Social media has changed the role of public relations, not made it irrelevant. The speed of breaking news on online channels has increased the need for planning and crafting of consistent messages to be able to quickly respond to current events.
Too often, it seems, the only time a company attracts media attention is when something goes wrong; a product recall, an environmental hazard, a labor strike, or some other problem that suddenly thrusts a firm into the harsh glare of the media spotlight. Because of this, many companies tend to view the media as a necessary evil — or, at best, a friendly adversary.
Which is better: “No news is good news” or “Good news is no news?”
In its simplest form, the problem is really nothing more than a difference in perspective. A company wants coverage for its products, policies, and programs, while the media is looking for an interesting and informative story. Unfortunately, controversy sells better than commonplace, which means that the old maxim “No news is good news” isn’t nearly as true today as its inverse: “Good news is no news.”
Given this, how does a company get the word out when the word is good instead of bad? And if the word is bad, how can you make sure you’ve minimized the damage your company may have suffered as a result of any “negative” coverage?
Dealing with the media can be a positive experience, however, as long as you view it as an opportunity to consistently get your company’s message across – good, bad, or otherwise.
PR is part of the marketing mix
To understand the difference between media relations activities that merely publicize and those that exert a strong influence on the marketplace, take a look at the advantages you gain from a solid public relations program. A strong media relations program:
- Is economical. PR allows you to reach large audiences very inexpensively. Compare PR to the high cost of advertising in today’s market. Few companies have enough money to reach all of their prospects on a consistent basis.
- Extends the reach of advertising. All too often, advertising, social media and public relations compete for money and management’s attention. To be truly effective, all should work in concert by getting a consistent message out to all buying influences.
- Adds credibility. We all realize that an ad — in the form of publication space, broadcast commercial, internet banner, billboard, brochure, or direct mail piece – is a paid message from the advertiser with the explicit goal of selling something. We are more likely to believe a third-party endorsement in a publication’s editorial columns because the editor or reporter – not the company – is telling us about the company or product.
- Measures interest. If the news or trade media cover a product announcement and no one responds, either there is no market for the product, or you were reaching the wrong target audience. Public relations allows you to easily determine whether your announcement’s appeal is universal or very narrow.
- Generate leads. Most management is volume-oriented. In fact, some firms have developed lead generation into a science by determining exactly how many sales will result from every 1,000 inquiries. Inquiries at least provide a starting point for your sales call, letting you focus your efforts on an audience that has some interest in your point-of-view.
- Builds or rebuilds an image. A company’s image is extremely fragile. Late deliveries, product recalls, rumors and innuendos can severely cripple a firm’s ability to stay in business. Solid and aggressive public relations efforts can counter problems, and entice customers to give the company another chance.
Public relations is about your whole company – not just promoting an item or a special. It helps create a more robust – and controlled – image of your company.
7 tips for getting your message published
Here are seven tips that can help assure that your experience with the media is a productive one, one that is mutually beneficial to you, to the editors and reporters you deal with, and to the audience you’re trying to reach:
- Make sure it’s news. Generally speaking, “news” is a deviation from the norm, something that’s different or unusual. That’s why bad news gets so much attention. Since good news may not be considered news at all, you’ll have to search for an angle that will give your story appeal — things that play up uniqueness.
- Be accessible. Return phone calls promptly. If you don’t return a call promptly, your opportunity to tell your side of the story may be lost. Your value also depends on your ability to give complete, accurate and timely information. If you can’t give the facts, know who can offer the best prospective on a particular topic.
- Avoid mind-fogging jargon. Most reporters are generalists. Often, they will have little or no knowledge of your company or industry. They need facts laid out clearly, concisely, and in an orderly fashion. They don’t need unfamiliar acronyms, jargon, or technical talk; they need to know what’s significant and what isn’t.
- Never say “No comment.” This is seen as a terse brush-off that implies something is amiss. If you have a legitimate reason for not commenting, give some brief explanation of why you can’t comment. It will make you and your organization more credible.
- Keep your writing crisp and to the point. Start with a short, punchy headline. Don’t try to cram every fact into the opening paragraph — save something for the paragraphs that follow. Avoid glowing adjectives and fluff.
- Don’t be afraid to volunteer the bad story. This is a difficult concept for most organizations to swallow. By releasing the bad story as quickly and professionally as a good one, you retain some control over your destiny. This helps avoid your being put in a defensive position later on, and adds to your credibility.
- Make your visuals memorable. In our digital world, compelling visuals that help tell your story are a must. Be sure to have videos, photos and logo available in multiple formats.
PR’s role has changed
PR’s role has changed but by employing the full mix of public relations and social media tools, and by measuring their impact on the marketplace, you’ll establish stronger relations — and higher visibility – with key media players. That visibility will reinforce your company’s image and show that you are a winner.