Wednesday, May 30, 2007

What Can PR do for Me???

I've received a number of questions over the past 3 weeks dealing specifically with the kinds of returns PR can deliver. As the discussion progresses, it is interesting to find that the real motivation seems to be a need to understand what PR does and what Action Strategies can do. In my view, there are six areas where PR helps and how I've been able to make a difference for clients and former employers:

The six general categories of Public Relations Services

Developing media and press coverage for your organization:

Many organizations and professionals value and in fact, seek out press coverage. Getting into the media and becoming their ''darling'' when it comes to recognized value of one's expertise can deliver long lasting publicity, credibility, and notoriety. Constant contact with the media and identifying appropriate press contacts for one's expertise is one of the biggest responsibilities I undertake for clients in search of my services. It's about relationship building.

If I am able to introduce my clients to journalists with specific 'beats' or areas they report on regularly, the potential relationship becomes a 'win-win' situation. My client gets the opportunity for being quoted and over time, the journalist gets a dependable source of information.

Effective publicity events:
Getting quoted in the media is not the only means of building brand recognition, building credibility, and setting one's name apart from the pack. For businesses opening a new location, inviting a targeted group of one's key clients and prospects can be a means of going directly to the source. Public Relations consultants such as Action Strategies have the contacts, expertise and time required to fill a room of targeted publics that can get the word out for an organization. The value of this comes about when those who might not have been able to attend an activity hear about an organization through those who did attend. In other words, referrals are built.

PR Consultants know how to pack a hall. They know the value of getting the word out on a coming event. They also know how to leverage the good publicity long after an event has taken place.

Strategic Communications planning:
While any organization or professional can benefit, larger organizations particularly seem to be interested in strategic plans. Like any involved effort, public relations or communications need to be an integral part of an organizational business plan. One of the flagship product services of Action Strategies is its communications plans and communication planning work books.

Any PR Consultant worth his or her salt takes the time required to plan. Strategic Communications planning is about identifying the opportunities to get out the messages that are in tune with an organization. They are also about defending or defining reputations. Timing in planning when messages are delivered is also critical. Finally, planning defines the vehicles through which messages are delivered.

Sponsorship development and charity linkages:
Why is it that large corporations sponsor charitable events and festivals? The reason is simple. Investing in a good cause reflects well on the reputation of an organization. Repeated over the years, people will associate a brand name with a cause. If Public Relations is about giving 'good vibes' about what a company does, then associating an organization with a cause it the perfect vehicle for that.

Picking the right cause however, should not be done on a whim. For example, Action Strategies' charitable and sponsorship strategy is geared towards assisting the Ontario Special Olympics. By associating our pro-bona work towards sport and community, we were later able to use that good publicity towards securing paid work with the Canadian Paralympic Committee. Companies can therefore direct their sponsorship strategies towards business development and brand reinforcement.

Organizations have also been known to link their brand towards charities in integrating themselves into the community. I recently interviewed Lesa Crowe of Itancan for an upcoming podcast. From the heart of oil and gas country in Oklahoma, Lesa revealed to me that while people are paying more than ever at the pump and tempers are simmering, local oil and gas providers are ingratiating themselves into well-known local charities to assist with keeping their reputations in tact. In essence, they are showing that 'not all oil companies are bad'.

The relationship isn't all one-sided. Charities benefit from the obvious influx of cash but they also benefit from the knowledge and experience the corporate world can bring.

Reputation and credibility building/ protection:

It's often said that it can it can take as many as 7 different touch points of reputation building exposure before one can say they recognize a brand and say they have a favourable opinion. In reverse, it can take only one negative comment in the media, a complaint process on blogs or a simple corporate fumble to tear down a good reputation.

Public Relations works to build and protect an organization's credibility and reputation. There are a number of cases wherein otherwise profitable companies have been brought to their knees because of a crisis that seriously broke the line of trust held with customers. Public Relations Consultants understand the basics of crisis communications and how to get a client back on the road to reputation stability.

Internet Public Relations:

The internet has exploded in its use over the past 10 years. It remains one of the key sources from which people attain their information. Web 2.0 is the new term for internet communications that allow PR practitioners to diffuse information out to targets directly and seek engaged feedback in return. This blog is one example. After reading what you see in this article, the opportunity to leave your own questions and comments or exchange comments with other commentators is possible. Public Relations Consultants have the where-with-all to reach out to bloggers and encourage coverage that has the potential to increase website traffic.

Action Strategies Magnifier Series of Podcasts are also an example of internet PR. People are no longer limited to getting their video and audio information from television and radio. Podcasts offer select groups and publics the opportunity to subscribe to specialized video and audio content. If one's PR efforts need to be to a very small select group of people who are internet savvy, offering a podcast feed is the way to go.

Many PR consultancies such as Action Strategies have the technical ability to produce podcasts and other social media strategies.
Mark Buzan is Principal and Chief Magnifier in Action Strategies, a full service Marketing Communications, Public Relations and Public Affairs Consultancy. Make sure to contact him for advice on reaching audiences you may or may not have yet considered in your marketing communications and PR campaigns. Drop him a line if you are looking for help in developing a public relations campaign. You can view his website at www.actionstrategies.ca.

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