PR Re-Valued

PR, Public Relations, is enjoying a rebirth in marketing value.  It’s not that it’s been undervalued or mis-valued but rather underestimated or not estimated at all during the development of campaigns.  PR is the bow on the package, it drives, elevates, educates and convinces.  It’s another form of advertising, that at times is more powerful than any catchy 3-word headline, mind-blowing image or choreographed campaign.

Most PR takes the form of a conventional press release.  That certainly works.  So do radio interviews, TV appearances, blog entries, forum integration, e-blasts and phone calls.

“PR” is what it professes to be, “public relations”.  Effective PR is the product of cultivated and influential relationships that are conduits of information to the public.  PR is often earned through reliable and trusted communications — that is, your communication becomes a resource to these information conduits.

That’s the 30,000 foot assessment.  Now for the meat-and-potatoes.

Effective PR campaigns are often planned campaigns.  That is, the PR professional has identified the media, people, content and means they intend to pursue in getting their message out.  The message must be carefully crafted, the delivery and targets fully evaluated and execution must be flawless.  Shooting from the hip may land you some media but in the long run it will be a hit and miss proposition.

I start with the objective in mind.  If it’s a new product then why is it newsworthy?  Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s newsworthy.  How are people’s lives going to be affected? Will it change how business is done? Will it improve the environment and could it be a model for other industries or countries to follow?  Think big but be honest.

The BDC Advertising standard for all advertising, including PR, is “the truth told well.”  Tell the truth, tell it well.  Believe me, the media are pro’s, they’ll smell a rat if you’re trying to sell them ocean-front property in Kansas.

The message could be, “Rapala Renews Contract With BDC Advertising”.  There’s the headline for the release.  If I’m the mainstream media I’m thinking, “so?”  The fishing press would get this and pay attention but why would a city paper or TV station?  Better might be, “Rapala, The World’s Largest Lure Manufacturer Renews Contract With BDC Advertising”.

The copy in the release would support that statement but also identify why that’s important.  Is BDC Advertising a noteworthy agency? If so, why?  Are they the fastest growing advertising and marketing agency in Clackamas County, Oregon?  Are they the fastest growing agency in Oregon? Etc., etc.

And why is this important?

Stay to the facts and resist hyperbole.

Third party endorsements are effective and I think essential in most press releases and PR.

“We elected to renew our contract with BDC Advertising because of the exceptional work, understanding of the market and thinking they continue to bring to the table.  Beyond our internal marketing resources, they are the only agency we use”, commented….

The first short paragraph of a release should directly support the headline and provide additional factual specifics that can be read in 15 to 20 seconds.  This format allows a news editor or writer to make a quick read and assessment of your press and determine whether or not they should read further, if the information’s timely, newsworthy or germaine to their audience.

The following paragraphs can/should provide more details and quotes from relevant sources that further support the headline and first paragraph of copy.

Images should always be included if available or appropriate.  This makes the news editor’s job even easier and increases your value as a resource.

Radio, TV, blogs, forum posts and even phone calls to selected/targeted media should all follow the same format.  What’s your message?  That’s your headline.  What is the overarching message? What are other people saying about it? What supporting evidence do you have?

This is only the tip of the iceberg.  PR professionals work their PR.  They call editors, newsmakers, influencers and they discuss the PR.  They understand why it did or didn’t make it to the public.  If their message doesn’t hit the intended market they go back to the drawing board and develop other approaches and messages.

Some case histories worth mentioning.

The car maker, Ferrari, for decades never had a marketing department.  Never ran an ad…not one, to sell their cars.  Their marketing efforts are PR-based.  Their PR was on race tracks around the world outcompeting every other builder.  They quickly developed a reputation as the preeminent car manufacturer in the world.  Ferrari’s PR has made them synonmous with “high-performance”.  A reputation they continue to hold.

Just this past week one of our accounts held a seminar at their retail location.  Our job was to make sure it was well-attended.  We were able to get our message out to local newspapers, at the top of a targeted and widely viewed Internet forum and through various e-blasts and blogs.  The results were outstanding.  The PR worked and the event was an unconditional success.  We kept the message tight, clear and compelling and executed the campaign perfectly.  The attendance certainly supported the fact that great PR, properly executed, is an essential marketing tool.

Locally, retired NBA basketball player, Brian Grant was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.  The PR campaign Brian Grant’s team has developed has been nothing short of brilliant.  They’ve been able to rally the likes of Michael J. Fox, Muhammad Ali, Charles Barkley and Pat Reilly to be a part of various events Grant is hosting to fund Parkinson’s research.  These events have kept his cause squarely in front of the regional market as “A list” celebrities show and support his foundation.

This is the time of year most companies are looking ahead, setting budgets and making plans for the marketing of their companies in 2011.  PR is as big as ever and should command a sizeable budget commitment.  Advertising is important, vital in many cases to keeping your brand properly positioned and products/services in front of the market.  But for most, the impact of good PR has been underestimated and under-valued when, in fact, it has equal or greater value to traditional marketing and advertising.

As always, my message in marketing and advertising is to stay balanced.  Create a plan that strikes a balance between print advertising, marketing collateral (brochures, catalogs, tri-folds, white papers), radio or TV, PR, Internet and web-based solutions.  Balance wins the battles and war in a competitive market… and if you want to stay competitive and overcome the competition, just make sure PR is part of the plan.

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