The answer is simple: so the blood doesn’t show.
Many people think that once a company starts promoting its products or services, editors will be knocking at your door. In some cases, that does happen, particularly if you have the latest “hot product,” but it’s not the norm. Public relations is an important part of the marketing mix, but it’s a tremendous amount of hard, detailed work.
Public relations is very different from advertising. One main difference is that you can’t buy a media placement. The story is either newsworthy, or it’s not. A paid placement or a sponsored post is called advertising. A successful public relations campaign provides third-party endorsement of products or services, called earned media. This is something no other marketing element can deliver.
I believe that both paid and earned marketing elements are important, as public relations can sometimes be a slow build. Results do not happen in a few weeks or in a month, especially with the three month lead time needed for magazines print deadlines. When dealing with television, newspapers or radio, the three month lead time is not an issue, but competition is an issue. You should have a combined paid and earned media strategy and a budget for working with influencers in today’s digital marketplace.
At my agency, there have been situations where we’ve had an instant success story. We created an event in Vancouver for the launch of Canadian Women in Public Relations (Women in PR Canada) that was an incredible media success story. Every local newspaper, publication and television station showed up for this event. Over the years at Pink Pearl PR, we’ve had a number of press conferences with tons of media coverage the next day. This is especially true if the news is topical or the product is very popular at the retail level for example.
In one case, we generated thousands of stories for a client, but we were trying to generate an article in a major business paper. Nothing worked. The editor was interested, but he didn’t understand the point we were using as the “hook” for the story. When we finally drove home the point of difference between mass market retailers and specialty retailers, he wrote the story and it was fantastic. Our story ended up on the front page of the business section minus one column, but it took months and months of work.
Many clients don’t understand the public relations process and that’s ok. That’s why you hire a public relations professional so that they can lead your strategy! Or you put in the effort to learn about public relations yourself through the Public Relations Academy membership.
For example, when I was handling the marketing for a major children’s fashion line, the client had signed the advertising contract for sponsored posts to work with influencers, but not the public relations contract for my services. He just didn’t understand the entire subject and finally asked for a meeting to discuss things. Shortly into the meeting, this charming, gentleman looked at me with a straight face and said, “Why do I have to pay for this, doesn’t it just happen?” Yes, when you pay for my public relations services it does just happen!
At first, I thought he was kidding, but then I could see that he simply didn’t understand the process, or the discipline. After a rather lengthy discussion, he signed the contract. The campaign was a big success and so was the children’s fashion line.
Some clients don’t have the budget for the entire marketing mix of trade advertising, consumer advertising, sales promotion, website development and public relations. Many clients will start with public relations and influencer advertising and then increase their marketing budget over time. That’s ok! The key is to get going and make changes along the way.
When you are ready to consider an agency, what should you look for in a public relations team? For starters, the chemistry has to be there.
You are going to be working together very closely for at least a year. In fact, I don’t work with clients for less than that time as you need to map out a long-term strategy. You also need someone with experience and media connections.
Don’t assume that the new business people will service your account. If there is one account person that you feel has the expertise you need, consider requesting that this individual be the point person on your account. The agency should be willing to agree to this request in your contract. Beware of bait and switch, where you are courted by the new business people who will never be seen again after the contract is signed. For this reason, I only take on a few clients at a time so that I can be part of the process and not pass over the account to a junior executive on my team. If you are interested in working with me, please get in touch in advance and I will let you know when I have availability. If you prefer to have someone review your team’s strategy or bounce ideas off someone, you can also work with me through a strategy session.
Put yourself in the editor’s shoes. He or she is interested in writing about your product and the readers expect to be able to find the item in local stores, online, or in manufacturers catalogs.
If your product is not widely available to purchase, the editor will not write about the product.
If you do not have enough stock of your product, you are doing yourself a disservice spending money on marketing it! I have had consumers track me down because they wanted a specific product and could not find it at the retail store mentioned in the article because the item had sold out. One Christmas, I was practically running a mail order operation out of the agency because frantic consumers were calling for one specific product that did not have wide retail distribution.
Trade books usually publish one month in advance. Consumer books publish three, yes three months in advance. If you’re hoping for a December magazine story, you’d better start planning in July or August! If your agency is creative, it will come up with innovative “hooks” for your products or services.
Overall, public relations is a wonderful marketing tool, but you must learn the basics to understand how it can work for your company. That’s why I want to encourage you to join the Public Relations Academy to increase your website traffic, sell more products, attract advertisers, or build a massive online following that attracts brand partnership opportunities and media attention using the power of influence and publicity.
The Public Relations Academy membership is a “done-with-you” opportunity. It includes a monthly PR plan, pitch templates and influence building strategy. You could apply my strategy to your own business, build your personal brand as an industry influencer, or use it for your clients publicity.
It’s like having an accountability team lead your publicity efforts month-after-month. Not only that, but you get access to our community and the opportunity to bounce ideas off each other, which is invaluable.
Imagine if you could start hitting the publish button on your blog. Imagine if you knew what emails to send and when. Imagine if you had the perfect plan in place for each month. This is all possible inside the Public Relations Academy membership. Come join us!
Join the Public Relations Academy to take your creative ideas and put them into a systematic plan to help you deliver the content you need to succeed. You can also sign-up for our one-on-one coaching monthly strategy calls. Take the FREE 5 Day Perfectly Planned Publicity Challenge.
Talia Beckett Davis is the Founder of Canadian Women in Public Relations and American Women in Public Relations. She works as the Managing Director of Pink Pearl PR.