Very often I am asked to share PR insights and best practices. PR is such a misunderstood profession that I relish these opportunities to share, educate and inspire. My goal is to break down PR myths, one presentation at a time. Just this past week for example I had the chance to host a RISE (Relationship and Information Series for Entrepreneurs) session, “PR for Small Business.”
Although, PR should be such an integral part of any business, most business owners don’t approach PR with an understanding of how it fits into their overall business strategy. My focus for the session was to provide a solid framework for thinking about a business-aligned communication strategy. That is to say, to create guidelines for all external communications. Businesses need to have a proactive approach to PR as opposed to a reactive approach, i.e. they should actively seek PR opportunities that will move the needle on their business, not just respond to whatever might come their way. In order to create a true business communications strategy, PR should have a seat at the table when business goals are being mapped out. If not, a true business aligned communications strategy is not a realistic goal.
When I launched my namesake firm almost 3 years ago, I began with a simple premise that has guided my business; I stick to what I know and love and the business will grow. I was fortunate to have learned the craft and honed my skills while working with some of the most respected and beloved consumer brands, from Williams Sonoma to Nordstrom and many companies in between. An insider perspective is what is needed to create and sustain a brand that evokes a positive, loyal consumer response. There is no magic bullet. Understanding smart PR and being able to execute consistently in partnership with marketing is a powerful business driver.
Kimberly Strenk PR is a boutique lifestyle PR agency. We focus on promising young companies in the premium brand space. Premium is not about a price point. In our lexicon, it means that a company delivers on their consumer promise. Sound simple? Companies have to do what they say they will do and offer up products and services that delights the consumer. That is why we are successful delivering consistent and sometimes spectacular results; the story is real. That is when PR can be realized as a truly powerful and strategic asset.
With that, let’s jump right in: Common (PR) Myths
- You need a big budget. Social media and proliferation of specialized boutique agencies makes it easier to do PR on a smaller budget.
- Editorial = Advertising. Editorial is not the same as advertising. Editorial is earned. Advertising is paid. Talk about ROI!.
- If I could just get on Oprah. A press hit like this is a gift, say thank you and move onto a sustainable + strategic plan.
- It’s all about spin. Authenticity is the benchmark. Consumers have a voice because of social media. Be real, be consistent and deliver on the consumer promise. A company that relies on their PR agency to “spin” the story will not be sustainable in today’s environment of instant publication and connectivity.
- Just do it. There is no short cut.Competitive analysis and smart planning BEFORE execution will always pay dividends.
- Be real. Avoid hyperbole. Are you really the only, the fastest, the first and the best?
- Keep it simple. No jargon or trendy catchphrases, please.
- Focus is your friend. Prioritize. None of us can do it all, all of the time.
- Let the story unfold. As your business grows and captures important milestones, always communicate the vision and let the facts speak for themselves.
- Share. So busy moving forward and executing day to day, don’t forget to communicate your successes.
Now that we have some basic ground rules, how do we get started?
Getting Started: Internal
- Who are you. What’s your story. How did you get here?
- What makes you special. Understand what makes you stand out from the crowd. Be able to articulate this.
- Identify key influencers. Who are the people in your industry, in your marketplace and in your social circle who can impact your business? Identify these influencers and prepare to reach out to these folks.
- Build your network. You can’t do this alone. From employees, to vendors and contractors, surround yourself with talented and smart people that can become trusted advisers beyond their individual contributor role.
You’ve done your homework, let’s start communicating.
Getting Started: External
- Feedback. AKA “friendly bullet proofing” is the first stop. Ask people in your network to listen to your story and have them tell you what they think. Do people outside your industry understand your story? Are you compelling? If not, why not?
- Prioritize your battles. Again, remember to focus and prioritize. Don’t get discouraged and feel overwhelmed. There’s a lot you could do. What can you do today? And what can be pushed out?
- Be consistent across all touch points. Your brand should look and feel the same everywhere. Think about how adults process and learn, as espoused by “Consciousness of Competence” theory. Basically, an adult has to see a message/new idea four different times to really process and learn it. This theory of adult learning can be applied to branding as well. Logos, business cards, web sites, FB, twitter and messages all need the same look and feel. Create an identity kit and share it with all your contractors and business partners who work on your behalf. Everyone should speak with the same voice.
- Low hanging fruit. Long-term goals are essential to your business, but short-term goals will serve to give you momentum and open up immediate opportunities. Local based business? Reach out to your local editor who covers your industry and book a meeting. These folks are tasked to cover their beat in their local market. They are always looking for great new products and services to share with their readers. Don’t make all your wins long term: you need some achievable wins in the short term, too.
The participants generated some great dialogue and discussion points. I encourage them and you to post questions on our FB wall facebook.com/kimberlystrenkpr.
Here’s link to the PPT preso I used: Austin RISE 2011, PR for Small Business. Was this helpful? Do you have other tips or best practices that worked for your business?