By Rob Skinner, MD, Skout PR.
Hooray! The working world is waking up again. Soon cool Cornish camping and sweltering Spanish sand will be a distant memory. Now the rush is on to cram as much marketing activity as possible into the next three months before the distraction of Christmas festivities kicks in.
We need to work fast to make noise during the buying period, but in cash strapped times communication is usually the first budget that’s cut. This is dangerous as now is the time to bang the drum loudest in front of the right people. Budgets are budgets however, so what can you do?
The answer is quite a lot, actually. You can increase the value and impact of your external communication activities with a capped or even reduced PR services budget. Your business can influence the people that will sway opinion and sales in its favour, without breaking the bank.
Here are six signposts towards generating more communications value through cost effective PR services; to help you counter the threat of ‘going quiet’ at a time when battening down the hatches won’t do your business any good at all.
1. Look at alternative ways of buying PR services
If you’re using a single PR agency team it might be that you need more flexibility; a mix of core and specialist agencies and self-motivated freelancers under professional management can give you more bang for your buck.
If you’re using a cost effective freelancer, you could up your game by working with a small network of differently skilled freelancers operating as a team. Build the high value PR team with experience in line with your communications brief. There’s a wide world of flexible PR skills out there – tech PR, green PR, b2b, corporate, CSR – build a team that’s fit for purpose, with specialism the key.
VALUE – big agency skills and freelance self motivation at small agency prices
2. Focus on business driven campaigns
If you’re trying to sell a particular product into a particular market, let PR into the mix. Too often PR is a ‘dripping tap’, reacting to external opportunities rather than creating them. Company ‘snooze’ on your website may fill pages but it doesn’t sell your products.
Brief your PR team or agency to come up with plans that directly support your marketing campaigns. Then, more of your budget will go on meeting the business’s immediate and pressing goals.
VALUE – higher sales conversion through intensive brand awareness and influence
3. Open the digital doors
It goes without saying that if you haven’t tapped into digital then it’s time to do so. This is a whole new arena for your organisation to build awareness and it can be fully integrated with traditional PR and marketing communications. Digital simply offers a different means of presenting content to people who matter to you in order to influence them, but if you do it right you can engage more directly and personally with them while enhancing your investment in search and online marketing.
VALUE – get closer to your customers and influencers than possible through traditional media
4. Visualise the endgame first
The best PR works in reverse. What I mean is that the content you need to develop depends on a) who you want to talk to and b) what media you need to engage and influence in order to do so.
Start by thinking who you need to influence, where you therefore need coverage, what type of content will make it, and then build the PR strategy that makes that possible. Locally focused PR for a Manchester based company might get it in the MEN but it won’t get it in the FT.
Keep questioning – what are we trying to achieve with this and how does it fit into the bigger picture. Also work in partnership with your top media, as in-depth and exclusive coverage there is worth ten broader if lighter results elsewhere.
VALUE – proper brand building coverage in front of the people you really care about.
5. Get your PR team to sell your product for a day
CEOs go back to the floor, so why can’t PRs? Many of the best sales people are those who have lived the product. The best way for PRs to understand how your business and its products and services work is for them to be that salesperson for the day.
Let them see first-hand how you sell and deal with knock-backs so that they can fine tune their pitch on your behalf. PRs sitting on the edge of a client organisation rarely get the true sense of what the company is about and this makes writing, pitching and securing coverage harder.
VALUE – higher rate of return on PR resources through a more successful pitch
6. Communications Collaboration
We all know that crowds shout loader. Alone, as a product vendor or supplier, you may have all the content and knowledge to appeal to your audiences, but not the clout. Collaboration is a great way of ‘doing something bigger’ for the same cost.
Partnering with relevant third parties – academia, partners, charities, customers – on PR activities provides you with impressive associations opens doors to new levels of content and increases your appeal to the media and influencers. No money needs to change hands – just shake on meeting some jointly beneficial communication objectives.
VALUE – greater appeal to the media than you could achieve alone delivers improved results
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