The Business that PR Built- Build your own PR infrastructure in-house!
Although today’s tight economy makes it harder to outsource PR, entrepreneurs of all sizes and stripes will still need to launch their own outreach. People who are not experienced in marketing spend too much time on one facet of PR. They think they only have to do one thing well to break through the clutter. It is a colossal blunder to focus on one area and neglect the other things that you need to do.
For example, Baby Boomers think getting traditional press—a feature article in the New York Times—is going to drive greater awareness for your business, but one article is a blip in the barrage of content that is out there. On the other hand, the Millennial Generation thinks they will break through the clutter by using only social media. Most people who use social media do so without a strategy and it amounts to making lots of noise without raising awareness for your brand.
The only way your PR outreach can be effective is if you implement a campaign that blends traditional press with social media and community building coupled with effective networking. This is best accomplished by building your own PR infrastructure in-house.
A PR Infrastructure program takes six weeks to build. Each week, tackle one PR bucket at a time and write all of your notes in a master document. This document will be the foundation for your strategic plan, which will be accompanied by a calendar that clearly defines what needs to be done and when. This plan can be implemented by an intern-in-training; a part-time, junior-level public relations professional; or by you.
First Week—Branding and Messaging Summit
You need to spend several hours in a branding and messaging session to develop your strategy by determining your key audiences, your position with respect to those audiences, and your key messages. Branding. All brand does is pose a critical question: what do you stand for? It is up to you to answer this question. You must tell your audiences what you stand for. Prepare questions that address your business landscape and have a strategic focus on building your brand. Who are you? What do you do? Who are your competitors? What is your business objective? What do you want to accomplish with PR? The answers to these questions are the key messages that will be used to create your content platform.
Second Week—Content Platform
The Content Platform is a critical document that includes a 25-word description of your business, and a boilerplate which is the tag paragraph that is at the end of every press release. Then there should be messaging statements for each of your target audiences. Who are your audiences? The Media? Small Businesses? Women 18 to 35? Fisherman located in Nova Scotia? You can be general or specific. It is up to you to know each audience for your business and you must know what message you want to say to them. This Content Platform is the heart of your PR infrastructure and includes key messages that will be used to create stories, story angles or pitches, ideas for articles, blogs, press releases, marketing brochures, newsletters, videos, podcasts and social media posts and tweets. Every communication that comes out of your business should be checked against this platform to make sure all of your communication consistently defines your brand.
Week 3—Social Media Review
Whatever community you have established in the real world should be replicated online in Facebook, Linked-in, Twitter and other key social media sites. Now is the time to research the best social media sites where you will find your target audiences. For example, if you want to reach women 16 to 35, you will want to use Pinterest. If you have a compelling visual story, you might want to make a few videos and get them posted on YouTube, Vimeo and Vine. It’s up to you to choose to use the social media sites that will have the greatest impact reach to your target audiences. When you are in the building phase, i.e., acquiring a following or gaining friends, it can take several hours a week. After your network has been established, you need to get your actual posting time down to a maximum of 15 minutes a day. If you don’t abide by the 15 minute a day rule, you are wasting your time that can be best spent on a more important project.
Week 4—Media Relations Outreach
Even though the media has become highly fragmented, there is no greater credibility than getting authentic news coverage. Create a short press list. What is the best way to reach your potential audience? What types of press will reach your clients, customers or colleagues? Wall Street Journal, New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle? Track journalists who cover news relevant to your occupation or to your business. Send journalists an email with your bio. Introduce yourself. Compliment their work and tell them why. Open a dialogue. Build a Relationship. Don’t make the mistake of thinking what matters to you will make a good story. Put yourself in the shoes of the reporter and create great stories that are timely, compelling and a good fit for the media outlet. Be Realistic. A community newspaper or a regional business magazine might be a more appropriate placement than striving to appear on CNN.
Week 5—Community Building and Networking
The overarching umbrella of community building and networking includes: getting speaking opportunities, event planning, and building partnerships. In terms of speaking opps, make a list of the names of the organizations that speak to your community and where you can increase clients or customers. Whether you just attend events or you are a sponsor and exhibiting, event planning is an essential part of your PR outreach. Consider being a sponsor or launching your own events that are lively, informative and educational. Partnering is another form of networking. Who can you partner with to bolster your business to share resources and business contacts? Create strategic partnerships or buddy programs with other people who complement what you do. You can co-brand (architect, with an interior designer and a graphic designer, or for business people, it might be a tax accountant and an estate planning lawyer and a financial planner). The collaboration is all about shared resources. You can increase your client base by exchanging your contacts and providing referrals to one another.
Week 6— Strategic Plan + Calendar of Implementation
Now that you have spent five weeks exploring the five main PR buckets, you have all of the information you need to draft a six-month strategic plan and a budget. In the plan you will decide which social media you will use, how often you will post on social media and what you will post about. You will decide whether to make videos and podcasts; which press you will contact, how often you will contact them to get your stories placed and if you need to write press releases. You will decide if you will write your own articles and blogs or find someone to ghost write for you. You will know where you will pursue speaking opportunities, what types of events you will attend and what types of events you will sponsor or launch on your own. You will to put all these activities on a calendar that will list precise PR tasks for every business day of the week. It is easy to set up on a Gmail calendar. You can add email and text reminders so you always know what to do and when to do it.
Your strategic plan should be a blended approach to doing a whole lot of things, maybe three to five things every day, in an integrated campaign. Every six months, set aside a couple of hours to review each PR bucket to see what has been working, so you can make adjustments and create a new calendar for the next six months. When you’ve done the planning and you have set up a calendar, you will find that it is easy, time efficient and rewarding to wage your own PR campaign that will bring you a huge return on your investment. Best of all, you will never have to outsource PR again because you have built your own PR department in-house.
Patricia Vaccarino has over 30 years of experience working with a wide range of national and international clients, in all areas of public relations: managing worldwide campaigns for global companies and developing strategy for small companies, startup ventures and individuals. She is the owner of Xanthus Communications LLC and its subsidiary PR for People®. She has been building PR Infrastructures for clients since 2002.