In an economic downturn, many firms cut public relations budgets. Is that wise?
It depends. Review your strategy to make sure you are reaching your customers–and potential customers–while cutting extraneous activities. More isn’t necessarily better. Targeted public relations can yield more results than a shotgun approach. The bottom line–think strategy. Every effort must yield a return on investment.
Know Your Brand Before undertaking a PR effort, know your organization and what it stands for. A brand is what your employees, customers, competitors and stakeholders feel and say about your product or services.
A review of critical strategic checkpoints will confirm whether your brand is ready for roll-out or if it is needs strengthening. The vision, mission and company goals and objectives should be driven and supported by leadership, accepted by management and clear to all.
Planning Your PR Approach While you can’t anticipate every contingency, you need an effective public relations plan. Create a plan that includes your goals, key messages, target audience and communications strategies.
This annual plan should incorporate an analysis of priority items including media–including press releases, press kits, bylined articles, and surveys–and social media plans. Take into consideration additional external corporate communications efforts, including advertising, award submissions, speaking engagements, webinars and websites. Internal communications should be folded into the plan.
Next, think about using the plan as a base for sector-specific or office, regional or international communications efforts.
The Website: First Line of Marketing A business’ first line of marketing is its website. When allocating marketing dollars, invest in your website. Make sure that your brand is reflected in the message and your mission, vision, values and brand are clearly stated.
Your website needs to be optimized to harness traffic and allow increased visibility. Most site visitors scan news sections, so make sure this is relevant and easy to find. Update your website often, displaying your most current and exciting projects and announcements.
Watch your back-end website metrics to analyze who is visiting your site. Check out your referrals including sites, URLs, links and in-site referrals. To find out how your website is doing in terms of traffic and search engine optimization, evaluate it for free at websitegrader.com.
Wiring and Monitoring Your News The market is flooded with a number of mediums to get your message out. The cost to send a press release through a wire service ranges from free up to $1,400. Some are:
• Free News Distribution Sites: newswiretoday.com; prlog.org; 1888pressrelease.com; pitchengine.com
• Paid Distribution Sites: marketwire.com; prnewswire.com; prweb.com
Monitor your news through a tracking service. If you have a zero budget, you can track through a Google firm search. Inexpensive services such as HighBeam Research cost as little as $200 per year. Meltwater News runs approximately $3,500 per year, while PR Newswire fees can run up to $10,000 per year.
Socializing Through Media Social media is excellent for expanding your public relations efforts. Often, what you are doing can be recycled into social media messages.
Key top social media sites include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and WordPress. These sites are programmed to speak to each other. For example, if you place a post on WordPress, it can be easily programmed to post on Facebook and Twitter.
Blogs are a creative way to share your company’s culture. They can be tagged by topic for easy Internet searches, dramatically increasing your reach to customers and building connectivity as well as boosting staff morale. Don’t forget to set up blog metrics; they allow you to gauge daily traffic as well as sources driving people to view your blog.
Social media is not going away. The way we communicate in a just-in-time, spontaneous way will never change. It will only be re-addressed, reinvented and repackaged.
With the new viral market, public relations professionals have the power to create their own buzz. It’s up to us to get out there and make it happen.