What to do when PR is “not working”

What to do when PR is “not working”

Every so often a client will tell us they aren’t sure our PR (public relations) efforts are working. The first time a client expressed that sentiment to me I was immediately defensive – because we had been placing well-written bylines in industry publications, coordinated multiple interviews and helped them populate their website with meaningful press releases and blog posts.

Then the client went on say he was basing his opinion on the fact that his company hadn’t seen an uptick in sales leads since starting their PR program six months earlier – which immediately stopped me from obsessing. I then realized that my client 1) didn’t have a firm grasp of what public relations is and isn’t, and, 2) didn’t understand what his company could and should be doing internally to leverage our PR efforts to advance other organizational goals – including the generation of more sales leads.

In case you ever find yourself wondering if PR is working for your company – and what to do if it’s not – here are a few thoughts on what public relations is and isn’t, as well as some suggestions to help your organization maximize the value of its PR initiatives.

Back to basics: what’s PR anyway?

At a high level, PR involves raising public awareness about a company, including its leadership in the industry, unique offerings and differentiating qualities. Public relations professionals focus on making companies top-of-mind within their specific industry niche.

To help raise a company’s profile, a PR firm will often capitalize on national industry trends to showcase an organization’s capabilities, differentiators, innovation and/or expertise. PR companies also promote members of a client’s executive team as industry thought leaders, either through media interviews or the placement of bylined, thought-leadership articles.

On the other hand, PR is not:

  • A lead generation service – though occasionally a well-placed interview does attract new prospects.
  • My octogenarian father doesn’t fully understand what my PR job entails and often tells people I handle things like writing catchy slogans, creating magazine ads and coordinating promotional campaigns. Of course, these are all functions that fall under the advertising umbrella and not traditional PR activities.
  • Marketing, which primarily focuses on the promotion and selling of specific products and services.

One final point of clarification: though advertising, lead-generation and marketing are not considered PR activities, many PR firms – including Amendola – offer these services, as well as content creation, social media, strategic counseling and more.

PR: a marathon and not a sprint

PR is often described as a marathon, rather than a sprint, because it typically takes months – even years – to realize the fruits of your PR labor. But a well-crafted and strategic PR program usually delivers the desired results over time. Within our firm, for example, we’ve witnessed small start-ups grow into industry leaders. We’ve also seen clients who have realized their exit goals after PR campaigns helped them appear on the radar of companies looking for investment and acquisition opportunities.

If you are just a few months into a PR program and questioning why your CEO still hasn’t appeared in the Wall Street Journal, you may want to check the marathon mile marker and reframe your expectations. Results rarely happen overnight – and this is particularly true if you don’t have end-users or executives willing and able to talk to media, or if you are in an over-crowded market niche.

Amplifying the value of PR efforts

If you’re anxious to see results from your PR program, here are a few best practices to help amplify the value of your PR efforts:

Social media. Any time a new interview or thought-leadership is published, share the news on your social media channels, including LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Also consider sending an e-blast of the article (or a link) to your customers and prospects. Be sure to include relevant hashtags and a short summary. Do share the article link multiple times, though try to mix up the messaging each time.

While you do want to leverage all placements, make sure too that your social media content includes more than self-promotion. You’ll gain new followers faster if you also post commentary on industry news or share interesting articles that are not directly related to your organization. To be seen as an industry thought leader you must demonstrate awareness of the broader market, and not just what’s going on in your company.

Here are some additional social media best practices to consider.

Stay fresh.  Try to maintain a regular cadence when issuing press releases, posting new blog posts and publishing thought leadership articles. Companies sometimes struggle with this, especially organizations that must secure content approval from multiple team members. However, fresh news and commentary should be a priority as it helps keep your company top-of-mind with the media, prospects and customers.

Also, be sure your website is updated with new content on an ongoing basis. When dropping a press release to the media, the news should also be immediately shared on your site. Similarly, add links or summaries of interviews and bylined articles as soon as they’re published, and regularly add new blogs on relevant topics. Visitors will return to your site more often if it’s seen as a source of interesting and regularly-updated content.

Cultivate thought leaders. For many company executives, the role of industry thought leader comes naturally. For others, talking to the media about current opportunities and future trends is more of a struggle.

If you have executives who find it challenging to communicate the company’s key messages or share their vision for the industry, encourage them to invest time in media training. Many PR firms offer this service and can help executives craft jargon-free messaging, as well as provide tips for delivering their story clearly and succinctly.

An additional tip for thought leaders: make yourself readily available to media when opportunities arise. Editors appreciate leaders who make themselves assessible and will remember the courtesy, should your company ever need a favor from a member of the media.

Find more tips for thought leaders here.

How does your organization evaluate the effectiveness of its PR efforts?

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