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Shouting From the Mountain Top Part II

This is the second of a two-part series on the field of Public Relations, and what entrepreneurs and small business owners should consider as they think about the value it can provide them.

Rachael Chappa, an expert in PR and media Relations shares some insights.

Rachael Chappa, an expert in PR and media Relations shares some insights.

Entrepreneurs must constantly battle the uncertainty of when to authorize or commit to certain investments to build the business.  Some of those decisions are far easier to quantify and assess than others.  Purchasing new equipment to manufacture products can be evaluated based on speed, costs to produce, accuracy, etc.  However, the purchase of Public Relations support does not lend itself as easily to spreadsheet-based calculations.

When is the Right Time?

Rachael Chappa is quick to point out, “If you don’t have a reasonable budget to commit to promotion, you are better off waiting.”   She counsels that, “Before enlisting the help of a PR company, consider budget, news cycles and time commitment. Look at the complete package. Marketing, advertising, and PR work best when they are used tactically together.”

The advice she offers includes:

  1. Launching a new business is an appropriate time to use a PR professional.  They can help with building awareness within the targeted community, provide important strategic updates and company news, and content creation and messaging.
  2. Have a clear goal in mind (what do you seek from the promotion, what is the definition of success).
  3. Willingness to share news (versus being secretive, fearful of disclosing too much to competition, establishing expectations that may not be met, etc.)
  4. Assess the  true level of commitment one can offer time-wise.  If the company is not prepared to do “the homework” necessary to create content (answering interview questions, providing updates, writing blog entries, approving of photos and/or bios to appear on websites or in marketing collateral materials, etc.), the PR efforts will be hampered.  If the CEO/owner is not able to devote the time, assigning the role to another with appropriate insight, authority, and perspective (the second in command or other) may help facilitate the process.

What To Expect

To maximize the value of a PR initiative, Ms. Chappa offers this advice borne of her experience on both sides of the relationship:

  • Reporters, bloggers, producers, and other media representatives are inundated with hundreds of emails, phone calls, and Tweets each day, and there are under pressure to spread the wealth.  Building the relationship with these outlets is the domain of a seasoned PR professional. However, once a story has been placed, the CEO or others must be willing to support it by being available for interviews, follow ups, additional insights, etc. with very little advance notice.
  • Recognizing what is truly newsworthy (PR is about news that would be of interest to a reader, viewer, subscriber, etc.).  The purpose of a PR campaign is to get the media to pick up a story and spread it.  Mundane or uninteresting topics will fail to ignite interest.
  • Be prepared for the inevitable media request for interviews.  While many executives BELIEVE they are prepared and capable, experience has shown that undergoing media training is often a helpful exercise to prevent avoidable mistakes in phrasing certain comments, avoiding conflict, addressing potentially controversial issues, etc.

Because PR is a team effort, it is essential that all involved remain in close communication with each other .  If a member of the press reaches out to a company’s employee for a comment or to expand on something previously covered, be certain to include the PR person prior to offering a response.  In some companies, only certain members of management are authorized to speak to the press to prevent what might have seemed like an innocent comment being misconstrued or be seen as damaging to the company. With the advent of social media and almost constant communication, it is even more important now to be certain that a company is seen as consistent in dealing with the media, messaging, branding, and positioning itself in the market.

Part 1 ran last week.  In that column, Rachael Chappa shared insights on the definition and relationship between and among Marketing, Advertising, and PR.  She also provided context for measuring PR campaigns. 

David Zahn