Two thousand and seventeen is drawing to a close. What a year it has been. It has been a year that has seen some major stories with serious public relations lessons that will be applied going into 2018 and far beyond.
What were the major stories and the public relations lessons that can be learned from them?
- The #metoo movement with stories of sexual harassment and assault and how organizations respond to these allegations. From Harvey Weinstein to Charlie Rose to Matt Lauer and numerous other prominent men, 2017 saw their careers come to an end with sordid stories of sexual harassment and assault. For the organizations that had employed these men, the public relations challenge was, how do you address the allegations when made against an employee, how do you reassure shareholders, and how do you let the public know that no such conduct will be tolerated and if such things happened the culture of the company has changed. This calls for a public relations strategy of being proactive and getting in-front of such stories, highlighting the company culture, and navigating social media.
- United Airlines. The videos of a United Airline passenger being forcibly removed from a flight sent stock shares of the airline plummeting and made United the butt of every late night comedian and countless memes on social media. The airline was further hurt by its initial response to the situation. Social media brought this story to the forefront and fueled public outrage. It again showed the power of social media and how it drives narratives. This will only increase in 2018. In fact, social media often reports on a crisis before traditional media. Organizations need to be conscious of this fact. They must ensure that they monitor social media as they do traditional media and address social media in a consistent way with all other modes of communication employed.
- Equifax data breach. The Equifax data breach is still being felt today by consumers. Bad as the breach was, the credit reporting giant’s response to the crisis worsened the situation and caused even additional harm to the once mighty brand. The company waited weeks before reporting the breach and even when it finally admitted to the breach did not get all of the information out at one time. Rather Equifax released information in installments and allowed the media often to reveal information before the company would admit it. The lesson for any organization or individual from Equifax is to be proactive, transparent, and get everything out at one time during a crisis.
- The NFL and the take a knee movement. Donald Trump calling out NFL players who kneeled during the playing of the national anthem led to even more players taking the knee. Yet the public did not support the NFL or the players in this stand as seen by declining attendance at games and television ratings. The reason was that many fans felt that the protests went against the NFL brand and did not understand what the players were protesting. The lessons from this are – be consistent to your brand and fully explain actions that the public might not understand.
- Donald Trump. Donald Trump dominated the news in 2017 for good or bad. His policies and statements created strong passions. From this, consumers came to expect brands to take stands on political and social issues. Brands have often been reluctant to do this fearing they will alienate a sector of consumers. But today’s consumers in the age of Trump expect a brand to take a stand on the issues and brands are being forced to do so. This trend will accelerate in 2018.
Two thousand and seventeen was an eventful year. Its impact on businesses in terms of public relations will be felt far into 2018 and beyond.
Two thousand and eighteen is just a matter of weeks away. Brands are already wondering what will be the top public relations trends for the upcoming year and how they can stay ahead of the curve.
Here are three of what will be the top PR trends for 2018 that brands must be aware of and prepared for:
- Brand reputation. More than ever before brand reputation will matter to consumers. This means not only the cost and quality of a good or service but a brand’s story and its values. Brands need to capitalize in channels that they directly control – website, blog, social media – to convey this. In traditional media stories, brands need to be consistent with the values and story that they tell. This will earn greater brand loyalty and allow a brand to weather any crisis that might arise.
- Brands are going to have to address social and political issues. We live in one of the most polarized political periods in history. Social media and the 24/7-news cycle magnify this. While brands in the past have shied away from addressing political and social issues, today’s consumers demand that they do. This means in 2018, brands will need to take a stand and communicate that stand, making it consistent with the values and reputation that consumers believe the brand stands for. Avoiding controversial issues will not be tolerated by the consumer. Brands need to have their messages prepared.
- Influencer marketing increases. The power of influencer marketing continues at an accelerated pace. In 2018, the cost of it will increase, as will its power to sway consumers. Brands will need a clearly defined strategy to maximize their campaigns and stand out from the competition with influencer marketing.
Two thousand and eighteen will be a fast-paced year. Knowing the key PR trends and being prepared to use them will allow your brand to make it a profitable year.
Whether you are a corporate leader, author, entertainer, athlete, or seeking to influence public policy, you know that you need public relations. Yet despite this, many people are uncertain of what the benefits of public relations are.
First you have to understand what public relations is. A basic definition of what public relations does for companies, authors, entertainers, athletes, organizations, and brands is it shapes and molds their public image. It utilizes the right strategies to allow for you to be heard and seen, through media outlets.
So, what are the benefits of public relations?
- Target market. A well-crafted and orchestrated public relations campaign targets the media and events that your target market utilizes. If you are a toy company making board games, a public relations campaign will target the media that people who like board games read, watch, or listen too. The campaign will also target trade shows and events that will give your product the maximum exposure, as well as, obtain celebrity endorsements that will carry weight with consumers. If you are a romance author, public relations will allow you to reach readers who purchase romance books through media interviews, book reviews, book signings, and speaking engagements.
- Businesses, authors, celebrities, brands and any organization conduct public relations not just to promote something but to build a better image. Effective public relations allows your brand to attain a positive image both online and offline, which benefits you for the long haul and brands your image in the public’s consciousness.
- Public relations such as a media interview, review, or media profile, carries weight with the public. It is seen as a third party (the media outlet) endorsement. The public knows that such media mentions are not paid for by the company, unlike an advertisement. Studies show that consumers give a media mention over 7 times the credibility they do an advertisement.
- Public relations is more cost efficient than advertising. The rates for public relations along with the results it produces, are between 30% to 50% better than doing advertising.
- Lead Generation. The media placement from public relations is long lasting. This is especially true with Google, company and media outlets websites. While you will see the greatest number of leads after the media mention appears, the leads continue long after as people find the media story online during searches.
The benefits of public relations are immense. It is long lasting with the impact felt long after the initial campaign.
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.
The importance of a good television interview cannot be overstated. Everyone knows the power of television and that it often reaches far more people than other media forms. In addition, a television interview can be repurposed for online marketing and social media outlets. With advances in technology, more television interviews, especially on networks and affiliates in major cities are being conducted via Skype. For the television networks and stations this cuts down on production costs. For the interviewee it means more preparation for the interview.
Here are some things to consider when doing a Skype interview:
- Check Your Connection– Test your Wifi connection in advance. Make sure that it working and that signal is strong.
- Make Sure Your Video Is On – The worst thing that can happen on a Skype interview is for the video not to be working.
- Consider Your Background– Keep it simple and branded, if possible. A background with the company logo is perfect. Also blue and green backgrounds are ideal. Avoid red backgrounds.
- Avoid Bare Walls– Add visual interest, but be relevant to the topic at hand. Bookshelves are always a nice touch.
- Secure Your Location; Lock the Door– Make sure no one interrupts you during the interview.
- Wear Solid Colors– Busy patterns move and jump on camera. Dress just as you would if you were in studio.
- Look Into The Webcam– Look at the viewer; not yourself. This is critical as you want to come across to viewers as direct and as if you were in the studio.
- Create Space; Sit Back– Don’t get too close to the webcam.
- Center Yourself– Be sure you are in the center of the screen.
- Check Your Lighting– Make sure you are well-lit and not in shadow. At the same time don’t overdo it. Shut any blinds or curtains to avoid any sun glare.
- Turn Off All Notifications– You don’t want your inbox pinging you or sounds going off that will disrupt your flow and distract the audience.
- Use a Professional Skype Name– Remember this is how the television station or network will contact you. You want your name to reflect you and your brand. Avoid Skype names like Partyanimal or OnforaBuzz.
Skype interviews are the way all of television is headed. By following these simple rules you will guarantee yourself a successful interview that will reach potential customers and be able to be utilized on social media channels.
Business leaders know that their companies need public relations. It increases a company’s visibility, assists in marketing efforts to increase profits, and helps establish a strong brand identity in the market. Regardless of size or type of business, public relations is essential to any business.
The benefits of public relations for business success are immeasurable. Among the benefits are:
- Today’s consumer is more savvy than ever before. They start their search for a product or service online. Not only do they check a company’s website, but they search social media, reviews, and news stories about the business. With public relations, companies have a strong social media presence as well as credibility through media stories about the company and its products and services.
- Brand Identity. Public relations creates brand identity with the public. This is done through media relations, social media, community relations, and other public relations tools. This means that that the consumer is aware of the company and what its brand stands for in terms of values and service (and today many consumers search for brands that share their values).
- Public relations doesn’t equal sales. What it does is reinforce marketing efforts. Studies show that companies that use public relations see an increase in the success of their marketing efforts by 45%. Don’t just take our word for it though, recall what Bill Gates said, “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations.”
Public relations is critical to business success and growth. Every company needs a public relations strategy and needs to keep it continuous to reap the benefits.
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.
One of the things many people ask about public relations is what is the difference between public relations and advertising. It is a common question that is asked time and time again. Yet the two should not be confused. Here are the differences between advertising and public relations:
- Advertising is paid placement. The company pays for the advertisement that is seen in the print publication, heard on the radio, or appears on television. The public knows that the advertisement is paid for by the company. Public relations on the other hand is free and is earned by being included in a story or interview. It provides an implied third party endorsement of a company’s product or service by the media.
- Message control. With advertising, the company pays for the message, controls what, where and when it will appear. In public relations, there is not the control over the message. The reporter determines what if anything they will report on. If a company knows how to make its message timely and compelling, the chances are that the reporter will cover it.
- Consumer Perception. With paid advertising, the customer knows that the provided the message with the intention of trying to sell them something—be it a service or a product. When someone reads a third-party article written about a company’s service or product (or sees/hears coverage on television or radio), the message is perceived as non-biased and an endorsement by the media.
- An advertisement lasts as long as the company pays for it to run. After that the advertisement disappears. With public relations, the story lasts forever thanks to the internet leaving a viral footprint that is discovered time and again. One client appeared in a newspaper article in 2006 discussing online shopping and that article still appears as a top search engine item for the client. A television appearance can last forever thanks to YouTube, the television outlet’s archives, and also the transcript of the show.
- Point of contact. With advertising a sales representative is the main point contact when fulfilling an advertising campaign. With public relations, the point of contact are reporters, editors, and producers.
- An advertisement will never appear on the front page of a newspaper or be the lead on the nightly news. In public relations, a news story can be on the front page and be the lead story on the nightly news giving a company extra weight in the court of public perception.
Can the difference between advertising and public relations be confusing? Yes. But the key to remember is that both are essential for a successful marketing program.