A very common question asked when considering public relations is, do I need a public relations agency? The answer is yes, you do need a public relations agency for a variety of reasons (and not just because we are a public relations agency).
Why you ask do you need a public relations agency? Let us count the reasons why:
- The media receives thousands of pitches a day. Having a public relations agency make the media contact adds credibility to you and what you are promoting. It shows the media that you, your company, service or product are credible and you are placing money behind it to promote it. Trying to do it yourself lessens your credibility in the eyes of the media.
- It saves you money and time. In business, everything revolves around the bottom line. In this alone it is smarter to retain a public relations agency. Public relations is not just press releases, press conferences, and media appearances. It also includes the social media aspect of maintaining a company’s blog, and social media pages. This would require several salaried people. In terms of salary alone, you are losing out as with a retainer with a public relations agency you have a team of professionals on your account that handle each aspect of that public relations campaign. For small and medium sized organizations, the savings is even greater. Not only are you saving money, you are saving time and remember time is money. There are not enough hours in the day for a small or medium sized business to do everything that needs to be done. And time away from your core business means lost opportunities.
- The personnel at a public relations agency are the experts in their field. They bring their expertise in writing, social media, media relations, branding, and special events to the plate. They know public relations. They know how to position a client for the maximum exposure. They have the contacts with the media. They know which reporters will cover which topics and also how to package a story that the media wants. Many people think of an interview in terms of sales, it isn’t. If a reporter suspects someone is just trying to sell them something through their story it will never see the light of day. An experienced public relations expert knows how to package a story so that it is newsworthy to the reporter while still being of marketing benefit to a client.
- Crisis Communications. Most people think of public relations as positive news. It is, until disaster strikes. Businesses always have a plan for when a crisis strikes in how to handle things except in terms of publicity. Working with an agency means a preliminary crisis communications plan has been developed beforehand that can be altered to fit the crisis. Agency personnel have the skills and experience to objectively evaluate your business, clearly assess its strengths and weaknesses, and figure out how to use them in crisis communications.
- By bringing in someone from the outside you are bringing in someone who can be more objective and doesn’t have the emotional commitment and blinders that an owner or company employee has and can assess what ideas will work and what won’t work.
- A public relations agency tends to be more creative in developing story ideas and teasers to induce the media and can think outside the corporate box. An agency constantly monitors the news and often sees opportunities that others don’t. For example, our agency represented a marriage counseling service and when the Anthony Weiner story broke during the 2016 campaign, went into pitching mode to have our client discuss why powerful men cheat which resulted in coverage on FOX News Channel, CNN, HLN, Good Morning America, People Magazine, and the New York Post.
So, based on these reasons, the answer to whether you need a public relations agency is quite simple and emphatic. Yes, you do.
Businesses seek to attract attention to their newest brand, product or service. With about a quarter of a million new product and service launches globally each year, and countless established brands seeking coverage, it’s not always easy for a new company get the publicity it seeks. But, it’s possible to break through the clutter.
Here are a few ways to achieve it:
- Get key stakeholders involved early.
- Use several ways to get your message out.Media Relations
- Social Media
- Stakeholder Involvement
- Give the media various ways to cover your news.
- Know your story and what makes it unique.
- Utilize a variety of storytellers in getting your message out.
The challenge for any new business is getting the word out and attracting customers. That is why the roll out is so important. Without the proper public relations campaign, you may have the greatest product or service ever but nobody will know about it. Following these basic strategies will ensure that people do learn about it.
Speaking engagements are a critical part of any public relations campaign. They allow a person to get before their target audience and directly communicate with them. Authors find that after a speaking engagement, members of the audience will purchase copies of their book. Business leaders find that after a speaking engagement members of the audience will be interested in their products and services. In addition, speaking engagements assist in branding the speaker as an expert in their field. Despite all of these benefits many people find speaking engagements to be challenging and nerve wracking.
What are some tips to help when doing speaking engagements?
- Know your purpose for speaking. Are you looking to help in branding yourself as an expert? Are you looking for sales? Knowing what you hope to achieve from the speech helps in the development of the speech and developing key points to zero in on.
- Know the audience. It is critical that you know who will be in the audience; the level of understanding they have on your subject matter; and what they hope to learn and achieve by attending and listening to you. Knowing this will allow you to develop the key points in your delivery.
- Keep it simple. When crafting your speech have three main points that you want to get across. More than three will lose the attention of the audience.
- Use stories. A personal story with some humor and facts always is a hit with an audience. It is also a way to connect with attendees.
- Concentrate on the beginning and the ending. Audiences pay the most attention to a speaker’s opening and closing remarks. You want those parts of your speech to be memorable and have a call to action for the audience.
Speaking engagements are critical in any public relations program. Utilizing these tips will help any speaker achieve the results they are seeking.
Our society is more polarized today than at any moment in recent memory. Our politics is divisive. Opinions have become more outspoken and outraged. Driving all of this is social media. Social media has allowed millions to have a voice and share their opinion. It is also a driving force in spreading disapproval of a brand when it takes a stand that someone disagrees with. The hashtag #Boycott followed by a brand’s name is one of the most popular ones on Twitter. Brands need to be prepared when this happens.
Here are a few examples.
A local Cracker Barrel in Indiana fired the wife of a man named Brad. Brad went on to social media to demand that Cracker Barrel explain why his wife was fired. His posts were picked up by people on social media with the hashtag #JusticeforBradsWife. The Cracker Barrel social media sites were inundated with comments and questions about Brad’s wife. Traditional media picked up the story which became a humorous running joke. Cracker Barrel ignored the posters and social media outcry. This led to a new hashtag #BoycottCrackerBarrel. The chain took a hit and its stock price went down.
Adidas made a tone-deaf move by sending out an email to Boston Marathon participants with the subject line, “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!” the day after this year’s marathon – just four years after the bombings at the 2013 marathon. The backlash was immediate. The hashtag #BoycottAddias started. Before it could gain traction and Adidas quickly issued a public apology saying, “We are incredibly sorry. There was no thought given to the insensitive email subject line we sent Tuesday. We deeply apologize for our mistake.”
The heartfelt public apology stopped #BoycottAddias in its tracks. It prevented the incident from turning into a negative three- to five-day story.
A result of #Boycott means that it is more important than ever to make sure that you are prepared with a statement supporting your decision if you are caught in the crosshairs of a boycott. Or if you feel like you’ve made a mistake, make sure the statement explains why you made the decision in the first place and what you are doing to fix the issue. Consumers want to know their voices are being heard and changes are being made.
Social media drives narratives. That cannot be emphasized enough. And it is particularly true during a crisis over customer service. More and more dissatisfied customers are taking to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to express their displeasure over poor customer service or what they view as poor quality products. A case in point happened with the Twitter war between conservative author, Ann Coulter and Delta Airlines.
Coulter’s problems with Delta began, after the exit-row seat she reserved on her flight from New York to West Palm Beach was given away to a fellow passenger without any “explanation, compensation or apology” she claimed on Twitter. Delta’s social media team reached out via Twitter apologizing to Coulter and offering to compensate her the extra money she had paid. But that wasn’t the end of the Twitter war heard around the world. Coulter took again to Twitter attacking Delta, its employees, and even the passenger who took her seat. Delta responded to her via Twitter defending its employees and passengers. The feud between Coulter and Delta was picked up by the news media and is still ongoing. Yet it raises the question in this social media driven age in which every tweet and post is analyzed, how should a company respond when under attack via social media?
These are some things a company should do and remember:
- Respond to the complaint. Ignoring it will only make the customer angrier and lead to others on social media joining in. Like Delta originally did, acknowledge a mistake if it was made, offer an apology, and finally offer a resolution. Always act as if your response will be viewed by the entire world because with the power of social media it probably will be.
- Stand up for the company if you are unfairly accused of something. In the case of Delta, the company stood up for its employees and passengers when Coulter’s tweets began attacking them. This showed a humanizing face for Delta and allowed the company also to stand up against false allegations. They also remembered that part of their brand identity is their employees and they defended that brand DNA that was under attack.
- Use humor and class in admitting a major mistake if possible. Social media can be abusive and snarky. If admitting a mistake, a company is always smart to use some self-depreciating humor in its response and take the high road. Anything else will make the social media crisis worse.
- Have a social media team that responds 24/7. Social media never rests and that why a company always needs to respond right away or else the social media firestorm will grow.
Social media complaints are never-ending. The key for companies is to respond to each in a way that it is one and gone. Failing to do so will ensure that the complaint becomes a full blown crisis on social media and then in the traditional media causing extreme brand damage.
Brands know that public relations is essential to success. It develops brand identity and reinforces ongoing marketing efforts. But to see strong success from public relations, certain elements must be in place.
What elements are critical and need to be in place for successful public relations?
- Effective Website: People need to be able to find you after they hear about you. Beyond that, when people land on your website, are they taking the action you want them? Your website needs to be designed for that. And this should go without saying, your website needs to be friendly on all devices.
- Powerful Call-To-Action: Your website needs to have a clear call-to-action allowing you to capture email addresses of those who come on it. It should offer an incentive that corresponds to your public relations message in exchange for that valuable contact information. Without effective lead capture, you’re missing out on all potential leads the public relations sends your way.
- Social Media Presence: The key to effectively using the public relations you have obtained is by promoting it. In this day and age, that means promoting the message on all social media platforms. You should have a strong, clear, and active social media platform with an engaged community when doing a public relations campaign.
Without these key elements in place when doing a public relations campaign, public relations is like striking it rich at the lottery. With these elements, public relations brings a strong return on investment not merely for brand identity but sales.
The major challenge for a business after a major crisis is regaining public trust. It has taken years for a business to build the trust and now that the crisis has hit, the business must begin rebuilding the trust again. It helps if the business had a reservoir of goodwill prior to the crisis and managed the crisis with a strong response. It cannot be emphasized enough that in having a strong crisis management plan in place during the crisis helps in the rebuilding.
So now moving forward what is to be done?
The first step is to explain now that the crisis has passed what steps the business is doing to ensure that it will never happen again. This message must be conveyed to the public, vendors, and internally to employees. This should be done in a strong way, outlining the specific steps that are being taken.
A greater emphasis on customer satisfaction and service is critical during this time period. Look at the steps United Airlines took after its disaster when a passenger was dragged off one of its flights.
The organization might want to look at developing a new mission statement as it emerges from the crisis. This should emphasize more than just profits. It should put a premium on customer service and making the world, the country, state, or city a better place.
Ethics and sensitivity training programs based upon the crisis should be instituted. This helps ensure that every employee knows the proper procedures and what is expected of them.
Also a greater emphasis should be placed on community outreach and charitable programs. This will help rebuild goodwill and also show that the company cares.
Rebuilding a reputation after a crisis doesn’t happen overnight but it can be done. Just as with the crisis, you need a strong plan for after the crisis to regain public trust.