By Cynthia Mbugua, Second year Media and Communications student at Coventry University
In Public Relations, it is obvious to expect anything to come from it. This can be the good, the bad or the ugly. Any good PR firm has to be prepared to handle any kind of situation that comes along with it. At the same time, it is always good to be able to recognise some of the tips needed to avoid a Public Relations disaster.
1. The number one tip of how to avoid a PR disaster is to recognise that your employees are your social ambassadors. By this you should be able to know that brands, either small or large must face the fact that the people with your closest connection to your organisation are your employees. It is clear that your employees can either be your perfect brand advocates and evangelists, but they can also burn your reputation when they lose control on the social media networks.
2. It is always good to mitigate the risk of employee social media manual which clearly defines how employees should put the company’s messages across. As I said earlier, your employees are the highest percentage of your company’s reputation.
3. Another tip which should be considered is to think before sending off content, for example emails and tweets. Everyone working in the organisation should know that the heat of the moment is definitely not the best time to respond to your clients. During a moment of tension we tend to say things that we do not mean and this can in turn affect any kind of relationship with your clients and potential clients.
4. The issue of security in your organisation should be handled with exceptional confidentiality too. Safeguarding the reputation of your organisation should be everybody’s key responsibility . If your organisation has a clean responsibility then the more chances you are likely to get to work with more clients.
When flicking through the business pages of your chosen daily newspaper, scanning the pages of a business publication in your accountant’s waiting room, or studying an in-depth feature in a trade publication you subscribe to, you don’t often consider the journey of that article before it was printed on to the glossy pages in front of you.
A fundamental part of handling a company’s PR is their ‘Account Management’. We are regularly asked, quite rightly, what this actually entails. Account Management is the umbrella that constitutes for all the hard work that goes into boosting that client’s profile.
These are as follows:
In-depth research is required in order to write a significant and relevant press release that the media are going to want to use. Initially we carry out research into the products and services of our clients, and then we look at what is new/innovative/recent/newsworthy. Alongside this we will research industry trends and requirements from the press. This can be a lengthy process as there is a lot of content out there, and we find a way to hit the mark correctly.
Response to media requests
There is no possible way of determining how much time we will spend on a certain client’s activity. In fact each day in a PR office is quite spontaneous. We receive media requests from journalists sporadically throughout the week, which can consume the time you have originally allocated to another task. This then can lead to additional media coverage enhancing the profile of a client’s business further
Developing relationships with key journalists is the most fundamental factor in gaining coverage for a business. Much time is spent liaising with journalists to get them to recognise your company’s brand and services so that they are aware of whom to call on when they want information in a certain field.
Conceptualisation is integrated into all of our client’s Marketing Communications Strategies. This is the creative process that involves generating ideas for campaigns and stories in sight of raising the profile of a company. This is developed alongside the research element of account management.
Gauging your return on investment for PR activity is a grey area. Without paying extreme amounts for a full press clippings service then it is hard to know exactly every publication your content has been published in. Our team put many processes in place (Google Alerts, monitoring applications, individual searches, media relations) to decipher as much coverage as we can. We then measure this against the advertising charges for that publication/site. PR is arguably more valuable than advertising as it places you as industry leaders and experts in the field. The traditional method is to multiply the advertising value by three in order to work out an effective AVE figure.
Communication & Meetings
We ensure that we maintain regular contact with all of our clients, keeping them updated with activity and other things going on in their industry. We regularly make suggestions on things that they can be doing, i.e. answering questions on LinkedIn as an expert in their field. Every little helps!
We also ensure that we schedule in regular bi-monthly meetings face to face in order to keep everything up-to-date on their contract. Some of the best stories can come out of these meetings without the client noticing there is a story in something that may have happened. If two of our team members attend these meetings then it can take a significant amount of time out of our working calendar.
Many clients will hold events for various occasions. As their partner in PR we like to make sure we have a presence at anything like this. It shows support to our client and also gives us more of an insight into the type of company they are.
Hopefully this blog gives you more of a rounded view of what account management entails with regards to PR. Quite a lot of work, eh?
What is the first thing you think of when searching the internet for a company or service? It is something you might not even notice you are doing, so subliminal it has become. And yet it is something that we all do every time without fail – come up with key words or phrases to input into a search engine so that websites can find useful matches.
It’s not just search engines that require key words though. In fact, a successful and strategic marketing campaign also requires a whole host of key words and phrases. Key words can be used to get across your messages and ideals when used consistently throughout marketing. Think of soft drinks, Christmas and children, think of Coca Cola. Think of cars, windows, scratches, think of Autoglass. Think of your products, services and key audience – do people think of your business?
To be successful, keywords need to be implemented from the start of a marketing strategy and consistently spread throughout all activities. From the beginning of your strategic marketing planning, think of all the buzz words that help to describe your business. If you were searching Google for your company, what words would you enter to find yourself? What values are you trying to promote with your business? Put them into words.
What words should I be using?
Think of words that describe your business. If you are a PR and marketing firm, those need to be your keywords. If you work in engineering, engineering is one of your keywords just as dentistry is one for dentists and computing one for IT companies.
Where are you? Are you in Coventry? Then that needs to be a keyword. Offering removal services from Manchester? Then removal services and Manchester need to be in your keywords.
Who do you work for? What audience demographics are you trying to attract? If it’s specialist medical chairs for over 60s then you need to be using words like ‘elderly’ and ‘pensioner’ in your key words. If it’s younger people, use the words ‘teenagers,’ ‘twenty-somethings’ or ‘children.’
That’s the obvious but what about the not-so-obvious? Have a good think. Is there another word that describes one of the existing keywords you have thought of? A good idea is to go through a Thesaurus and find all words similar to those you are including in your keywords. People search for different things. While one person might be looking for accountants, someone else might be looking for financial advisors. It is highly likely that you fit into both titles so make sure your keywords leave no room for error.
Never miss an opportunity
It’s not just a case of sitting down and penning your keywords – you need to use them as much as possible. Consider them in everything you do that helps to market your business. Keywords can be used anywhere in marketing material to get across your products and services to the right audiences.
Begin with the most obvious place – on your website. Your website may have been live for quite some time and gathering a consistent and impressive hit rate but that doesn’t mean it can’t be made even better. Now you have your key words, go back over your website copy and insert them in wherever and whenever appropriate. Even if one of your keywords is a cliché that you don’t want included on your web copy, make sure you still tag it in your META data so it is still present should somebody run a search for it. Done properly, it really does help with your search engine optimisation or SEO, driving your website up the search rankings.
Keep these keywords at the forefront of your mind for any other marketing material you produce. A press release about a new product or service offers a great opportunity to embed some of your key words while a direct marketing letter gives you the chance to be bolder when including these terms. Blogs are written by you and read by industry experts, followers and those interested in your business. What a fantastic opportunity to stamp some of your key words into your prose! What’s more, when writing a blog, unlike a press release – you have the final say over how it is published. Be striking and get your keywords as prominent as you can. Use one in your headline, add a sub-headline and don’t forget to tag the entire post with your key words. Again, keywords in blogs help with your SEO, and don’t forget to tag any images or videos you use with your key words. Be consistent.
Evaluate and monitor
Your keywords aren’t working? Then you need to sit down and think why this is not going to plan. Perhaps your industry is changing and your keywords are not supporting these changes? Maybe your target audience aren’t searching for your key words because your keywords are old fashioned or outdated. Put yourself in the mindset of a potential customer demographic. If you are selling to businesspeople think what kind of terms businesspeople will be using. It is unlikely to be slang words or terms that have been added to the Oxford English Dictionary within the last five years. They are more likely to be searching for the more traditional words that describe your business.
By regularly evaluating your key words and implementing them within your marketing strategy you can be sure that your key messages are being picked up by the right people operating in the right circles. Just as Google regularly reviews and changes its SEO terms, you need to be updating and changing your keywords for maximum effect.
And don’t forget, you can monitor the effectiveness of key words in your industry sector by using a free tool: Google Alerts. This will bring you regular updates and information from across the Internet using the key words you set up. It’s great for keeping an eye on your customers, competitors, and key industry trends as well as what is being said about your business – all because you’ve invested some time in thinking about key words that are important to your business.
When was the last time you flicked through a newspaper or magazine and stopped to read an article after seeing an interesting image? Not too long ago we bet! Have you considered how dull and uninteresting a publication would be if it was just pages and pages of text with no imagery at all? Very few would read it. Even fewer would remember a piece they read in it.
The truth is good images make good PR. Take the upcoming Olympics as an example. The opening ceremony is set to be a visual extravaganza. All competing nations will put on their own parades, the Olympic Flame will be on view for all to see and there will be a feast of UK culture for spectators to enjoy. How many national newspapers will have picture specials? How many front pages will be adorned with Olympic images?
Your PR story may not be on the grand scale of the Olympics but that doesn’t mean your images shouldn’t be. A strong image can really add life to a story and persuade an Editor to run with it – even if the subject is not all that interesting. If an Editor has two stories of equal strength, then they are more likely to run with the one that has the better image. Not only do images fill space but they also add an extra dimension to news articles, so it is worth getting it right. Here’s what makes a good press image:
- Make it relevant
If your story is shouting about how great your new product is then including a picture of your Manager smiling and playing golf isn’t going to suffice. Make your image relevant to the story. Particularly if your story is about a new product, you need to show people what the product looks like so they can recognise it next time they want to place an order.
- Don’t be boring
Images of people sitting at desks in suits are just not interesting. Are you going to stop flicking through a magazine and read a story because there is an image next to it of someone sitting at a desk? Thought not – so why should anybody else?
- Caption your photos
It all comes down to the ‘w’s. Who, what, when, where, why? If you are taking a picture of a person, then the publication you are approaching needs to know who it is in the image and how they are associated with the story. Images of random, anonymous people are of no use to publications so neither will your story be.
This is particularly key if you are going to take your own images. Make sure everything you include in the image is centred nicely. Make it tight, with the subject of the image almost filling the frame. Photo editors are busy – the last thing they want to be doing is cropping and editing images that have been sent to them externally.
- No logos
Please, no logos. Nobody likes logos. Sending a company logo with a press release is lazy and shows that you have not gone to the effort to put together some interesting visuals. Logos are traditionally associated in the press with advertorials – paid for coverage – they have no place in editorial space where your inclusion in a publication depends on the quality of your story.
- Use the professionals
If you can’t take a decent press picture yourself, then get the professionals to do it for you. We work with a number of professional press photographers up and down the country, and they have the knack of understanding what a particular newspaper or magazine editor is looking for, whether it’s the shot from a quirky angle, an action shot, or something more abstract.
- Tagging images increases your visibility
Images very often make it into online media these days, and this gives you the perfect opportunity to tag images with keywords and phrases that describe your business. These are searchable online and can drive traffic back to your website. So when you take any image that is going to be used digitally, do take time to think about how you can also increase your search engine optimisation.
These are just some brief points about why good images are so important. A good picture really can tell a thousand words. Perhaps that’s why Infographics are now so popular, but that’s a story for another blog.
Recognising the value in public relations is fundamental to a series of successful campaigns and a significant profile raise. Many companies take a PR agency for granted and expect them to magic stories out of the blue. However, a strong relationship is needed between the client and PR if anything good is ever going to come of the contract.
At Bridge, we like our clients to be aware of the real value of PR, and understand what their responsibilities are – after all it is all about communicating the right messages correctly!
1. Develop a comprehensive PR brief
You wouldn’t jump into a pool without knowing how to swim and where you wanted to get to. Prevent your PR campaign from sinking by having a detailed brief on what your business wants to obtain from it. Also, be honest about your budget! If the financial perimeter is set then the agency will not go overboard on their creative proposal, resulting in the company being let down when they don‘t have the finances to support it. If the seeds are sown correctly with a clear goal ahead, then your business will only reap the rewards of a vibrant PR strategy.
2. Maintain regular contact
PR is not intended for sales leads – that is what your sales team are for, however it is important that your agency are able to liaise with the sales team in order to sync the information that is going out in the public domain. If the sales team are regularly updated with info from the PR side then they can refer to it in their sales patter. Speaking to your PR agency regularly will keep your business at the forefront of the PR teams minds, and that foundation of a relationship will enable them to prosper in the work they carry out for you.
3. Frequent face to face meetings
In our experience the best stuff comes from meeting clients face to face. Although we currently live in a digitally dominated society, human nature can prevail all. Face to face conversations have the ability to develop a corporate personality more than any other medium. We have had recent meetings with clients who are very busy people, and some of the best stories come as we are about to walk out of the door and they say “oh did I tell you we’ve just won a massive contract…”
4. Tell them EVERYTHING
A PR agency can only be as good as the information they are provided with. Keep the PR agency updated with the happenings of your company as they will always be researching newsworthy angles in relation to what is going on in your marketplace. If you keep the PR team in the loop when it comes to news and business developments confidentiality will not be a problem as good agencies will always run content past you for approval first. Remember – they are working as part of your team!
5. Identify your ‘Bibles’
Whilst carrying out research on your PR campaign it is vital that you identify the key publications you want to be appearing in. Most publications provide media packs on who their readership is and what the circulation is. Maybe you are a local business and just want to appear in the local newspapers? Whatever the situation is you need to make the agency aware of this so that they can focus their material to the style and format of that specific publication. This way they will also begin to develop stronger relationships with the editors and reporters to ensure you receive regular coverage with them.
It’s a question that is commonly asked – particularly by businesses owners who think they need PR, but are unsure exactly what it is. Some people think it is a way of winning new business; others think that it’s simply an exercise that gets them in the local paper and others believe that it just enhances their reputation. The real answer? It can do all this and so much more.
Public Relations is all about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. It’s about not only developing a good reputation for your business but managing that reputation once you have built it up – establishing and maintaining goodwill and mutual understanding between a business and its public.
How does it work?
PR comes in many different forms; marketing, social media, public affairs, corporate communications, event management, content marketing public information – all titles which contribute to the umbrella that is Public Relations and all topics that cover a part of what PR is.
It’s about establishing trust between a business and the public, which could be done through many forms. Telling stories to the local, national, global and trade presses will catapult a business in front of a large public base. Being active on social networks and engaging with customers; old, new and potential shows the public that a business cares about the public. By holding regular events or seminars, your business can help educate the public about what it is you do. Through research, feedback, communication and evaluation, a business can enjoy positive PR and subsequent positivity when it comes to sales and customer lists.
PR is a more credible source of promotion than advertising. An editorial in a local magazine, promoting your business is worth far more than the price of an advertisement in exposure and credibility. Adverts are paid-for pages, targeting a specific audience whereas an editorial is placed because you have a good story worth telling – not because you are paying for the pleasure!
Do I need PR?
Yes. PR can only be good for business. Your company need not be the biggest, the most profitable or the most powerful in your industry sector to reach out and build trust with the public. In fact, without this circle of trust, you may never be the best in your sector.
Just as it doesn’t matter how brilliant your services are or how ground-breaking your products are – if nobody knows about them, they aren’t going to buy them. Every inch of your business can be run to perfection but you will make no money of nobody knows who you are – they will continue going to your competitors. With PR, the public will know who you are; they will see for themselves the successes of your business and grow to trust your brand and its services. If you communicate more effectively with the public than your competitors do, it will be you who the public turns to going forward.
Still not convinced?
Take a look at the question below and if you answer yes to any of them, you need PR!
- Do I want to grow my business?
- Do I want to build a foundation of trust with the public?
- Do I want to be ahead of my competitors?
- Do I want to move into new markets?
- Do I want to win new customers while retaining my existing ones at the same time?
- Do I want to win over my local community
- Do I want to be recognised as the best in my field of expertise?
To kickstart your PR and marketing, give Bridge PR and Media Services a call today on 024 7652 0025 and we can work out a plan that works for you.