By Helen Westgate, Managing Director, Westgate
Do you know what people think about your company? Its aims, its achievements, its reputation?
If the answer to any of the above is “no” then there is almost certainly a void where public relations should be. But it demands insight, application and imagination.
A positive public profile is vital to the commercial viability of any organisation. But to be perceived in a positive light by target audiences is rarely a happy accident. Building an image is a careful process of discreet messaging and strategic communications.
Are you ready for PR? Do you…
· Have an accurate perception of your reputation?
· Can you state clearly your unique selling points?
· Do you know where you want to be in five, ten, twenty years time?
· Will you be able to give real investment to PR, particularly in terms of management time?
If you cannot consistently state how you would like to be perceived by external audiences then you almost certainly have a problem. Any internal disagreements must be settled before you talk to anyone outside your organisation.
However if you feel you know what sets you apart, are clear about your positioning and have the resource, then now is the time to start.
First you need to determine your target audiences, the fundamental part of the PR brief. If you are trying to improve your profile in the eyes of an FMCG marketing manager, you must consider whether they will be influenced by reading about you in the pages of Marketing Magazine or by seeing you on the rostrum at an industry conference.
The most effective PR plans focus strongly on these “influencers” - usually the media or industry events. Once these are identified, your PR team will outline the tactics designed to deliver the desired profile to these audiences.
When briefing an agency do ensure they adopt a focused approach. There is no point in securing minor media coverage on your company in a huge array of different titles with an irrelevant release. Better to get in-depth coverage in one really influential publication with perhaps an opinion piece on current industry issues.
The PR person will “sell” your company to the media; the success of this process depends on the strength of your positioning, the quality of your information, what other articles or events are being planned and finally on the luck that all these elements are in place at the right time. Luck is never an easy thing to plan.
There can be a real danger of rushing in with all PR guns blazing only to find that three months later, there is nothing new to say. Spread out your activity across your work calendar.
It is also vital to monitor all activity. Not every element will deliver the desired impact – there are no guarantees in PR. If a tactic isn’t working then adopt another strategy to get the same result. But be patient. In many cases PR results can be a “slow burn” and come to fruition in the longer term.
You will know your PR is working when your corporate profile is elevated with all the associated gravitas that independent third party endorsement brings. There is no comparison between paid for advertising and the independent editorial endorsement that PR generates.
This will then be reflected in your reputation, your bottom-line and even in confidence from the financial community for whatever ambitions you have for expansion.
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