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Six Steps for Launching a Public Relations Program

September 15, 2014

Michele-Spiewak_Rhino-PR-5x7Today’s post is courtesy of Michele Spiewak of Rhino PR. As an account director, Michele helps A/E/C clients establish and launch successful PR programs closely aligned with each client’s unique goals and objectives.

In today’s business environment and media landscape, companies are vying with each other for attention from a myriad of audiences, such as clients, suppliers, consultants, and prospective employees. It can be difficult to make an impact in such a noisy media environment, especially if you focus your efforts only on marketing and not public relations. Targeted, strategic public relations can produce tangible results that raise awareness of a company’s competitive differentiators, promote a niche expertise, or target specific markets. Public relations can–and should–play a significant role in raising the visibility of your business.

As part of your overall communications strategy, public relations is an invaluable marketing tool: it creates visibility and brand recognition, builds credibility and third-party validation through editorial placement, and hopefully, generates new business leads. “Earned PR” is validated by the media, a distinction that sets it apart from advertising and other communications vehicles. People who read about a new product or service put more value on an article than a paid advertisement. And in this digital age, earned PR coverage can be further promoted on social media platforms that increase its reach.

Here are the six steps to consider when launching your own PR program:

Trust a professional. Just as you would hire an accountant to do your taxes, the services of a PR consultant or firm should be used to handle communications. Unless there is someone within the company who is dedicated to or tasked with PR, it often falls to the bottom of the ‘to-do’ list. Like any other discipline, there are best practices and nuances in PR that you might not know or have the time to learn. PR professionals have the expertise, contacts and creativity to position your message and garner coverage.

Identify an internal champion. Getting internal buy-in will be one of the bigger hurdles to clear when recommending the investment in PR. Understand the corporate goals of the company and convey how a PR program can support business development initiatives. Then, identify a key figure in the organization, preferably on the management team, to support your efforts and sell others on the merits of PR.

Enlist the help of your clients. A well-executed PR program can create good will with clients, especially when you include them in your positive media exposure. However, do your due diligence and confirm they’re on board with having their name promoted with yours. Some clients may prefer to remain confidential, and finding this out after-the-fact can stop your communications program in its tracks.

Find your media platform(s). Does your company value articles in technical publications? A highly visible presence in social media? A voice in local business publications? Identify the news sources most important to your company and the story you want to tell, then tailor the PR program to meet those goals.

Track metrics. The question of ROI is almost immediately followed by a question about metrics. Create a strategy for quantifying results and focus on what is most important to your company, whether it is the number of articles in the paper or an increase in hits to the web site. Determine what form of metrics is most desirable to the management team. While there’s no magic formula to calculating heightened company visibility, PR ROI can, however, be gauged by traditional metrics as well as outcomes and value to the business overall.

Grease the skids. To some extent, the success of your PR plan lies in the hands of the engineers, architects and project managers who do the day-to-day work of your company, so make it as easy as possible for technical staff to contribute. Remind them to ask about PR in contract negotiations, and educate them on the press release process and what may be asked of the client. Facilitate the PR process so they feel as little impact as possible. For example, instead of asking an engineer to write an article, offer to interview him or her and write the article for his or her review.

As a critical piece of your integrated marketing efforts, public relations can bring measurable results to a company’s bottom line and help it achieve its business development goals. Now you’re only six steps away from getting started!

Questions or comments? Drop Michele an e-mail or start a conversation on Twitter at @RhinoPRBoston.

And if you enjoyed this article, check out more posts in Rhino PR’s popular series on Outlook!

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