Public Relations runs deeper than media outreach. Follow these simple steps to maximise your return on your PR campaigns
Public Relations - or PR - represents a multitude of channels and activities to improve the image of your company, your position in the industry, stance on pertinent topics and demonstrate your company mission. From carefully orchestrated stunts to customer events and engagement, media relations and social media, PR strengthens your brand while boosting awareness of your products and services.
Too often companies dive into PR without having a strategic plan, resulting in muddied waters, frustrations for in-house staff and agencies, and - with no clear measurement processes or goals - leaves all involved with a sense of failure.
Further reading - 20 reasons to run a PR campaign
Here, we provide our top tips for how to get started with PR.
1 - Get your values and culture right
Before you start communicating with the outside world, be clear what your business stands for. Things to consider as you shape your values and culture:
What is your USP? What makes you truly different from your competitors?
What is important in the way you do business - including how you treat your employees and your customers?
Are you actually living your mission and vision, or are the statements just empty promises?
Companies are named and shamed for transgressions such as poor customer service, staff bullying or ‘greenwashing’ because their actions don’t match their words, so ensure you are honest and transparent. Don’t expect anyone to take your word for face value; you need to ensure your culture is an accurate reflection of what senior stakeholders believe your company to stand for.
2 - Sort your company website and social media
Owned media such as your company website and social media channels are a shopfront for your business. Ensure your website is up to date, working smoothly across multiple devices and operating systems, and (where appropriate) translated into the main languages of your key markets.
If you have a blog or news centre, be sure it’s active - this is often the second port of call where media, influencers and even customers click, after your homepage. Likewise for an About Us or team profile page; if you still show staff who no longer work for you or have a corporate timeline that hasn’t been updated since 2019, it brings your reliability and efficiency into question.
3 - Industry events
A key part of PR is communication - and industry events are a great place to start! Create a calendar of events relevant to your niche; these don’t need to be large international exhibitions, industry events also include more targeted, intimate activities such as local chamber of commerce networking.
Once you’ve created your calendar, assess each event based on recent occasions:
What is the profile of their attendees? Do they match your target audience profile?
What is the price to attend or exhibit? Including travel and expenses
Especially if exhibiting, what additional awareness can the event organisers give you - such as speaking opportunities or sharing content before the show to raise your profile amongst delegates?
Is the show worth exhibiting at or should team members simply ‘walk the floor’?
Ensure you have a post-event plan to follow up with new leads and contacts
Read more - power of industry events
4 - Customer communication
PR is about building relationships, and your customer relationship is a pillar of your business. Set up a regular email newsletter programme for your customers including general news, product updates, and company and essential industry developments.
You should also:
Revisit customer contact touch points; when was the last time you tried calling the phone number? What is your voicemail or ‘hold’ music experience? How accessible are you really?
Consider web chat options for handling FAQs and routine enquiries
Conduct mystery shopping to assess how your team engage with enquiries and customers, and opportunities to improve
5 - Partner communication
Every company has partners - these can take the form of investors and senior advisors, third-party technology companies (either suppliers or integration partners), support agencies for departments such as finance, payroll, HR or marketing, or even neighbouring companies in the local area that you share knowledge with.
Create a calendar for how you communicate with them, knowing different audiences have different needs and require differing levels of information. What you tell your investors will most likely be different to the details you give to a local company - and how you tell them should also be different.
Consider: newsletters (usually email; can be printed); quarterly reports or business presentations; face-to-face meetings; end of year/summer celebrations; and regular telephone or video conference updates.
Further reading: 5 things to do in Partnerships now
6 - Influencer engagement
Influencer refers to anyone who can act as an intermediary between your business and your customers. It can include previous or current customers who act as evangelists for your brand, industry experts who recommend your product, consultants and paid spokespeople.
Ensuring they have up-to-date information about your business, including any new product launches or upcoming services, helps them generate buzz around your brand - and gives them even more reason to be talking about you. Keep them informed with regular updates; consider assigning them a relationship manager, just as you do an existing customer as influencers are often regarded as a trustworthy source of information, making them a great referral source for growing your business.
7 - Awards
Everyone loves recognition for a job well done, and awards are just that - a way of recognising the impressive efforts of your team, your products or services, and even your company values. Awards also provide credibility depending on the awarding body, especially if related to a key industry publication or association.
Conduct research into each award - including nomination deadline, entry fee details, suitable categories - and share suitable opportunities with your team. Some awards are for individual products (eg innovation awards) or company wide success (eg company of the year), whilst others are for people or specific projects (eg manager of the year, partnership initiative).
If you’re shortlisted - and, of course, if you win - be sure to leverage the news.
8 - Media relations
Media relations is an integral part of, but shouldn’t be mistaken for, PR. It involves sharing news with the media and - like any relationship - it should be one built on understanding, and give and take.
Like your customers, the media needs nurturing. This is why so many media and PR agencies exist - to foster productive relationships with media, helping businesses gain coverage by crafting pitches to relevant journalists. It’s a big job without dedicated resources; you will need a steady flow of information and be prepared to speak on topics beyond your simple commercial goals.
9 - Stunts, customer events and campaigns
This is certainly a fun part of PR, but an important one! Crafting newsworthy stunts, high profile customer events, award ceremonies, and other creative campaigns are a great way to get noticed.
But, these often big budget affairs need to take place for a reason. Are you celebrating a corporate milestone? Launching a new product or service? Fundraising for your staff’s nominated charity?Starting a new apprenticeship or training scheme? Whatever you’re doing, it needs to be linked to your company or you risk investing a lot of money for a fun time but with attendees leaving with no brand recall.
10 - Assess and reassess
Certainly not the last place you should start, but a good way to round out our list of how to get started with PR is measurement. Ensure whatever elements of PR you are activating also include time (and budget, where needed) to assess, tweak, and reassess your activity, before measuring its success. PR is a long-term investment into the future pipeline of your business and is not one for quick short leads.
You need a clear objective from the outset - why are you doing what you’re doing? What do you want to get out of it? It’s only by understanding what your objective is that you can gauge the success (or failure) of any activity. And sometimes things won’t work the way you’d hoped, but you need to carry forward those learnings and refine your strategy accordingly.
Getting started with PR isn’t as simple as sending out a press release, but it’s not prohibitive either. With so many facets to this challenging discipline, it’s worth considering the resources you need to properly drive campaigns forward.
Even with an in-house team, many companies call upon third party agencies to assist with general campaigns - where a new pair of eyes, removed from the day to day operations, can provide a fresh perspective - or specialist sectors such as media outreach - and be a dedicated, constant resource. .
If you’d like to find out more about how Haynes Marcoms can help with your PR, get in touch here.