Let’s be straightforward. PR tools like earned media coverage, online reputation management and crisis management can constitute a significant investment of your marketing budget’s dollars. However, they’re also highly effective when utilized the right way – and while they provide significant, lasting benefits over time, there are some unique challenges associated with PR that deserve some attention.
1. We wish (more than you do) that PR results were as easy to track as you would expect them to be.
Most misunderstandings about measuring return on investment can be cleared up quickly if a company can accept that PR results can’t be reduced to a single accounting equation. There are true intangible benefits and outcomes to consider that carry significant value, and maybe not in the accounting sense of the word. Look at the viral impact of a strategy – not just the number of mentions in social media sites, but the number of influential companies that mention your company’s brand, and if what they said was in a positive tone. Counting the number of media placements is a way to rate the quality of a PR strategy, and these articles or TV news spots can also be rated on quality of tone and content.
2. We know public relations works, but we don't know how well it will work for your business until we try … and until we see how your organization responds.
Sometimes we meet with all the executives and everyone seems to be on board with moving forward with a public relations campaign. Then when it comes to actually getting to work on a campaign, sometimes the company is less than 100 percent. Without a company-wide commitment, the campaign is in jeopardy before it begins. PR works. It’s proven itself time and time again. Like the old quote says, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you do have to start to be great.” Finding out which PR tools are best for your organization takes a willingness to start.
3. Some employees fear that outsourcing PR jeopardizes their job security.
There are many reasons why hiring a PR firm is an asset to your current organizational messaging efforts, and once the administrators at your workplace see the outcomes, they’ll be more apt to offer you a promotion rather than let you go. A smart PR firm has the collective knowledge of the entire firm behind it, working for you – and working alongside you to help communicate in new ways and utilize your experience from a team-based perspective. The common goal is higher customer awareness, which equates to higher sales, so everybody wins.
4. PR works better for some products and services than others.
How much did Apple spend on pushing its failed “Newton” product? What was the public relations strategy around the Ford Edsel? Obviously, a good public relations strategy can only be built around something that the public actually wants. Smart PR firms are brutally honest with their clients when it comes to offering an outside opinion. If they see something that doesn’t click, they’ll be the first to let the company know.
5. The best PR campaigns come from years and years of proactive and persistent efforts – and this is typically not a six-month endeavor.
Most overnight successes actually took many years to get recognition. Some people might say that proactivity is actually just a kind way of saying that PR folks politely pester until they achieve a result. The reality is that most campaigns involve a number of phases that include reaching out to members of the news media multiple times during the campaign. This can also involve reaching out to try several online reputation-building tools and responses. It’s more than revising the same news release and emailing it out to news media outlets; these tools are sometimes about putting the product in the hands of editors and information gateways across multiple formats. We want them to have a true product or service experience, and then we’ll help nudge for high-value coverage.
Keep in mind that research shows PR achieves lasting, positive change in how audiences view a product or service. This means the tools and strategies build upon themselves, helping create a sense of reputation and loyalty among key audiences that you just can’t put a price on.
by Jason Mudd, APR
Jason Mudd, APR, is the CEO of Axia Public Relations and an Emmy-Award-winning accredited public relations practitioner, speaker, author and entrepreneur. His public relations portfolio includes work for established national brands such as American Airlines, Dave & Buster’s, Florida Blue, H&R Block, Hilton, HP, Miller Lite, New York Life, Pizza Hut, Ray Charles and Verizon, as well as emerging brands like Brightway Insurance, Pragmatic Works and It Works! Global.