The way you and your company relate to the public is crucial to its success. Understanding the need for public relations – and that engaging in public relations is not an option – is a primary factor in the success of many businesses. Understanding there is no uniform general “public” is also not an option. And recognizing that your public relations efforts begin first within the walls of your company is essential. If you are a manufacturer of building products, your knowledge of public relations and its importance can make a difference in your success as a company.
Here are five suggestions (and two truths) you can implement to make the most of your PR efforts:
Let’s start with the truths because if you get those wrong, all the other ideas will drift aimlessly and hit or miss haphazardly.
There is no general public. Think about it for a minute. How do you describe this group of people or persons? Non-PR professionals often use the term as shorthand for all people, or all people not directly connected to their company. But stand at an open aisle in any Target, Walmart or the bleachers at your local team’s home field and look at all the people you see. Are they the general public? Do they all have the same interest in ANY message delivered through ANY channel? Of course not. They are not general, nor are they a monolithic public. Just as you wouldn’t lump all target audiences into one glob (or shouldn’t), don’t lump anyone who isn’t a company employee into a “general public.”
Use what you know about segmenting to identify who wants, needs, or cares about the information you’re going to distribute. Research can help you isolate why those publics want, need or care about your information, but to start, at least identify publics within those three groups. Usually, they are your constituent groups/stakeholders, as those who have a vested interest in your company and can either affect or be affected by your operations and business performance. Stakeholders can include current or potential customers, stockholders and investors (if you’re a public company), suppliers and vendors, employees, and local, state or national government entities.
When you free yourself from the idea of a general public and think in terms of who wants, needs, or cares about your business, your public relations efforts will start from a focused place and not a fuzzy glob.
Your employees are your first, and probably your most important, public. Internal communications/PR comes first. Your business wouldn’t exist without employees—whether that be a large or tiny number—and they are one of your most valuable resources and your biggest advocate—or critic—group.
The core of a good employee relations program is to keep employees informed and provide them with channels of communication to upper levels of management and vice-versa. A recent Harvard Business Review article looked at internal relations and suggested that, in any change-management effort, good internal communication reduces uncertainty, helps an organization overcome resistance to change, facilitates employee participation, and builds shared understanding and mutual interpretation
Internal relations and communication is so key to business success that Harvard Business Publishing even has an educational concentration and publications about it. In a recent publication, “The authors combine theories, research insights, practices, as well as current issues and cases into a comprehensive guide for internal communication managers and organizational leaders on how to communicate effectively with internal stakeholders, build ethical organizational cultures, and engage employees in a rapidly-changing business environment,” reads the HBR summary. “The authors summarize the trends and issues transforming the practice of internal communication: digitization, globalization, diversity and inclusion, work-life balance, and a concern for corporate social conscience.”
Internal PR is a lot more than creating a celebration-by-month calendar and marking employee milestones, although both may be important. And it comes first. Still unsure as to its value and comes-first status? Read this research by Salesforce on how “employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.” And that was before the pandemic. Imagine what it is today.
Now that we’ve visited two necessary truths, here are five suggestions you can implement to make the most of your PR efforts:
Identify the Purpose Behind Any PR Effort
Document the (researched, not gut instinct-ed) reason you’re doing any public relations effort. Seriously, write it down, so that anyone on your team, or who’s charged with making it happen or measuring its success, knows the purpose and goal. If you’re not sure, don’t start anything until you are. Is it a response to a problem or crisis? Or, is it more opportunity based, such as:
- to create attention, awareness, interest, recognition or recall?
- to deliver information and understanding?
- to touch emotions and create a feeling?
- to modify attitudes, change behavior, create conviction, or influence preference?
- to authenticate identity or validate associations?
One of the top benefits of knowing your purpose is to help you isolate what publics you want to reach with your communication.
Identify Your Areas of Expertise
Your areas of expertise might be solely oriented to the products you sell, or they could be tied to some type of service. Identify a few key areas of expertise, use your strengths and then deliver focused messages within those realms.
Maybe you have a locksmith business and that’s your expertise. You can use that knowledge in videos and podcasts because people who don’t work with locks are often mesmerized by those who understand them. The risk is that potential customers don’t call your business when they lock themselves out, but more likely you establish your knowledge and lock cred in a way that people call you FIRST when they’re locked out. If you’re not the creator of the content, find the outlet that is and offer your expertise, which will give you an opportunity to showcase your knowledge and become a thought leader in your field.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Practice different delivery methods of your message. Develop presentations and have articles with your industry-specific advice appear in publications. Speaking opportunities, providing service on a board of directors, and other community activities also provide an ideal method of delivering your message and establishing good public relations. Community engagement and cause-related public relations strengthen the affinity people have for a company that does it, so do it. (If you need more in-depth guidance, call us.)
Focus on Media Interested in You
While you want to establish a presence with the media in general, honing your focus to those within the general business sector will yield more tangible results. Don’t forget to also target those media outlets that focus on the trade issues important to your business.
The above suggestions will help you hone a more focused public relations campaign. The result is that your goals will be met more quickly than if you had an unfocused plan. If you’re interested in learning more, ER Marketing develops public relations strategies that get results. Call us to start a conversation.
Push Less and Collaborate More
Public relations vary across industries, of course, and PR has evolved quickly with the growth of traditional media’s online publications, online-only publications, and user-generated publishing, including blogs, YouTube and other social media platforms.
In their most optimized form, these communication channels lead to deeper, more integrated, collaboration with other communication functions, such as advertising and marketing. Yes, you’ll need to manage information flow and push content for your company or business, but to build credibility, thought leadership and influence, stay engaged in whatever your company’s other communication functions are trying to accomplish and work together.
The above suggestions will help you maintain and improve a more-focused public relations campaign and your goals will be met more quickly than if you just guessed at how to start and what to do.
If you’d like more guidance or insights into how to maintain or improve your public relations tactics and strategies, contact ER Marketing and let’s start a conversation.