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With 20 years of public relations experience, I’ve become good at spotting common mistakes among well-meaning clients looking for wider publicity. Executives look to PR firms for a magic bullet that will give them exposure. Little do they know that without these crucial steps, not even the most experienced public relations vet will be able to kick-start their strategy.
What is the common mistake you might ask? Deceived customers haven’t taken the time to establish clear messages for their offerings. That simple. They also lack clear narrative cues for internal stakeholders such as founders and senior executives.
While it’s the PR team’s job to fine-tune messages and share them with the masses, it’s ultimately the customer’s job to have a clear sense of direction. They need to articulate why they deserve press attention. Clients should have a sense of what gap they are filling in their respective industries and what they really want to achieve with a PR team.
If you’re considering embarking on a public relations strategy but struggle to identify the building blocks, here are three simple steps that will save you time and money.
Related: 4 Guiding Principles for Building and Deploying a Great Public Relations Strategy
Step 1: Establish Your North Star
Every venture needs to have a clear north star. It’s the first question any public relations firm worth their salt will ask you to articulate when trying to engage them. As you put this North Star down on paper, be realistic with your goals. Ending world hunger is a noble pursuit, but one that will ring false to journalists. What attributes does your company have that make it well equipped to solve the macro global problem? List them carefully and think about the attributes you have that no one else has. This could include operations in a particular region, doing something with fewer resources, or marrying two disciplines. Once you establish these unique attributes, align your goals with them. Map your north star using the characteristics that only you can offer to the market.
Step 2: Establish storylines for media-facing stakeholders
Every organization has a story to tell, but not everyone in that organization is best equipped to tell it. Once you’ve established what your larger goals are, you need to figure out who within the organization is best equipped to talk about them. Your CMO might get excited talking about creative activity within the business, but lose your audience by talking about numbers. And your VP of marketing might love to delve into the minutiae of advertising strategies, but might get caught up in the minutiae and go off on unrelated tangents mid-conversation. Identify all people within the organization that you would like to have a voice in the press. Once these names are written down, establish a narrative thread for each one that will help guide them as they represent your company. Placing stakeholders in opportunities that allow them to talk about areas that excite them will make interviews more authentic and effective. This will make them authorities in their space and have journalists proactively seek them out for their expertise.
Related: 4 Tips for Launching Your First Effective PR Campaign
Step 3: Create a Brand “Bible”
Journalists typically write for a wide variety of outlets. However, each channel remains consistent because it features a style guide for freelancers and contributors as a reference. The style guide includes easy-to-understand dos and don’ts. This tried-and-true method can also work for your brand or business. Creating a brand bible doesn’t have to be complex. Write down any key messages you want external stakeholders to take away from your interactions. Think about the ways you want your brand or business to be referenced, and then write those things down as well. Think of ways you never want to come across and write them down. Voila, you’ve just created your first branded bible. This document can be consulted at any time, during any campaign, by both internal executives and external public relations stakeholders. This will also serve as a road map for where you’re going and which your employers and PR team can turn to when they have key questions about your brand.
These three easy steps will help a PR team and ultimately your company immensely in many ways. Following the guidelines above will ensure that you and the PR team you hire are on the same page and share a unified view of how your company, product or story wants to be portrayed in the media. Furthermore, by establishing a coherent brand identity and defining a consistent voice, the chosen PR firm will be able to better understand the target audience of the business and can take significant steps to help it achieve long-term goals. A clear sense of direction not only helps PR teams find the connections, vehicles and publications most relevant to their business, it will also be beneficial when approaching large-scale campaigns aimed at customer growth, getting the contacts of most ideal press and representing your company in the best possible light.