Content Calendar: A Key Component to any Strategic PR Plan

Content Calendar: A Key Component to any Strategic PR Plan

Oftentimes public relations professionals think of content calendars as a tool for marketing communications programs. Having an internal editorial calendar is absolutely important for any content program.  Since an integrated public relations campaign has evolved from just media relations, PR pros should also consider a content calendar as part of their overall strategic PR plan.

Knowing your audience(s) is one of the primary tenants of public relations, and the purpose of any good content is to engage, educate and encourage action. Therefore, it is necessary for us to identify those people who really are influential and approach them through high-quality content rather than corporate or product blurbs.

It is also essential to make sure that a content calendar is developed based on your overall marketing goals.  What do you want to accomplish this year? What new products will be announced? Are you a start-up just entering the market or are you positioning for an IPO, other investments or hoping for an exit strategy? Positioning your executives as subject matter experts and/or thought leaders is always a good strategy in any PR Plan.

So, what should be incorporated into a public relations content calendar to reach appropriate audiences and support marketing objectives?

Events

Events are one of the best opportunities to make your public relations strategy successful, whether it is through external trade shows such as HIMSS or other health/medical conferences or internal events such as webinars and user groups. Listing upcoming events in your content calendar allows you to develop content that strategically targets potential buyers as well as current customers, and position executives and thought leaders, all based on the timeline for the events. You can tie press releases and customer case studies to events, announce executive speakers or even blog about your giveaways at a trade show.

Press Releases

A well accepted strategy in PR is to average one press release every month.  This allows you to keep your name and messaging top of mind and fresh with reporters.  Scheduling your press releases in advance of industry events and around product launches helps your PR team coordinate with your marketing team to make sure the news is ready to be disseminated at the right time.

Articles/Case Studies

Thought leadership articles and case studies are excellent tools in the arsenal of any PR professional to demonstrate your knowledge and experience. Planning to develop these types of articles in your content calendar and then pitching for placement in key media outlets is the kind of valuable coverage many organizations desire. Compare the articles you plan to develop to the next category – editorial opportunity calendars – and you’ve got a head start on content that can be published.

Editorial Opportunity Calendars

Years ago, editorial opportunity calendars were the bread and butter in any PR campaign. With the move towards online media, many publications no longer publish or adhere to editorial calendars.  But some still do and researching those calendars and adding key opportunities to your PR content calendar allows you to develop content in a timely basis to pitch to those media outlets. Make sure, however, that you build in lead times into your calendar.  Another benefit to editorial calendars is they give you an idea of what topics the media is interested in covering and can help you develop a list of content ideas for the year.

Other categories that can be included in an integrated PR content calendar are blogs, customer newsletters and social media outreach.  There are plenty of free tools on the web that you can use to develop a content calendar.

In the end, it all works together. Having a calendar of events, press releases and editorial opportunities allows a public relations professional to strategically plan to develop content that meets deadlines, achieves marketing goals and engages, educates and encourages action from your key audiences.

Thought leadership or not?

Thought leadership or not?

One of the trickiest jobs of a PR professional consists of guiding corporate executives to the proper mix of marketing and thought leadership in various types of writing.

The easy part, relatively speaking, is persuading them that if they insist on promoting their product directly in a bylined article, it won’t be published. In case they have any doubts, you can just suggest that they take a look at the publication online and see if any of its articles are marketing-oriented.

On the other hand, by its nature a case study or a press release is strictly promotional. Readers expect that the story will focus on a product or a business deal and that it will be structured to make the company and the product look as good as possible.

But the boundaries are much more porous when it comes to white papers, sometimes known as position papers.  Over the years, I’ve worked for clients who have had many different ideas about what such papers should be.

Ultimately, of course, they all wanted to sell their products. But only some executives grasp the concept of a truly effective white paper: It should draw in readers with a point of view about an industry trend and promote the company’s product indirectly by showing the need for it.

The rest want me to blatantly list the advantages of their product somewhere in the paper. To them, it’s just another form of advertising.

I don’t know whether a rigorous study has ever been done to measure the readership of these two kinds of papers, controlling for length and the demand for information on the topic. But I’d venture to guess that industry stakeholders would be more interested in a paper that gave them information they could use than in another piece of marketing collateral.

Interestingly, big companies are no more likely than small ones to embrace the concept of true thought leadership pieces. Because they’re big, they may commission longer papers that have space to discuss industry trends or government regulations at greater length. But in the end, they still usually want their product promoted, with hardly a fig leaf to cover it.

It was actually a small, rapidly growing firm that gave me the widest rein to show its thought leadership and vision. Over a period of several years, I wrote a dozen or more white papers that helped build the company’s reputation for expertise in population health management.

I always mentioned the need for health IT solutions that could help healthcare organizations manage population health. But for the most part, the papers focused on topics that people needed to know about, ranging from accountable care organizations (ACOs) and patient-centered medical homes to care coordination, patient engagement and post-discharge care. Eventually, the company pulled together my essays into a book that it used effectively as a sales tool.

White papers and byliners are not the only vehicles for thought leadership. Occasionally, if a company CEO is a recognized expert in a particular area, you might be able to get a major publication such as the Wall Street Journal or the Washington Post to publish a thought leadership piece by that person.

The easiest way to do this, by the way, is to pitch a letter to the editor. But it has to be on a hot topic, and you have to get it in very quickly.

One way to show a company executive the difference between marketing and thought leadership is to ask him or her where they see a bylined article or position paper being published. If they say they’d like to reach a broad universe, you advise them to think about thought leadership. If they insist on a marketing message, you tell them that it’s probably only going to be posted on their website or printed up for use by their salespeople.

A sophisticated PR professional or marketer knows that organizations need the right mix of these two kinds of communications to be successful. But thought leadership should be part of the package so that companies can impress potential clients with their deep knowledge and brilliant insights.

After reading a white paper or a bylined piece of this type, the potential buyer will probably not go running to your client. But when the organization’s salesperson comes calling, they’re likely to remember something about the company that caught their attention.

Like medicine and angling, PR is as much an art as a science. What it takes to help organizations succeed depends on how many tools you have in your toolkit, and how many different approaches you try. Eventually, if your executives trust you, they will land a fish or two.

 

Best Practices for Making Bad Publicity Better

True or false: There is no such thing as bad publicity.

If you said “true”, you are likely of the mindset that as long as someone is talking about you or your company, it’s an indication you are relevant and you’re pleased that your brand is being reinforced in the market. If you are a Kardashian, you’re probably a lover of all publicity.

If you said “false”, you might be thinking about how leaders in the Catholic church are feeling in light of the most recent sexual abuse allegations. Or perhaps you are recalling last year’s publicity disaster involving United Airlines and the older passenger who was dragged off the plane. Both these organizations probably wish certain stories would just go away.

If you’re unsure how to answer the above question – well, you aren’t alone.

Recently a client asked us how to respond to an article that included some critical remarks about the company’s primary product. The writer offered far more praise than criticism, but the client was still upset by the negative comments. The client wanted to know if we thought they should write a rebuttal or if it would be best to simply ignore the comments and hope that the market would overlook the story – or at least quickly forgot the negative statements.

As we shared with our client, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to addressing negative press. However, in the event your organization or products are profiled in a less-than-favorable light, here are a few best practices to consider.

Remove the emotions. It’s human nature to be defensive and even feel hurt by critical words. However, when criticism is hurled in your direction, it’s best to start off taking a deep breath instead of immediately lashing back.

Assess the criticism. Once your emotions are in check, review the critic’s words and decide if there is any validity to the critiques. If the comments carry some truth, be honest and acknowledge what is true. If the critic is off-base, you must decide whether or not a response is warranted.

Respond or ignore. Regardless of the validity of the negative comments, sometimes it’s best to remain silent and ignore certain issues, rather than fuel the fire and make more people aware of the criticism.  If the negative comments end up going viral, however, consider preparing a thoughtful, factual and unemotional response.

Respond quickly. If you choose to formally address the issue, do so quickly, lest you appear indifferent to the matter or accepting of the criticism (even if you believe the criticism is not valid.)

Own up and be polite. Manners matter, so begin by thanking your critics for taking the time and effort to share their thoughts and for providing feedback that might be helpful in the future. Don’t attack the critic, even if the critic failed to express his criticisms in eloquent or tactful terms. Own up to any valid criticisms and clarify any steps you intend to take to address the concerns that were raised.

Clarify your position. If your critic is not on point with all the facts, explain your position truthfully and succinctly without attacking the critic. This can also be an excellent opportunity to highlight your company’s unique value proposition, so weave in details that emphasize what makes the organization and its products special. Your ultimate objective should to boost your audience’s image of your company and products.

Pivot the storyline. Whether or not you publicly respond to negative comments, now is the time to change the storyline and seek opportunities for positive press. Proactively secure media interviews for company leaders, allowing them to comment on current industry trends – which could simultaneously boost their credibility and the company’s reputation. Consider publishing articles bylined by company executives on topics that highlight their industry knowledge and innovative thinking, and align their positions with the organization’s overall values and mission.

Most companies will face bad publicity at one time or another. If your organization is hit with unwanted negativity, take time to process any hurt or upset feelings and then start planning your strategy to minimize any damage. If you require outside resources for advice or to provide additional band-width, consider partnering with a PR firm that has crisis management experience.

Oscar Wilde once said, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about” – which, in my opinion, sounds more clever than accurate. Bad publicity CAN be bad. However, if you appropriately respond to bad publicity, it’s quite possible to minimize the bad – and even transform the bad into good publicity.

3 PR and Marketing Must-Haves for 2019

The signs of autumn are all around us—shorter days, pumpkin spice in abundance and 2019 budgets looming over our heads. Take this opportunity to revitalize your efforts. There are some evergreen items that are important to any successful marketing and public relations campaign, including pertinent social media, thought provoking content and strong media relations programs. However, what additional PR and marketing must-haves can you explore now to supplement these programs and make sure the budget is in place for them in the coming year?

As we say goodbye to summer, there are a few additional initiatives that are essential to giving your company an additional marketing edge:

  • Website refresh: A bit like spring cleaning, updating your website is a chance to rejuvenate it, make sure the messaging projected is current along with any facts and figures that are used. Still citing 2008 statistics? Time to find new content. Verify links and calls to action, ensuring they are all still relevant. Criteria to enhance SEO benefits are always being updated, so this is a chance to check meta tags, keywords and make sure that your site adheres to Google’s Mobile First push, which uses the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site. Adding fresh content, including blogs and video, helps with your search ranking and keeps visitors returning for more.
  • Webinars: Continue building thought leadership and trust with your target audiences through webinars. Increase brand awareness and get your messaging across while adding a human element to your company. People often view speakers as authorities on a given topic, so take this opportunity to show your knowledge. Webinars also are a chance to gather information on potential leads to supplement your sales funnel. These sessions can be recorded for future use and repurposed into whitepapers, eBooks, blogs or bylined article. Video bites can be captured and shared on your website and social media.
  • Customer testimonials: A recent study found that 86 percent of respondents felt online reviews were extremely, very or moderately important before making a purchasing decision. No matter how good you are, it carries more weight if someone else says it. Whether via text or video, having the people that use your product discuss how it helps them humanizes your company, lends credibility and illustrates the power of your solutions. These “reports from the field” give media and sales prospects narratives about how a solution is applied in a real-world situation and serve as tools for your sales team, along with fresh content for your website, lead generation and social media efforts.

These three tactics each have value on their own, work well together and will enhance an established public relations program or kick-start a new one. Better yet, there is no “one size fits all” approach to any of the above programs, so they can be tailored to your comfort level. Start at one level and scale up once you see results. Use your 2019 budget to employ tactics that will establish brand loyalty.

6 Reasons Why You (and Your Company) Should Participate in National Healthcare IT Week

On this blog we often talk about how to use PR and marketing to help build the brand and drive sales for healthcare and healthcare IT (HIT) products. Most of the time the activities we discuss require some significant effort. But there’s an online event coming up next week that can actually pay big dividends with considerably less of an investment on your part: National Healthcare IT Week. Here’s the skinny…

Who: Thought leaders, Health IT companies and future Healthcare IT entrepreneurs

What: National Healthcare IT Week #NHITweek

When: October 8th – October 12th

Where: Online and locally

Why: It’s easy, relevant, it’s a great cause and great for building trust as a brand

Founded by HIMSS and the Institute for e-Policy, U.S. National Health IT Week (NHIT Week) is a nationwide awareness week focused on catalyzing actionable change within the U.S. health system through the application of information and technology. The week-long event is celebrated through partner-driven, national and local events along with online conversations through social media. It’s easy to get involved, so what’s the holdup?

Social media is often misunderstood as an unnecessary evil, especially in healthcare, but it is an amazing tool that allows you to reach your audience in a way that was never possible before. While developing and maintaining an online community does take time and resources, events like this allow users to reap some of the benefits quickly.

Even if you don’t have an internal social media coordinator or an amazing agency managing your online presence, you can still participate in National Healthcare IT Week and other similar events. Here are six reasons to jump on board if you haven’t already.

  1. Engage with like-minded people and companies. These types of events create a community around the cause. By finding like-minded people you may be able to make beneficial connections that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
  2. Gain a better understanding of the conversation. Conversations during these events come from a variety of perspectives. It’s common to get stuck viewing the world with tunnel vision by reviewing the same new sites, having favorite writers and viewpoints.
  3. Find new influencers. Participating in events like this including tweet chats are a great way to quickly find people with similar ideals with your company. You might find people experiencing problems you can solve.
  4. Gain trust with your target market. Trust is one of the most important aspects of the customer experience. These events offer a condensed time-frame that allows you to be a part of the conversation. It’s a great opportunity to show other users that your company actually wants to help.  Humanize your brand and spread awareness for the cause.
  5. Stay top of mind. Your competitors are likely participating in these events. Stay top of mind with your prospects and target market. Bonus: you will be top of mind with good sentiment.
  6. Take advantage of scalability. These events allow your organization to really adjust your involvement based on your resources. Participate in every aspect or do what you can with the time you and your team have available.

Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Become a partner
  • Share on social media
  • Share your story
  • Create or participate in an event locally

Be sure to let us know how you participate in the comments below too!