By Trish Nicklin
One of the common myths about Public Relations centres on the topic of presence. You will be familiar with the phrase “build your profile” and “build your brand” as the flag bearers used by public relations agents when pitching for business.
Focus at this point often turns to volume, with public relations success hinging on how many stories have been published across a period of time and champagne corks are popped when the numbers are high.
However there are many reasons why this approach can in fact do more damage to your brand than good, here at Shed we believe it all comes down to some serious objective setting and an academic approach to the definition of success.
Here are our top 3 hard truths for planning for impact over presence.
1. It is not all about you, it’s always about them.
One of the first pitfalls of any public relations plan is one of using broadcast as the foundation. This is the equivalent of preaching from the pulpit, where we stand and shout out loud about our product and how good we are. Twenty years ago this was still a viable approach as consumers were fed by media, but with the advent of social media and the expanse of internet forums the world has become circular and the interesting content is now in the response and sentiment not in the launchpad. Understanding this is key. Try starting a conversation and following the threads instead, be open to looking at what your customers and the market are saying. Respond. Don’t defend, listen. Think about what is going on and if your voice fits inside the spaces opening up in the conversation. If there is no space for you, stay out. If there is, make it count. Don’t argue. Here is where you get your value out of a good pr agent, they will guide you through this process and help you find the spaces inside threads so that you weave your story and in doing so become the knowledge bearer everyone wants to listen to.
2. Don’t nag, inform.
Widespread auto advertising without purpose or plan is a common cause of saturation, as is the habit of spewing out press releases every 5 minutes every time anyone coughs up a new sentence in the organisation. What happens when an agent takes this approach is two-fold-
a. Your agent isn’t doing a proper job. Re purposing content and distributing it is not rocket science, and it simply isn’t effective. It just annoys everyone from journalists to your customers and service providers. It is also wasting your money.
b. Sure a human brain needs to see consistency so that brand recognition kicks in, but it also switches off if you over do it. It’s the reason why we don’t notice things we see and do all the time and end up locking ourselves out of the house.
Our advice with re-purposing is only to do so if it is relevant and then to pick your time, and preferably as per the above point make it a conversation not a preach. This is a hard concept especially with some clients who will be demanding visibility and volume to justify expense however there is no value to any client by rolling out 20 year old practices and a cookie cutter approach. The world is changing, move with it. Be interesting, inform rather than rant and be relevant. If you can’t find any of those three angles in a document leave it be and go out and talk to a few customers and spend the energy in using your public relations agent to help you embed those bi-lateral relations via customer connection strategies.
3. Be relevant or be quiet.
The mother load of errors, this is the equivalent of annoying everyone with your inability to just “let it go”. A good agent will work with you to either find room in an existing conversation for you to be present, or advise you to wait it out until the time is right. Or even better, a really good agent will tell you what parts of the conversation you have a place in, and identify where you just need to butt out altogether. A client is always their own biggest advocate and in that sense is biased, seeing opportunities that just do not exist.
Pushing into those spaces when you are the only one who thinks you should be there can be very damaging to your brand, entering the room and making a relevant and informed comment from the far corner can often be a far better way to have that spotlight turn at the right moment onto you. It’s been done in the movies for decades, it can be done in the media. They key is to be in the right place at the right moment and have the right purpose, all delivered in a way that wraps all the threads together.
Public relations has evolved and a good agency will have evolved their service delivery to be in tune with the both the market, the media, the consumer and the technology. It is useless to ignore technology and social media. Being active in conversations currently happening in your market is essential practice – to remain focussed on one channel only is the equivalent of being a dinosaur going off a cliff. Being scared off by talk of trolls and trolling is demonstrative of ignorance. These factors exist but can and will be managed as part of any decent plan. To be fair they have always been there, just in other forms, so how you manage responders and listen to the customer remain stable and important, and we can use the same technology to be ahead of the game in managing feedback.
Equally agencies have to move away from just focussing on the media, as the industry itself is rapidly deconstructing and morphing into a constantly changing cloud of consumers, clients, writers, bloggers, and responders mixed up with journalists and publishers. Get to know them all and be fair in play.
*Trish Nicklin is a senior consultant at Shed Connect