relations angle—especially if the business, product or service is new. Advertising (“paid media”) is not enough because consumers view advertising with skepticism. They know advertisers pay to say exactly what they want to. To influence consumers a campaign must also approach journalists in the mass market (“earned media”), and utilize grassroots promotional efforts (“social media”).
The goal is the same as advertising: build brand recognition, credibility, and sales. However, publicity generates more credibility and influence because the story or endorsement is communicated by a trusted and impartial third party, i.e., journalists, happy customers, bloggers, etc.

Every news cycle has a lot of blank air time or paper to fill, so editors are always looking for the next good story.

However, unlike advertising, getting your story written and placed is out of your control. But don’t let that be a deterrent. Approximately two-thirds of the stories carried by the media start from outside input. Editors and journalists know that every news cycle has a lot of blank air time or paper to fill, so they’re always looking for the next good story.
Reporters are always looking for the next big trend or a new angle on a topic that’s dominating the news media. If you we can identify either of these, you have a good chance of betting a reporter to listen.
And the story is everything! The mechanics behind getting PR mention is often misunderstood. It is not whom you know—it’s about the story. One phone call or lunch with the right journalist will not assure you visibility in USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, etc. The key is to invent a new, interesting, and unique story angle. Without one, getting serious mention in any major publication is unrealistic. Journalists are cautious and guarded, and have no interest in building your business. They’re only interested in stories that their readers will be interested in reading.

Besides claiming the next “killer app” to dominate the market, one of the best ways to make a story compelling is to reveal behind-the-scenes adversity or conflict. Companies that are willing to admit this—even if you are a little concerned about airing “dirty laundry”—can reap big rewards. Such stories make your company look real, and adds more trust and credibility to your name—far more than any advertisement can do.
Unfortunately, some are afraid of telling a story that reveals vulnerability. That can be a mistake. Pitching these stories takes time, and there are never any guarantees—even with top-level contacts. It’s simply impossible to control the media and competing news events. But it’s always worth the effort. The value of public relations is not easy to quantify, but even you’re CEO and CFO knows that if the story is a hit with the media, it has a tremendous value.
It’s important to remember though, that earning a news article or two—even in a major publication—does not make for a comprehensive media strategy. Fame is fleeting, and memories fade, so you are only as good as your last clip.

Today’s main source of social media, such as blogs, discussion forums, etc. have a significant, and lasting impact on your company’s reputation (good or bad).

But It’s different with blogs and web forums, which are today’s main source of social media and networking. The opinions stated on these sites have a long shelf life, and will have a significant impact on your reputation (good or bad)—especially if they are discovered with a quick Google search. In this case you must be proactive, and be constantly vigilant about maintaining positive consumer opinion through your own virtual presence on the most visible forums, and a public presence in engagements and events that allow you to interact with the public.
If you keep these people happy, by meeting or exceeding their expectations, they’ll become your goodwill ambassadors—and there’s nothing better than a trusted third-party endorsement to build a brand and spark sales.

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