The world of business has become riddled with poor communication. The days of putting a letter in the post are over, and the days of social media have ensued. Suppliers, stakeholders, customers and shareholders are expecting quick communication bursts to satisfy a variety of tasks; and in an effort to stay on top of the social communication movement, businesses have become mundane and boring in the application of Public Relations in their businesses.
Alarmingly, in a lot of cases, PR is non-existent. And the joke is on the entrepreneur.
My name is Timothy Nicholls, the founder and Managing Director of Running Romeo Public Relations. I am a young, vivacious Publicist, hell-bent on changing the current business-psyche. I have observed a common trend that entrepreneur’s (in both small and large business) are devaluing the role of effective, targeted communication in their businesses. They are total idiots. And without realizing, they are costing themselves an income stream that could have them permanently sitting on a beach in the Bahamas before they’re 50.
So let’s be clear on what PR is and it’s function in your business.
Public Relations is the natural progression from Marketing. Publicist’s operate in the ‘Public Sphere’ (PR talk for ‘Market’), and facilitate the connection and communication between a brand and their ‘publics’ (PR talk for all current and future potential stakeholders in a brand).
PR is focused on connecting a consumer with a brand. Great PR operates on the foundation of branding and the marketing mix of a business, although some would have you think otherwise.
A regular phrase out of my mouth in the office, ‘is it on-brand?’ Over the past 12 months I have seen many agencies blindly chasing press for their clients. They do this irrespective of their clients’ brand values and market position.
This is a MASSIVE no-no.
And this is the reason why; when press that isn’t ‘on brand’ is achieved it acutely skews the market position of a brand (one of the 4 ‘P’s of the marketing mix for you marketing aficionados). For example, a young sports brand focused on youths between the ages of 14-28, who enjoy skate-boarding wouldn’t be endorsing pregnant woman in their 40’s and be pitching stories to pregnancy magazines. This operation seen by their target audience will deter them from the brand and result in an immediate drop in sales (an obvious exaggeration, but you get the point).
Great PR also protects a brand. It ensures the reach to the right audiences and is a critical tool to achieve the desired business goals. Press for the sake of press is quite possibly the most detrimental thing to a brand. Just because the opportunity is there – it doesn’t mean you have to take it.
So why the focus on branding for effective PR?
An idea does not make a brand. A product does not make a brand. All the money in the world cannot make a brand. It is people that make a brand. Consumers don’t buy products, they invest in and idea or opinion that benefits their lifestyle.
For example: Customers don’t buy a plane ticket to travel with Qantas. They buy the knowledge that their flight will be safe and the service world class. Customers don’t buy a car from Mercedes-Benz. They buy snob-value, safety, German styling, quality and a hefty bank-loan.
Our job is to communicate your brand and establish the connection with your customers that will facilitate the exchange of value between yourself and your customer. Notice I said value here? Value in a business goes beyond the balance sheet! Goodwill and customer satisfaction are as almost as valuable as your bottom line – this realization, and, BOOM – your brand is born.
So you have realized the value of PR, how do you choose your publicist?
Here are my hot tips for choosing the right publicist for you;
- Meet with every PR firm you can. This will help you decide what you are looking for.
- Make sure, that the publicist you choose has a great knowledge of the market you operate in.
- Once you have finished the meetings, write a list of what you want to achieve from your PR dollars. The meetings should have opened your eyes to the opportunities out there – decide which ones are right for your business.
- Short-list the PR firms you like, and take a second meeting to discuss the finer details.
- Be aware that PR is a process and a long-term investment. You can’t expect much from an initial 3 month contract, be patient and talk to your publicists about KPI’s for growth and PR presence.
- Know what you are paying for; make sure you know if there are any costs outside your monthly retainer fee.
- Have a lawyer look over your contract. I studied 4 years of Law, as much as I think I can draft and understand a contract, I sleep much better at night knowing a professional has given me the tick.
- Understand their value system. They should cost their press at the rate you would have paid for advertising in the same medium. Some PR’s use a multiplier to calculate their press value (either multiply the dollar value by 3 or 6). I think this is incredibly misleading. It doesn’t represent the market value and they are wasting your time.
- Communicate with your publicists – when they email you a brief or opportunity, reply promptly. We are in the business of communication, and you are paying us to communicate – and time is of the essence in our line of work – reply to the goddamn email.
So why invest in Public Relations? To protect you brand , communicate with your market, and at the end of the day, build sales. I can totally understand a $3000 per month retainer for a Shoestring Start-up may be steep – but with the right publicist, it could be the cheapest $3k you ever spend.
Don’t be an idiot. Investigate opportunities, make smart decisions, and look forward to the beach on the Bahamas.