KEY CALENDAR EVENTS AND HOW TO USE THEM FOR PR

Key Calendar Events and How to Use Them for PR 

Each year is jam packed with events, from seasonal festivities, to trade shows, to the ‘season’ with its’ sporting and social calendar. 

Identifying where and how you can make an event a stage for your business’s PR is a skill that requires some discernment, but done right, it can bring real value to your brand profile. 

The calendar

There’s no point stuffing your calendar full of events that you won’t be using, or that are only tenuously linked to you or your industry, but you also want to make sure you have a range of events in there that you can use in different forms. Think about including a selection from the following:

  • Seasons – e.g: winter, summer, start of school holidays
  • Festivals or religious holidays – e.g: Christmas, Eid al-Fitr, Easter, Holi, Chinese New Year, St Patrick’s Day, Halloween
  • National and international business, social, political and sporting events – e.g: Davos, Wimbledon, Glastonbury, Paris Fashion Week, the National Budget announcement
  • Trade shows and sector events
  • Awareness days, weeks and months – National Apprenticeship Week, World Cancer Day, International Women’s Day, Stress Awareness Week, Plastic Free July, LGBT History Month  (These require a slightly different kind of consideration and approach, so we will deal with these in more detail in a separate blog.)

What kind of events will your target audience be affected by, or interested in reading about? Social, sporting, political, business events? Double-check the dates each year, don’t assume it will fall on the same day as previous years. Also, check and note down if there are any themes or special focuses for an event that year that you can tie into the messaging and your strategy.

The preparation

In line with your PR budget and resources, think about how much time you will have. You need to consider in what way you will be involved, as the strategy you select will depend on the kind of activity you are running for the event. Select the key ones you definitely want to be involved with and will have strong material for, and prioritise those for media contact. Then for the others, keep in hand and don’t forget to engage on social media or with a quick blog post where appropriate.

The pitch

What do the media want to talk about? Research what has been said in previous years, what do your competitors do, and where is there a gap?

If your business is taking a front and centre role, by hosting its own event, with a high-profile presentation, or your CEO speaking, then an invite to journalists could be relevant. If the journalist is busy or you can’t invite guests, another option is offering a post-event summary of what was said, as well as your specialist insights. If your team is attending, providing services or launching a product, then inviting media or sharing a press release around your activities is another strategy to consider (although bear in mind product releases or promotional material will often be met with a request for payment to feature).

If you aren’t directly involved or attending, a well-done survey with interesting, unique statistics is a great way to set up engagement with the media (and can be set up as an annual activity driving engagement year after year). However, this can require significant time investment for planning and proper implementation. Another option is providing detailed insight and advice from your business that relates to the event . If undertaking a survey, or sharing business data, make sure to consider privacy, as well as the accuracy and scope of your data collection – it must be clear and relevant to the journalist you are pitching to.

If you don’t have anything to say beforehand,  keep an eye out for stories that are released about the event and offer an expert response or opinion if relevant.

The contact

You generally need to be making contact with the press 1-3 months in advance of the event. Depending on the form of publication (online, print, local, national) lead times will be different. Check to see when your top publications or outlets have historically published stories on the event you are focusing on. Make initial contact well in advance to gauge their response to you providing material to them (but be ready to provide specifics on what you are offering) and also ask them what form of material would be of interest.

The review

After the event, fully review all the coverage received and note how each publication/journalist responded to you. Check what is working and what isn’t. Every year prepare to review – you can’t rehash the same material and expect people to be interested. Think carefully about what you do and don’t let it get tired. 

PART II – FINDING THE PERFECT FIT

 Questions to Ask PR Agencies During the Tender Process

Once you have decided your business is interested in integrating PR, and you have reviewed your needs and expectations with the questions we outlined in the first part of this series, it’s time to prepare yourself to meet and interview PROs. 

You’ll set up some initial meetings for introductions, to run through background on your company, outline your needs and goals, and then collate some information about a selection of PR companies. Once you’ve provided this background, and have an understanding of each PR team, you can make a shortlist of those you think would be a good fit and schedule detailed pitch meetings.

In this blog we are going to explore the key questions you should ask your shortlist of PROs during the interview tender process. Be sure to have received a clear answer to each of these before making your decision, as it will help you evaluate and select objectively.

What are your values and style of working?

Nice one to start off with. Do they seem like they will be good to work with and does their ethos align with that of your own company? 

Who will be our main point of contact? Who will be working on our account?

Many larger agencies will send senior, experienced members to pitch in for an account and then drop off once a contract is signed. You’ll need to know who will be working day to day on your account and also who you’ll be in regular communication with. If your main point/points of contact aren’t even in the meeting (without a good reason why they are absent) then that’s a big red flag from the start.

What campaigns or strategies would you recommend or suggest?

This is where you’ll really see if the PR team pitching has listened to and/or read the information you provided regarding your company, goals and needs. It’s really important you were well prepared and provided as much clear detail as possible during the initial meeting to get the best responses from PR companies in regards to this question.

Consider the following:

  • Do they specifically respond to the details you provided them? 
  • Are their strategies clear and can they articulate their reasoning behind them? 
  • Do they outline where they would need more information or what you may have missed in your initial briefing?

What challenges do you see for our company PR?

It’s great to hear all the positive things about your company, what a fantastic job the PR team will do and how much potential your company has to be featured glowingly in all your target publications. However, things aren’t always that rosy, and you also want to be able to have a measured understanding and expectations. The pitching company should be able to outline some of the issues that may be faced, and their tactics for dealing with, or overcoming, those obstacles for you.

How will you demonstrate or measure your work?

Depending on budget and also the kind of PR campaigns you are running there are various methods for measuring the value and success of the work done. This is a tricky question as PR is not as financially clear to measure as say, sales. You want to make sure the PR team takes this question seriously and responds appropriately, elaborating on the methods they would use to demonstrate and assess their work on your account.

External press monitoring or other PR measurement tools may be beneficial if you have a large budget, or want to understand sentiment. Press monitoring is not always necessary, but for certain you want to know your PR team will be working with your business to evaluate the success and outcome of each campaign or output against clearly defined targets and goals. If you’d like to learn more about measurement, the Barcelona Principles 3.0, are an up-to-date communications industry agreement on measurement and evaluation.

Why would you like to work with us? Why do you think you would be a good fit?

This isn’t as simple as ‘we’re specialists in your sector’, although working with a business that has established relations and an understanding of your industry is an important consideration. Reflect on their answer in response to the materials you provided them and notice whether they show enthusiasm for your company and its work. Specifics are telling in this area. ‘Exciting business’ is nice to hear, but what do they think of your products or services, your potential for growth, your leadership and values, and where do they fit in?

Can you provide testimonials or references?

This is really a given and should be provided automatically. However, if you haven’t received any testimonials then be sure to ask, or if you’d like more then feel free to ask if they have any companies who would mind being a reference and sharing their experience.

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED IN 2022

A Thoroughly Post-Pandemic Intellect 

Amongst his many witticisms, Oscar Wilde once wrote, “to expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect”. This statement rings stingingly true in the pandemic-altered business environment, which has become thoroughly ingrained with the outlook of expecting the unexpected over the last two years.

Whether you’re thinking of bringing on board PR this year, or already have a PR team working for you, you may be wondering what 2022 will look like from a PR perspective. Here’s a few pointers on what Publicité is expecting and what we would advise organisations to do in the face of another year of uncertainty. 

Planning

Planning ahead is very important every year, so this has to be first and foremost. If you haven’t already briefed your PR team in on your 2022, and specifically Q1 plans, now is the time to do it. Your team should have content plans, forward features, awards and events scheduled into your PR calendar.

Make sure background research has been undertaken internally or externally, such as competitor and media reviews, to ensure you are up to speed with what’s happening in your sector before the year gets fully underway.

Flexibility

Whilst effective planning is crucial, flexibility is even more critical for 2022. This year will be another year of uncertainty and volatility for most sectors. Whilst there is some optimism and a certain degree of understanding of how to operate in this environment there is no predicting what will really happen. Adaptability will have to be ingrained into all plans and the mindset of your organisation. 

Considering different risks or obstacles that may appear and setting some alternative plans in place will be helpful. For instance, if your organisation is planning to attend any events in person, consider what you will do if the event is cancelled or moves online. These don’t have to be full plans of action, but putting some forethought into the matter and disseminating or noting down ideas on how to manage or make a success of these scenarios may help your team make the best of the situation if it arises. 

Communication

Political and environmental volatility means you need to expect and prepare for more regular contact with your PR team than usual to ensure you are responding quickly and appropriately to the turbulent news cycle. 

This works both ways, whilst your PR team may be updating you with news or opportunities to comment on, you should also make sure to keep them regularly in the loop with business updates, such as if there are factors that impact press releases. This helps PR executives plan your content better, respond to the media accurately and utilise time on your account most effectively. 

Keeping in contact doesn’t need to be onerous, or require long meetings, but should be structured as much as possible to ensure nothing is missed. Putting in the diary weekly, bi-weekly or monthly short catch-ups, as well as longer quarterly planning, assessment and brainstorming meetings is advised. Make sure there is an established point of contact on your team who is responsible for liaising with PR in the case of any immediate crises, surprises or compelling opportunities.

Clarity

Key messages should be reviewed for 2022 – make sure they are accurate and your team, particularly spokespeople, are clear on these messages.

Aside from business messaging and individual industry challenges, the three universal themes most businesses will likely need to address within their PR in some form will be:

  • Sustainability and environmental credentials
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Workplace safety and wellbeing

Getting your messaging in line, and honest strategies in place to deal with these issues will be critical. Customers are demanding more transparency, and becoming skilled at spotting misleading or weak responses to these issues (such as greenwashing initiatives or statements). You must ensure honest, clear cut answers are provided if faced with these questions. 

Creativity

Another way to counter all the uncertainly is creativity. Lead the way with creative ideas, unique stories and exciting strategies that will make you stand out. Try to schedule some time for out-of-the-box thinking and brainstorming. There may be more opportunities to issue reactive statements or pitches, as the news cycle is less predictable and ‘real-life’ voices are regularly needed. Think vertically and look into different areas where your expertise may be of interest to creatively build your brand awareness and reputation. 

FOCUS ON FEATURES

You Can’t Lose Focus When it Comes to Features 

One of the first tasks you need to do when kicking off the PR strategy for your business is to take some time to learn and educate yourself on the best ways of working with your target media.

Identify your target publications, or those you already contact/feature most often and take some time to learn how they work. This includes researching:

  • What kind of material do they feature? (news, technical articles, opinion, interviews, case studies or a combination of these)
  • How do they like to be contacted?
  • What kind of format do they like to receive content in?
  • Do they work to an editorial calendar, have regular special features throughout the year or just use relevant content as it is pitched? 

Having this background is critical to developing good media relations. You have to work with editors and journalists and provide them with the material they want, in the format they like. In this piece we are going to focus on features, and how best to make use of editorial calendars to maximise your PR opportunities.

Identify your targets

Your first step will be to review your press lists and identify your target publications, those you regularly work with, as well as those you aspire to be featured in. This can include trade publications, as well as vertical sector media and even national papers which run special features or publications throughout the year.

End of October/early November is generally the opportune time to be starting this project. Too early and the next year’s calendars won’t be published yet, too late and you’ll miss the boat for pitching for features in January-March.

Find the calendars

Not all publications, particularly ones which are solely online, work to ‘features’, but you need to find out which ones do. Features can be listed on a website, but will usually be included in either a standalone ‘editorial calendar’, ‘forward features’ list, or quite often, as part of the publications annual ‘media pack’, alongside advertising costs and opportunities.

You may directly receive from the publication an email containing an editorial calendar or media pack, or you can request from your contact there. For those you haven’t had contact with, take some time to go through the websites for publications to download or find their forward features, or media pack (editorial calendars when part of the media pack are usually towards the back, with all advertising and publication stats in the front).

Select features 

Identify the features which suit your business and you would like to pitch content for and then include them in your own wider PR calendar. Additionally, creating a standalone features calendar which includes more details to help you keep track of deadlines, journalist contacts and manage ideas for pitching can be helpful. 

When choosing the features you want to pitch in for, make sure you can provide the correct materials, images, or product samples, or someone on your team can deliver insight, education and expertise. If the feature is for a specific item or service (e.g. top ten lists), then making sure you appear in as many of the correct features for your products is an important part of a tailored campaign to drive sales. 

Seeing the features publications are planning to run can be an inspiration for hot topics in the year ahead for your business too. 

Pitch in advance

You have to be ahead of the curve so your material engages the journalists interest before competitors, but also hit that ‘sweet spot’ that’s not too early. If the calendar notes deadlines for pitches, and/or deadlines for content submissions make sure you have included those in your calendar. Schedule your contact in your work calendar and prepare your pitches well in advance. 

If you aren’t quite sure what the journalist is planning to cover within the feature (if, for instance, it’s a wide topic) then send in a prospective email, with details about your business, services or product, and what insight or materials you could offer on the topic. Make your pitches concise, but include engaging details and relevant ideas.

Deliver

Once the journalist has confirmed interest in receiving material from you for the feature, ensure you are clear on what they require of you, and their deadline. As always, deliver on time, exactly what was requested by the journalist. 

Keeping track and managing features can be a time-consuming task, but if you prepare in advance and set up protocols to stay on top then it can be very rewarding. Make sure you focus on the task in hand and you’ll be surprised at the opportunities it can bring for your business. 

NATIONAL WORK LIFE WEEK

The Publicité Team Share Their Experience and Advice for Establishing a Good Work Life Balance 

National Work Life Week, taking place this week (11th-15th October, 2021), is an annual event aimed at getting us all thinking and talking about work life balance and workplace wellbeing. It can be tough to establish a good equilibrium between our work and home lives, especially with the boundaries blurred by home working, schedule changes or homeschooling. 

Flexible and remote working is on the rise, which is great, but for those just getting started with a new way of working, or a new job, it can be a steep learning curve to avoid working around the clock or having work overstep its boundaries into family life. Many members of the Publicité team have worked remotely or flexibly for a long time, and have set up their own strategies to maintain a good work life balance.  

To celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of flexible working and wellbeing, some members of our team are sharing their experience and advice.

Katrina

What is your experience with flexible working?

I have worked flexibly for many years and find that I can get many other things done in my day, and work when it suits me. I no longer feel restricted by the traditional hours of 9-5. Setting my own schedule allows me to be there for my children at times I might ordinarily need to be in the office. I plan in my diary to take them to swimming classes and other activities and can attend important events, such as dance shows!

Can you share your advice or a strategy you use for establishing a good work life balance? 

Completely switch off when you aren’t doing work. Although you can work from anywhere, if you aren’t at your laptop, at a meeting, or setting aside time to directly tackle a project or problem, put your mind into home mode.

What is your favourite way to relax and unwind after a busy week?

I love to get outside with the horses, or anywhere in nature. Lots of exercise and plenty of fresh air.

Laura

What is your experience with flexible working?

I work from home, and need to work around my children’s needs during the holidays, but I do like a routine so my flexible working is very structured. Flexible working facilitates me spending more time with my children, taking them to their clubs and activities, and being with them during their holidays, which is brilliant. I would never be able to do that in a standard desk job. It can be challenging keeping to my working schedule when I don’t have childcare, but I am generally happy to work in the evening to catch up.

Can you share your advice or a strategy you use for establishing a good work life balance?

I set a plan every week on a Sunday for how the week ahead should look and try to stick to it. I also do something called batching, this is when you batch all your similar jobs in one, i.e. all my house admin in one go, work admin in one go, and often on the same day every week, then I know everything should get done. You need to be realistic, methodical and organised, as well as give yourself some down time.

What is your favourite way to relax and unwind after a busy week?

A film, a book and a long walk!

Emma

What is your experience with flexible working?

With two young children, I really need to be able to work flexibly – whether that’s first thing in the morning before they are up, or on a Sunday afternoon when there’s a bit of peace and quiet and my husband can keep an eye on them. It’s beneficial as I can fit work around family life. It’s working really well for me and, to be honest, it’s rarely challenging unless the children are poorly.

Can you share your advice or a strategy you use for establishing a good work life balance?

Although unexpected things always pop up in PR and I would jump on something urgent where possible, I try to manage my “to do” list in a way that means I can spend time with the children after school and on weekends. I think learning when to say no and when to switch off is really important. This is something I’ve definitely got better at over the years. Managing the client’s expectations, for example, setting dates for when certain pieces of work will be done, certainly helps. The pandemic highlighted the realities of family life, and we all had times when children (or pets!) would pop up on Zoom calls.

What is your favourite way to relax and unwind after a busy week? 

A few glasses of wine and a kitchen disco with the family!

Nicola

What is your experience with flexible working?

I work flexibly from home and work around family commitments. Although I do a lot of early mornings and work long hours, as I finish earlier than I would in a traditional office job to collect my children from school and take them to their various after school activities, I love having this flexibility. It has enabled me to manage my business successfully from home, with relatively few overheads and peace of mind that I am able to juggle work and family. 

The challenges are that I am always at home, so it never feels as though I’m away from work. I get interrupted when everyone is home and it’s hard to have my own space, as I would in an office.

Can you share your advice or a strategy you use for establishing a good work life balance? 

I always make sure that when I am with the children I devote my time and attention to them, and try not to be distracted by work calls or emails. It’s important to me that the time I spend with them is quality time and that we have fun (or do homework!).  

What is your favourite way to relax and unwind after a busy week?

I train at the gym 4 or 5 times a week. Although not relaxing in the traditional sense, it’s my own space and an opportunity for me to work towards my personal goals. I am a bodybuilding competitor and I love the challenge and meeting new people through the sport.

For more information about National Work Life Week 2021, visit: https://workingfamilies.org.uk/nationalworklifeweek/

GETTING THE PITCH ON POINT

Story-First Pitching 

When pitching to the media you only have a few lines to grab their attention and prove the worth of your material. A strong story, that is easily communicable, is critical to your pitch. 

Great stories require time and consideration to ensure they meet the key requirements of being relevant, engaging and well-written. Following the three steps below can help you to create and review your pitch, and guarantee it has the best chance of being picked up.

Find a suitable story

You may already have your story in mind, for example; big company news, new product launch, research findings, or hot-take on industry challenges. If you’re finding it hard to work out a good story, it may be that you need to be patient and wait for something to come through… or (more likely) that you need to think creatively and look into different areas of your business for your story. 

Try brainstorming these three kinds of material:

News story 

Any significant company news that has relevance for the wider world or your industry e.g: exciting product launches, significant company expansion, acquisitions, CSR initiatives, award wins.

Opinion 

This could be a reflection, or a new perspective, on recent events in your industry or a national/global story. It needs to be something unique, so check that you’re saying something new and make sure your spokesperson has got the experience or position in the industry to be saying what they are saying.

Awareness/education 

If your company or members of your team have some new research or findings, or specialist experience that would be helpful to others, then draft this out. Sharing knowledge is a brilliant way to build your reputation and promote your work in a less commercial way. 

Before settling definitively on any story, think critically about whether an outsider to your company would be interested in reading your story. Then, examine more closely the audience you want to target and who you will be pitching to.

It is always a good idea to check whether your selected journalist or publication has recently covered the topic you are writing or hoping to speak about. Don’t be ignorant, spend some time looking into their latest pieces and make sure you know their speciality. If they only cover gaming tech, then don’t go to them hoping they will do the hard work of finding someone in their organisation who might be interested in fintech. If they have covered your topic recently, do you have anything unique to add? Also, check they cover the kind of material you want to pitch in. For instance, don’t send a news press release to an academic journal that only covers peer reviewed papers.

If you are particularly interested in working with a certain journalist or publication another way round is to look into the material they are covering and see how you might be able to offer them something additional of use.

It’s important to make a good first impression. However, the same rule goes for the second, third, fourth and every pitch after that. You can’t let the quality of your content slip. It’s a competitive environment and journalists can be quickly turned off and frustrated by weak or irrelevant stories, or mistakes in your pitching. They need to know you can consistently entertain, inform, and educate their readers. 

Craft the story form

The kind of story you want to pitch in, combined with your target journalists/publications, will help lead you to the story form. News will most often take the form of a press release, going to multiple publications, but could also span out into exclusive interviews or articles if the journalist thinks that their readers would like to know more. For opinion or educational pieces press releases can work, particularly for announcing research findings, but more targeted Q&A profiling, long-form articles, short blogs, videos or podcasts may be more suitable.

Don’t include anything that could be construed as advertising or directly promotional. Stay objective!  Make it snappy and whilst you want to make sure your business gets mentioned or attributed somewhere, steer clear from including any promotional material. 

So your story is strong and you’ve settled on your form. Now you have to communicate it well. It goes almost without saying spelling and grammar should be immaculate. However, also think about how you can concisely communicate all that you need, whilst capturing the audience visually or intellectually. Include agreed PR messaging where appropriate.

Pitch it in

Address the journalist directly, personalise your message and keep it concise. Depending on the type of pitch you may not need to have your full piece written, but you need to be confident you can deliver and give them a strong overview through an abstract or outline first. 

Journalists get so many emails a day your pitch will go straight to the ‘trash’ if it doesn’t hit the three essentials: relevant, engaging, well-written. Your email headline is very important and whilst there is no ‘magic formula’ it helps to be clear and direct about what you are pitching. Journalists are well trained in spotting clickbait headers that have no real substance, so think carefully about what the key point of your story is and why they want to open your email to read further. 

Remember, it’s not just about getting your pitch past the journalist. The real goal is to make it go further and have an impact with a wider audience. The strongest stories are those that will be passed on, and get people talking (in a good way) about your material.

GET SET IN SEPTEMBER

Get Set in September 

The ‘summer slowdown’ is something many businesses are familiar with. Of course this is dependent on the industry, but it does hold true for PR across most sectors. Throughout August, many phones go straight to answering machines and emails head to the graveyard of holiday backlog. However, this year, it seems the established cycle of business activity has been shaken up. 

Has Covid Counteracted the Summer Slowdown?

We work across a range of industries and have noticed that there has been significant activity right through from June to August. Clients we are working with, and their partners, seem as busy as ever, and the media keen for good quality material. 

So, in our experience it seems like the 2021 summer slowdown did not appear, which could be as a result of several reasons:  

  1. Business activity has been boosted by ‘reopening’ and the relaxation of restrictions in many industries across Europe, the UK and US. Customers and businesses were eager to resume activity, events resumed ‘in person’ and there was a lot of time to make up for – resulting in a lot more PR activity.
  2. Media outlets are hungry for news following a stagnated period at the beginning of this year where we were completely saturated with ‘Covid’ news. Of course, Covid is still hitting the headlines, but a shift to normal activity has been refreshing.
  3. Working from home has become the new normal and our productivity patterns have changed. Media have become accustomed to answering rerouted calls on mobiles or responding/working at out of hours times. 

Take Stock in September

It seems like positive news that there has been so much activity over the summer. However, there are a few pointers that we need to take from this. 

  1. If your business normally experiences a summer slowdown and you utilise this time to get admin in order or take stock with your team then don’t miss this out. Get your communications in order, check the to-do list of tasks that may have slipped and try to schedule in time to manage them in the next few months. 
  2. Stay aware. Keep on top of what is going on in your industry. Taking the time to do a review of trade publications, competitor news and sector news is key as we turn another corner in the Covid-19 timeline. In order to stay ahead you and your PR team should be well armed with a knowledge of recent news, as well as competitor messaging and activity, to make informed PR decisions for the autumn and winter ahead.
  3. Review PR, marketing or sales strategy in September and reflect on the year so far.  End of year reviews are crucial, but before we know it December will be here and pre-empting plans for 2022 will help during these uncertain times. Meet with your PR team following a busy summer to review, refresh and prepare. What has worked in terms of PR? Are there any gaps or opportunities we missed? How can we make improvements? What are the company’s focuses for the end of year/2022? What news or announcements are upcoming? 
  4. Get creative. Once you’ve done your research and made some strategic plans, brainstorm some creative ideas to have on file, ready for a quiet period, or for a big boost to PR.

Maintaining the momentum

The New Year always sneaks quickly up on us before we know it, but with all the upheaval, this year seems to have flown by faster than ever. With the continuing uncertainty, but positive movement for many businesses, the most effective way to maintain this momentum is to plan and prepare for all eventualities. Keep getting your name out there, and use September to refresh and review in readiness for 2022.

CARPE DIEM

PR Strategies to Help Your Small Business Seize the Day 

The date is set. As we wait for 19th July, cautiously expectant of some shift to pre-Covid ‘normality’, many businesses are wondering how best to make the most of this time.

Capturing and retaining the attention of your target audience is crucial in these hard, uncertain times, and building that into trust and loyalty is more challenging than ever. Customers love to align themselves with brands that deliver and exceed expectations, but also that share their values. Whether you’ve been operating all throughout the last tumultuous year, or have been opening and closing along with the undulating restrictions, if you haven’t already, now is the moment to be getting your name out there.

We’re sharing some straightforward PR strategies to give your business a boost and help you seize the ‘post-pandemic’ day.

Consolidate your messaging

We’ve all been through a tumultuous period, so take this time to reassess and review what you and your business are about. This is key before you undertake any PR activity, and will benefit your business even if you choose not to go ahead with PR. If you don’t know, and cannot clearly articulate your business messaging, neither will your customers (or target customers). Get together your leadership team and brainstorm. Once you’ve agreed, write down your aims, ethos and business/product offering in a few concise sentences that are memorable, and with the aim of being understood by all.

Share and communicate this messaging internally via your preferred method whether that’s by email, a messaging app, or in a weekly meeting. You need to be assured your staff are ‘on the same page’. Now you are ready to use this messaging in your external PR.

Press releases, articles and content

Press releases take a bit of time and effort to get right, and you need to ensure you are ready to follow up on any opportunities that arise. For small businesses they are a great way to get news, information and your core messages out to your target audience. Local press, trade publications or online media will probably be the key targets here.

What have you been up to? Any good news? Challenges you’ve faced and overcome? Positive customer case studies? Do you have a specialist comment or insight into a current issue?

Any press release should include agreed business messaging (but don’t keep repeating it word for word!) and a strong story. Without PR professionals to help it can be tricky to know and articulate a good story, but getting a couple of close contacts or trusted customers to review your idea and see if they find it engaging is one way to check. Before sending anything out look at it from all perspectives and check it won’t be misconstrued. Have an external business contact or close customer read through to check for errors and ensure your message is clear.

The compelling story is key for your press release and if you don’t have any news or material you want to share, be patient. If you don’t feel you have anything to shout about yet, but know who you want to reach, get your press list ready and keep an eye and ear out for opportunities where you may want to comment.

Speaker platforms

Research or get involved with virtual or in-person events. If you have knowledge, experience or skills you can share, local business or trade events are great places to build your platform and reputation as a thought leader. Enquire at any events you will be attending or groups you are a part of, if there are any suitable speaker opportunities or panel sessions. Make sure to prepare well and tailor your presentation to your audience.

Social media

Amplify the power of your PR by making use of social media platforms. Share your coverage so your customers and contacts can read about what you’ve been up to and post about any events you will be attending or speaking at to increase your audience.

Especially at this critical time, you need your audience to know your name, your product, your service, is the one they want or need. PR can help you to achieve this, but knowing where to start if you haven’t utilised PR before can be tricky. These straightforward PR strategies are a good place to start if you are overwhelmed and we hope will help you turn this moment into an opportunity.

KEEPING IN SYNC

The Importance of a Joined-Up PR Approach 

We all know how important it is to keep the different elements of a business ‘in sync’ – from sales to marketing, finance to operations.

Communicating priorities, business aims and responsibilities across different departments helps keep everyone on track and working towards the same goal(s) – in line with a company’s mission.

So why do companies often keep PR on the periphery? And fail to set up effective communication between PR and other departments? Many organisations forget that PR is there to provide added value, particularly in areas that are so important for sales and marketing, such as lead generation, brand awareness and credibility.

Sales and marketing should – and will for many businesses – regularly meet and ensure they have a joined-up approach, in order to support each other as best as possible, and to help achieve respective goals. PR, even as an external resource, is best included in this team. They need input, understanding and feedback in order to deliver the best service.

To get the most from your PR your team, you should ensure that they have a key contact or a line of communication with sales and marketing. Ensuring this happens from the outset will deliver a range of positives for your business, your internal team, and your PR team. Without the opportunity to build a relationship with sales and marketing, your PR manager will be working against the tide, trying to find and request the most up-to-date information, goals and resources (imagery, targets and even news!)

So, what benefits will keeping in sync have for you and your PRO?

Avoiding missed opportunities

More information often equals more opportunities. Whether those are reactive (responding to journalist requests) or proactive (pitching news and ideas), the more material PR teams have to work with, the more opportunities they can often find. This can range from events and speaker placements, to awards, article placements and spokespeople interviews. Sometimes what seems mundane or not newsworthy to your team will strike a PR chord or will be worth filing for future use. Including your PR manager in the loop as much as possible will help them to find and generate many opportunities for your business, as this is where their expertise comes in.

Perfect preparation

If communication lines are open between PR, marketing and sales, it is far easier to prepare. When PR are prepared in advance they can advise you on the best way to utilise any news or materials. They can make an early request for resources, such as imagery and details, they will need to create a press release, which will save a last-minute search for materials.

Passing on news or updates last minute, or through a third party, can make deadlines much tighter, and the life of PR professionals far harder. In order to align with your schedule and plans, the earlier PR hears about it, the better. They can then offer the necessary support and bring any updates, launches or news into the PR plan. Of course, last minute news and reactives are always to be expected and should be expertly dealt with by your PR team, but if it doesn’t have to be rushed, then it shouldn’t be.

A more targeted service

Including your PR manager in monthly or bi-monthly marketing and sales meetings can be beneficial to ensuring you get completely targeted service. If PR know about it, they can work out a strategy to support. This covers everything from trying to reach a new target audience, to boosting website traffic. For example, your PR team can search and aim to find ways to help get your content in front of new audiences through their mediums, or will know to include certain SEO words in blog or press release content they are drafting.

Better returns

Clear, two-way communication and regular input from sales and marketing saves time on the PR account. When information is being fed directly, they can work more efficiently and will not be wasting time chasing for materials or news. The more information they have about sales and marketing goals, the better they can work to contribute to helping achieve those aims.

Happier sales and marketing

External PR service providers aim to support the work of others in your business, as well as their own objectives. Being in sync with sales and marketing benefits all and keeps life simple. Marketing, particularly social media, can often utilise PR materials for their work, giving them an edge and boosting the value of any activity undertaken.

PART I – FINDING THE PERFECT FIT

Questions to Ask When Looking ​for the Right PR Agency 

Searching for the right PR agency can be a daunting prospect. From getting your head around exactly what PR is, how it could benefit your business, and what you’ll need to invest, you then need to find the right ‘fit’. This should be a PR pro, or  agency that will deliver services that are perfect for your needs and meet your demands.

Those who are looking for a new PR agency, having had experience working with PR, may have a clearer idea on what they need. Perhaps a larger agency to cope with a growing business, or maybe a more specialist/niche service provider. However, it’s always important to be clear on your needs, especially if the nature, size or outlook of your business has changed.

Just like when you are shopping around for anything, from services, to shoes, it’s great to have some research behind you. Knowing more about the options available, and what will suit you, will save you all important time and help you navigate the big, wide world of PR. Run through the questions below and brainstorm with any member of your team who can add insight and value (sales, marketing, finance). Prepare yourself to meet or interview selected PR teams by outlining your needs and expectations as examined through the questions below.

Why am I looking for PR? What are my expectations?

This will help you to streamline from the outset whether PR, or a certain agency, will be beneficial for your business.

It’s not unheard of for businesses to go out looking for PR and waste everyone’s time by meeting and reviewing proposals without giving a clear indication of why they are contacting them and then rejecting the idea of PR.

That isn’t to say it isn’t worth exploring the possibility of PR even if you aren’t set on the idea, but at least if you know why you have taken that route what you might want from them. It will help them assist you by sharing their advice and explaining clearly what they can offer.

What does my business need?

You may want to research and meet with a few different types of agency to get a feeling of what they can deliver. Write down some definitive requirements so you can shortlist the right PR teams or agencies that offer services that fit your needs.

Are you bold and ready to take risks, or do you want to take a conservative approach? Do you want a PR partner you can keep at arm’s length and simply send over content, or one who will work hard to get a deep understanding of your business and your unique needs?

Is your business likely to have to deal with bad news or negative press? You’ll want to ensure your chosen agency either has a specialism in crisis or issues management, or find one that can advise and prepare you properly for such an incident.

Do you want help running social media? Do you have internal marketing or will marketing support be helpful?

Is there anyone on your team who will supply content or write a press release, or will you need help with copywriting?

Who do I want to reach?

Who do you want to target? Are there any particular sectors? Would you like to get your brand or yourself into national papers and international business press, and/or your trade media?

Talk to your sales or marketing teams about where PR can help them get in front of new customers or engage existing audiences to build your reputation and brand image.

Can I afford PR? What is my budget?

Self explanatory really, but there are a few considerations. There are lots of agencies, all delivering different services at a range of price points, but just with anything you buy…cheapest isn’t always best!

If you sign a contract, this will be an ongoing monthly outgoing so check that you can afford PR and it fits into your yearly expenditure, or allocated marketing budget.

What’s our business messaging?

PR agencies help clarify and refine your messaging to create strong pitches for your chosen audience(s). However, entering into discussions by defining your differentiators, upcoming news and what stories you may want to share with the media will help them create better, more targeted proposals and strategies which will deliver stronger returns.

What kind of people do I work best with?

What is the ethos of your business and what kind of individuals would work well with your team?

Some people may view PR as ‘fluff’ or ‘charm’, but the best and the most effective PR relationships are built on clear, direct and open communication with clients and with journalists.

To be continued…watch out for Part II.