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How to use PR for demand generation

The use of public relations, or earned media, is on the rise among B2B marketers because of its effectiveness in driving sales, according to a new survey by Demand Gen Report.

The survey shows that while driving brand awareness is still the top goal for earned media programs, marketers increasingly are turning to PR to drive pipeline (66%) and increase revenue (50%).

As the return on traditional media stagnates or declines, B2B marketers are increasing their investment in PR because PR works. 

Unlike advertising, earned media is generated by a reporter or editor, and therefore is more credible than paid media. Earned media also can be very cost-effective as a lead generation tool.

Here are some ways that earned media can be used to drive demand:

  1. Target your efforts. Just as you develop a list of prospects for direct marketing, be very targeted with your PR efforts. Position your PR efforts as narrowly as possible towards the outlets that your prospects read.
  1. Use peer examples. Leverage your success with customers to pitch articles about how companies have benefitted from working with your company or using your product. Illustrate these articles with good images.
  1. Offer free advice. Develop white papers, thought leadership briefs and articles that give away good advice or educate prospects about important topics. This will position your company and executives as thought leaders and experts.
  1. Be findable. Optimize news releases and articles so prospects can easily find your company. Use keywords that prospects are using to search for solutions. Find creative ways to push prospects to your website by developing special URLs where they can download research, infographics and white papers.
  1. Optimize media placements. Use strong media placements in sales collateral, email pitches and other demand generation efforts. These articles can add instant credibility to prospecting, and can shorten the lead generation cycle.
  1. Search for speaking opportunities. Look for venues to discuss industry issues and impart advice that helps attendees work smarter. These events often are covered by industry reporters and add to your reputation as an expert. In advance of the event, arrange to speak directly with reporters who are attending.

Finally, work with a PR agency that understands B2B and has a track record of using earned media for demand generation.

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How to Find a Scary Good Ghost Writer

You know all those thought-provoking articles that executives get published in trade magazines and business publications? Do you ever wonder how they can manage their jobs and personal lives, and still have time to write articles that are publication worthy?

The secret may be a ghost writer, a writer-for-hire who drafts articles and other content that appear under the executive’s byline. People use ghost writers to develop all kinds of content—from thought leadership blogs, to editorials, byline articles and speeches.

There are many great reasons to hire a ghost writer; chief among them is time. Professional writers typically draft an article in a fraction of the time it would take an executive. And, unless you’re a born writer, chances are a ghost writer will deliver a piece that’s better constructed, more interesting, grammatically correct and acceptable to an editor.

When looking to hire a good ghost writer, look for the following traits:

A frightfully quick grasp of complex topics. Look for a writer who can demonstrate the ability to understand difficult or complex topics, and can distill these ideas into content that is easy to understand.

A wizardly ability to build out content. Look for a writer who can take your ideas and add depth to it through research, a solid grasp of current events, and an understanding of history. A good ghost writer will know how to steer content towards what’s important to readers.

The spooky power to sound like you. Make sure the writer has the ability to adjust the tone of articles and other content so it sounds like you would write…only better. Do you have a certain style? Are there key phrases for which you are known? Are you a storyteller, or do you mainly stick to the facts? Find someone who can reflect your style.

Ability to navigate the graveyard of deadlines. Nothing kills an article or blog opportunity faster than missing a deadline. Look for a writer who has a sense of urgency, understands the needs of publications, and has a track record of meeting target dates.

Understands the complex web of publishing. Editors have specific needs for educational, non-promotional articles that are concise and well-written. Look for a writer who understands what editors are looking for in contributed articles and other content.

Follow this advice and you’re sure to find a ghost writer who delivers more treats than tricks!

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How to get long term value from marketing videos

I recently wrote about how popular video is in content marketing and the many benefits of including video in marketing efforts.

One of the reasons that video is so popular is because it is relatively easy to produce. Videos were once used only by large companies with big budgets. Today, a smart phone and some editing tools are all that’s needed to produce a short video.

However, just because video production is easy doesn’t mean that you should ignore best practices. To get the most long-term value from a video consider the following tips:

  • Keep it short. Attention spans are short and time is scarce, so keep videos to a minute or less. If material is too complicated to fit into that time frame, do several smaller videos. For example, instead of a long video testimonial, produce several short testimonials.
  • Use a professional narrator. Executives and other employees may not be comfortable speaking on video. In addition, people come and go at all levels, which could easily date a video. Telling a story with video and voice over narration solves these problems.
  • Design content for easy editing. Think about videos in 15 second increments so these sections can be pulled out and used on social media or for other uses. This can be done by creating a simple storyboard (before the video is created) that shows the concept you want to cover, the visuals you want to show, and the narrative. By looking at each of these as standalone micro videos, the script will be more cohesive. Also, this is a great way to improve the longevity of videos, since sections can be updated as needed.

Finally, viewers watch videos on different platforms, so it is important to test the video to make sure it looks good on a smartphone, tablet and laptop.

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The PR Traits of Inc. 5000 Companies

As a PR practitioner who works mainly with early stage, high-growth businesses, I’ve been fortunate to partner with almost a dozen Inc. 5000 companies. This year we have a client that ranked in the top 10.

It’s always exciting when a client achieves this success. In my experience, it’s a positive omen for later favorable outcomes, including successful IPOs and exits.

Thinking about this recently, I realized that the companies we work with that rank on the Inc. 5000 have similarities when it comes to their approach to public relations:

  1. A clear mission and message. Overwhelmingly, Inc. 5000 companies we’ve worked with are very clear about their mission, and are open to perfecting their messaging so they can communicate their mission in crystal clear terms. Message development can be a messy and difficult process, but not typically with these companies. Senior executives tend to be on the same page and come to a consensus quickly about what’s important to communicate and how to do it.
  1. A CEO invested in PR. Our Inc. 5000 clients always have a CEO who supports PR and is willing to put in the time needed to make PR successful. This means sharing thought leadership, being available to do interviews, and accepting coaching suggestions to improve interviewing skills.
  1. A commitment to thought leadership. A thought leadership approach to B2B PR takes the long view of winning clients or customers by contributing to the education of the industry. Our Inc. 5000 clients get this. There always is room for more promotional efforts, but companies that invest in thought leadership tend to be focused on the long game.
  1. Willingness to try new ideas/approaches. Growth companies tend to be open to trying new ways and channels for telling their stories and providing value to their industries. This may include creating unique content, visuals or channels that reach audiences in interesting and new ways.
  1. Recognition that PR is a growth channel. Most of our Inc. 5000 clients have approached PR as a lead generator. As such, they provide the necessary support so we can execute a revenue-focused PR effort that drives measurable value to the organization.
  1. Provides access to customers. No one tells a company’s success story more credibly than a customer. Growth companies are good at grooming customers to become partners in their PR effort by contributing to thought leadership articles, participating in interviews, co-presenting at important venues, and dishing up meaty quotes for news releases.
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Why online video should be part of your marketing

If you’re not already using video as part of your content marketing and communications strategy, there’s good evidence that you should.

HubSpot has a lot of very compelling statistics about the power of video marketing. To name a few:

  • 54% of consumers prefer videos compared to other marketing tactics.
  • Embedding videos in landing pages can increase conversion rates by 80%.
  • 90% of prospects report that product videos help them make purchasing decisions.

Since vision is our primary input source when in front screens, it makes sense that video acts as a strong engagement tool. What’s more, since people watch, re-watch and share videos, video extends the time prospects stay on your website and even improves search engine rankings.

For marketers, video delivers a plethora of benefits:

  • Video helps tell a complex story. From philanthropy to physics, video can simplify a complex message. To do this effectively, use “building block” images and bring the viewer along as you expand on knotty ideas.
  • Video builds trust. Video can create a personality for your brand, enabling you to engage the heart as well as the mind of your audience. As the late poet Maya Angelou said, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” 
  • Video is enticing. In a HubSpot survey, 59% of company decision makers said they would rather watch a video than read an article or blog post.
  • Video is shareable. A video link can be included in an email or sent via a social network. An interesting video will be shared with others, extending the reach of your message.

Improved recording and simple editing technology makes it easy to create videos that tell your story or demonstrate your product’s features, so there’s really no excuse not to use video.

How do you use video in your marketing efforts?

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Press Release Tips from 16 PR Pros Who Know Best

Some people say the press release is dead.

Do you know what I say to those people?

They’re writing the wrong press release.

When properly constructed, a press release can be your key to getting featured in top-tier publications and noticed by well-respected journalists.

But the keyword there is properly.

Journalists receive dozens (and that’s probably an understatement) of press releases in their inbox every single day. Will yours stand apart from the rest? Or be sent to the dreaded trash bin, never to be seen again (and certainly, never to be written about).

Luckily, you don’t need to do your own research on how to write a press release. We’ve done it for you! And gathered top-notch advice from more than a dozen public relations professionals on everything from boilerplates to event press releases.

Next time you’re writing and pitching any of these types of press releases, keep in mind the following advice.

Then, sit back and watch the media coverage come through.

Press Release Tips from PR Professionals

We asked PR professionals their best advice on writing press releases that perform. Here’s what they had to say.

Press Release Tip #1

Do everything you can to show that you know the publication you’re pitching, so your press release looks less like a generic mass e-mail. For example, when I send press releases to industry magazines, I might change up the subject line and first paragraph depending on whether the magazine is for the plumbing, HVAC, or electrical industry.

Make it as easy as you can for journalists who receive your press release. Writers these days have to generate ideas and work fast, so if you can include a few good article/post ideas that can be very helpful—just a headline and quick description of the idea and how you can help. Make sure the ideas aren’t all about you, you, you, but would incorporate different viewpoints/products includingyours. So instead of Why our wedding website is the leading website in the industry, you could try Top 10 Ways to Avoid Wedding Scams (where of course one piece of advice might be to go to your website to vet vendors).

Linda Formichelli, Inbound Content Manager at Commusoft

Press Release Tip #2

My advice on press releases: Capture the whole story in the headline/subhead. Avoid effusive self-congratulation. Have a killer boilerplate.

Hugh S. Moore, Vice President at Broadsheet Communications

Press Release Tip #3

  • Aim for a headline that is provocative and SEO-friendly and assumes that most journalists will not read past the first paragraph. Additionally, aim to make the case about why this news is a big deal by making the first paragraph answer the Who, What, Why, and Where of journalism in easy to understand English – free of jargon and marketing language
  • When at all possible add third-party quotes. Customers are the most important, followed by analysts, influencers, and experts.
  • Generally, the length of a release should be determined by the quality of the story. If the information is timely and interesting, it doesn’t matter how long the release is
  • And, of course, I also stress quality and accuracy in my releases. I think that sloppy, error-ridden releases annoy journalists, who don’t have the time to edit. The best approach is to make the release information accurate – otherwise, yours will be the first release deleted from consideration

Tricia Heinrich, Chief Content Officer at Bospar

Press Release Tip #4

Don’t just announce news; put it in context. Ask yourself and others: why is this important and why should people care? This will help you write a really relevant release that’s not just inwardly focused.

If possible, tie the news to a trend or current event. For example, when announcing a prescription drug management solution, discuss the number of opioid deaths that happen in your area that could be prevented with the solution.

Include a meaty quote from someone outside your company, such as an industry expert, government official, customer or investor.

Mara Conklin at Clarus Communications

Press Release Tip #5

In order for a release to have value outside of just being company news, it has to tie to larger events and trends that are happening in the world. Try to connect your news to the bigger picture by using external data. Also, make sure that the quotes from the principals don’t just repeat the news of the release but also add value and insights into how this news is relevant beyond their own company. How will the news impact customers and end users?

Deidre Woollard at Lion & Orb PR

Press Release Tip #6

The true purpose of a press release is to communicate that you or your business has a genuine news story to share. If you start from this position you’re on the right track, if you just release a list of information in the vain hope you’ll get a free plug, you’ll fail.

A quality press release should help a journalist to do their job. Don’t make life hard for them. Journalists are incredibly time poor and overloaded with dumb ass pitches. You need to stand out from the crowd with a compelling and well-written story.

To do this ensures your press release has a killer headline – one with a genuine news angle. What do I mean by this? Well, news is something that is new – it’s got to have the wow factor. If you don’t have this, don’t create a press release.

Your intro paragraph is crucial – spend 90 percent of your time to get this right – this needs to be your entire story in less than 25 words. Make it strong but avoid hyperbole and exaggeration. That’s a major turn off for a reporter.

Next. you can elaborate on the facts behind your story and then introduce quotes from a key spokesperson that explain the ‘why’ and the passion behind your story.

The absolute key takeaway is that the release MUST have news value relevant to the journalist you are pitching to, otherwise it will be headed for the junk folder.

Alistair Clay, Founder at Class:PR

Press Release Tip #7

  • Think like a reporter or assignment editor. What is the most interesting thing in your press release? Put that in your headline.
  • Just the facts, ma’am. Don’t editorialize or get too clever with the language. Save that for your pitch.
  • Think visually. Your press release should create a picture that members of the media will be interested in seeing. Provide the facts, but while you are doing that, paint the visuals that get journalists salivating over broadcast ratings and digital reach.

Carol Rose at Marketing Worx PR

Press Release Tip #8

When writing a press release, find the story within the story. For example, if you are giving a donation to a charitable cause, highlight the charity and explain what it plans to do with the donation and how it will make a difference. Include photos with your press release so that reporters have art to use with your release should they choose to write about it. Think in terms of providing a package of storytelling, quotes, and photos to make a reporter’s job of covering your press release as easy as possible

Chris Cline, Media Relations Specialist at Veterans United Home Loans

Press Release Tip #9

Journalists are busy, so I recommend following the T.R.U.E method for writing press releases. This ensures that you deliver the best value to media outlets and improve your placement conversions.

Trending – Tie your press release to a trending topic

Relatable – Have an audience in mind when drafting the press release

Unique – Offer a new perspective or data that others haven’t covered yet

Exclusive – Offer access to an insider for exclusive quotes

Jonas Sickler, Marketing Director at ReputationManagement.com

Press Release Tip #10

The most effective press releases build a narrative around an announcement. What do I mean by that? Well, think about a company that’s invented a new heart valve and has just launched it.

A standard press release might announce the new product and talk about how many lives it’ll save. That’s great and it’ll get some column inches. However, you’re leaving it up to the journalist to either build a story around it or keep it short.

A really good press release, on the other hand, will include information on the founder’s motivations, the product and the company’s goals for the future. For example, maybe the founder’s father died of heart disease and he or she wants to bring this product to market to save other people.

David Vallance, Communications Officer at LeaseFetcher

Press Release Tip #11

  • Grab attention with your headline: similar to the old adage a picture is worth a thousand words, so is a good headline. It should give journalists enough information to know exactly what your press release is about while also piquing their interest to continue reading.
  • Data, data and, more data: provide media outlets with stats and any proprietary research that can help prove why your release is newsworthy. If the journalist doesn’t immediately cover your news, they may still use your data down the road increasing your chances for additional exposure.
  • Know Your soundbites: similar to broadcast interviews, journalists are always looking for interesting quotes and POVs from experts in the industry. Take some time to make sure any quotes within your press release are providing unique and interesting information in a way that’s also personable and provides some color behind the brand or news you’re sharing.

Kristen Lueck, Director of Editorial Communications & Digital Marketing at Remedy Review

Press Release Tip #12

  • Create a headline that grabs the attention of the writer or reporter by conveying the most essential information about your Product, Service, New Division, Event, etc.
  • Include statistics or trends that connects with the subject or topic. This helps with credible positioning of the final piece and can save the Reporter or Writer reviewing your Press Release valuable time in meeting their deadline
  • Include a direct quote from one or two of the major players of a company, event producer, sponsor, or speaker. This can add additional credibility to your press release
  • Make sure the press release is grammatically correct, error-free, and doesn’t have long wordy paragraphs. The first paragraph should have important facts that answer: who, what, when, where, and why. Also, if a press release is too long, sometimes it won’t get read
  • Make sure the contact information section has up-to-date information making it clear that you are available to answer additional questions that the writer or reporter may need

Debra Dixon-Anderson, Founder and CEO at Light of Gold PR, Marketing, and Consulting LLC

Press Release Tip #13

Before writing the press release, research should be done on what the media has been covering in recent weeks or months. Re-angle your press release to discuss how your new product, service, or award is relevant to the issue. Remember that journalists don’t care about your product or your company (unless you are an industry giant), so you have to make them understand the value of your press release in the context of the whole industry

Jomel Alos, Online PR Lead at Spiralytics

Press Release Tip #14

The structure of a press release is one of the most important aspects. Start with an opener that grabs attention and instantly communicates the most pertinent message. Then step back and go into more detail about the news/event/product, keeping things concise and relevant to your target audience. Finally, close with a call to action or the message you want to leave in the mind of the reader – this can even mirror your opening sentence to really drive the message home.

Alex Barber, PR Manager at The Pen Warehouse

Press Release Tip #15

One way to make your press release unique is to use a statistic that is provoking, runs counter to conventional thought, is interesting or humorous. A stat like that can make your headline pop and grab the media’s attention. Another way to ensure your press release gets attention is through the use of shareable multimedia. Telling your story through visuals, such as infographics or videos, is a compelling way to get the attention you deserve. Lastly, speaking of videos, you could turn your press release into a short video! This provides a creative way to show the media your story.

Alexis Bealer, Account Associate at McGrath/Power Public Relations

Press Release Tip #16

How you choose to write your headline depends on your distribution strategy. Will you be posting it up on newswire or will be you targeting specific media outlets/journalist? If you’re going to use newswire and similar press release distribution platforms, then you want to keep the headline with a general interest, not diving in too deeply to a niche-specific aspect of the release. Have it target the general audience instead of your primary audience. Keeping it somewhat general will ensure your release won’t be disregarded by journalists who don’t typically cover your industry as easily.

If you’re targeting specific outlets (or even better journalists), then you can get a bit more creative. Look into what some of their recent articles have been covering, as well as which ones have been viewed or shared online the most. Then see if there’s a correlation between those articles and your press release. If there is, make sure your headline reflects the connection. An outlet or journalist will be aware of which of their pieces are doing well in regards to readership and will be more likely to write a story about your release if it touches on what’s been performing well that week.

Alex Belanger, Digital PR Coordinator at seoplus+

Did we miss your favorite tip?

Are we missing your favorite piece of advice on writing press releases? Tweet it to me at @Claire_Brenner and we’ll add it to the list! And if you want even more, be sure to check out our ultimate guide on how to write a press release.

See you next time!

 

Claire Brenner
AUTHOR

Claire Brenner

Claire is a senior content marketing specialist who came to G2 Crowd after graduating from the University of Dayton with a BA in Communication. Born and raised in the Chicago area, her brief stint in Ohio gave her a new appreciation for deep-dish pizza, but left her well-versed in Cincinnati-style chili and “cities” with a population fewer than 400,000. While not writing, Claire can be found practicing calligraphy and planning her next trip.

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Video: Tips for hiring a PR agency

If you’re hiring a PR firm, check out our newest video for tips.

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Insider’s Guide on How to Get More From Your PR Agency

If you work with a public relations agency, you’ve probably wondered if you’re getting everything you should from the team. This is especially true if you inherited an agency, or if you suspect that your long-time firm is getting a little complacent.

Having worked in agencies for most of my career, I can attest that the level and quality of service agencies deliver can vary drastically. I’ve also worked with many clients who have confided their agency horror stories to me. When I ask why they stayed with the offending agency, the response usually was: we didn’t know any better.

One way to find out if your agency is delivering everything they should is to compare services by working with multiple agencies for a period. But who needs that hassle? Instead, here is my simple insider’s guide to ensuring you’re getting the best work from your agency.

  1. Does your agency act like a business partner, or an order taker? Both agencies and their client managers should view the engagement as a partnership, not simply a vendor relationship. The difference is that a partner will be keenly focused on helping the client achieve important business objectives. This includes challenging clients about PR goals that may run up the metrics but don’t advance meaningful progress. Your agency should regularly ask questions such as: what are the quarterly marketing goals; has the vision of the company changed; what are the most pressing challenges the business is facing today? Then they should provide solutions to meet these challenges.
  2. Is your PR team comprised of visible and active senior level contributors? It’s common in the industry for agencies to stack early meetings with senior level associates, but then turn the day-to-day work over to much more junior staffers. This shortchanges clients by removing the experience that drives real value. If you’re not interacting regularly with a senior associate that may be a sign that your business isn’t all that valuable to the agency. It certainly is a sign that you’re not getting the best mix of talent.
  3. Does your PR team regularly deliver fresh ideas? The best PR pros are those who read voraciously, stay updated on trends, and visualize connections in information. These pros are good at finding new ways to tell your story to new audiences by identifying how to leverage news and trends to promote your brand. They also are excited to bring new ideas to the client to try. Your agency should regularly bring you new, creative ideas, instead of waiting for you to direct their activities.
  4. Do you trust your agency team to represent your brand? Your PR team acts as your surrogate when it comes to interacting with reporters, so it’s important that you trust their experience, judgment and temperament. You need to be confident that your team understands what journalists want and the best way to approach them, and also deliver top-notch materials. It’s increasingly common for frustrated reporters to call out poor PR reps publicly on social media, so missteps can reflect negatively on your brand.
  5. Is your agency team accountable for their progress? A good PR team will work with a client to put measurements in place that are meaningful and to host regular meetings to exchange information. They also will deliver insight from metrics to make pivots in strategy in order to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. Over time, this makes the PR program much more effective and efficient. Agencies also should have the capability to benchmark your share of voice with your competitors. If your agency is reporting only on output versus results, you are being shortchanged.
  6. Does your agency team take pride in their work? Effective PR encompasses many different skills, including the ability to write, a quick understanding of complex issues, and attention to detail. It’s also important that executives honor deadlines, and are available when needed. A lack of pride is evident when materials are poorly written, deadlines are missed, and team members don’t feel the same sense of urgency that you do. You should expect your team to produce work that they are proud of.

If you’re not getting what you need from your public relations agency, speak up. If your agency truly is a partner, they will be happy you did and will do whatever they can to improve the relationship.

If things don’t improve, don’t be afraid to make a change. See our tips for selecting the right PR firm.

 

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Tips for Selecting The Right PR Agency

The summer months are behind us. School is back in session. It’s time to begin the serious work of planning for next year. For many organizations, those plans will include partnering with a public relations firm.

Whether you are hiring your first firm or undergoing an agency review, selecting the right agency is an important decision with broad implications. It’s important to understand that selecting the wrong PR firm can have lasting repercussions, including lost business, a damaged reputation and strained relationships with reporters.

A good PR firm, however, can become a trusted advisor, helping to strategically position your company with precisely-crafted messages and targeted communications to a variety of audiences.

When reviewing potential agency partners, here are some important tips:

  • Beware of the bait and switch. When you meet with a prospective agency, you will no doubt meet with one or more people with a vice president or higher title.  It is common practice to stack the deck with big titles during the “pitch” and planning phase, and leave implementation to junior associates—sometimes very junior. It is wise to ask those pitching your account: how much time will you spend working on my account?
  • Go for experience. Before selecting a firm, get the account team’s names and bios. Ask probing questions to determine just how experienced the team is. Consider if you are comfortable with the associates representing your brand with the media. Keep in mind that if your company’s leadership is young, seniority in business partners can be especially helpful.
  • Seek strong management controls. Nothing can ruin a communications program faster than blowing through a year’s budget in the first several months. Ask prospective agencies what controls they use to manage your budget and how they report their progress.
  • Ask about the planning process. PR programs should be based on the marketing objectives of a company. For that reason, every PR plan should be customized for your business and industry. If an agency tells you what you need to do before understanding your marketing goals, keep looking.
  • Look for a team that is professionally aggressive. The best agencies are those that continually learn about your industry, look at trends, and identify opportunities to insert your company into important issues. You should expect your agency to bring ideas and opportunities to you. You also should look for a team that has a history of developing trusting relationships with reporters, not one that will burn a bridge to get a story.
  • Insist on messaging. Being able to talk about your company, why you’re important and how you’re different is imperative to a successful PR effort. Look for a PR firm that makes messaging development #1 and has a track record of creating memorable messaging.
  • Seek a team of coaches. A good PR partner will help you improve your interviewing skills, will challenge you with new ideas and will help advance your brand.
  • Factor in company culture. It’s likely that you’ll seek an agency with related industry experience, which is okay but not necessary. More importantly, look for  an agency that can relate to your business culture and issues. If you’re a fast-growing company, a company that watches expenses closely, a family-owned business, etc., these issues should play a role in the match you make.
  • Be wary of “yes” agencies. One reason you hire an agency is to employ independent thought and experience. If you talk to an agency that doesn’t challenge your ideas or offer new thoughts, you should keep looking.
  • Ask about measurement. Determine if the agency is measuring the right things. Metrics should be based on your marketing goals. Ask questions like: how do you know if the PR program is successful? How do you continually improve the program? What role do I play in measurement?

Finally, don’t hire a firm based on its purported contacts. Some agencies will drop one reporter name after another to impress you. While having contacts helps, it’s more important to understand how the media works, to be skilled at packaging interesting stories to pitch that are relevant to the reporter, and to be able to quickly build relationships with reporters based on trust. These skills are important because reporters change beats and publications at a high rate.

With these 10 points in mind, you are sure to pick a great PR partner.

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Lessons in Preparedness From Harvey, Irma and Maria

We are coming up on the one-year anniversary marking the first time in modern meteorological history that three Category 4 hurricanes hit American territories in a single year.

In business, as in life, it’s human nature to want to put off planning for things that can go wrong. But as many have found out, not planning for a crisis can be perilous.

It’s difficult to understand why so many companies continue to be caught unawares when a crisis hits. According to a survey by the Canadian Investor Relations Institute (CIRI) and Fleishman-Hillard, many companies are mindful of the potential damage crises can cause to their sales, reputation and shareholder value, yet few have  effective crisis management plans in place to deal with negative scenarios.

Crises come in all shapes and sizes—from a major data breach to the death of an executive. Regardless of the scenarios, how a company communicates during a crisis can affect how the company is perceived by customers, the media and Wall Street. 

In addition to better preparing your company, crisis planning can also help executives anticipate and head off crises before the storm clouds gather.

Crisis planning should be conducted at the highest levels of the organization, and should include stakeholders from operations, sales/marketing, IT, human resources, communications, logistics, among other areas.

There are several steps to crisis planning:

  1. Identifying potential crises. As a group, stakeholders verbalize and discuss potential problems that could sideline the business. This exercise shouldn’t include every possible scenario, but should include those that are likely and harmful.
  2. Naming affected constituents. For each potential crises, the group should note who could be harmed and how. Every potential audience should be noted, including employees, shareholders, customers, the community, etc.
  3. Drafting positioning messages. When possible, a position statement on each of the crises should be written. For example, if a company vehicle is involved in a deadly accident, there should be verbiage drafted and ready that describes how drivers are trained, company policies for drivers, and the company’s safety record. Trying to draft these statements while the crisis is unfolding often can take too long to address the immediate needs of the media.
  4. Creating a crisis workflow. When a crisis happens, a workflow that assigns pre-planned activities to specific individuals will ensure that the crisis is managed proactively rather than reactively. This workflow should trigger actions by stakeholders throughout the company so everyone is working in tandem under the direction of one leader.
  5. Developing policies and procedures for communicating with constituents. Crises can evolve very quickly, which increases the chances of misinformation in the media. To ensure that the most up-to-date information is disseminated to head off speculation, policies should be developed that empower only certain people to speak with the media, and prohibit others from doing so. A solid plan will have a mobile press office ready to go.

Once the plan is developed, it’s a good idea to do mock drills so stakeholders in the company can envision how the plan will unfold in a real crisis, and can identify and fix weaknesses in the plan.

Finally, the crisis plan should be reviewed and updated regularly, at least once a year.

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