As Australia’s small business and entrepreneurial community grows, so too does the number of brands wanting to be recognised and promote their people, products or services. Many courses capitalise on this trend; marketing their services to business owners of all types, all wanting to learn how to get ‘free media’, end up on national TV and write a show stopping press release that has journalists calling back within minutes.
This is not about the merits of such courses. More importantly, it is about my observations as a PR professional and someone who is approached weekly by business founders, startups and aspiring entrepreneurs, who all desperately want to be heard and see PR as the ultimate answer. As the founder of a PR and communications agency that specialises in this area, I always value potential new clients, but I also know that reputation is key to our success. Taking on a client simply because they think they need our PR services would not get either party anywhere for long. Recently, I used this insight to develop a 4-week branding program that allows us to work with these types of clients to: help them lay the foundations, maximise their investment and get them ‘PR ready’.
For anyone thinking about whether PR is for them, here are six things to consider:
1. What is your story?
It’s critical that branding and PR efforts support each other otherwise you run the risk of wasting a great opportunity due to lack of strategy and planning. In order to become an industry leader, you need to dig deep into your story and find those qualities that make you stand out. Maybe it’s a founder or how the business itself came about. Don’t be afraid to talk about your past, your challenges and achievements. Honest, consistent storytelling works.
2. Assess how others perceive you – on and offline
It’s naïve to think that anyone or anything is sheltered from the internet, or public data and what it says about you or your company. It’s crucial that your online profiles (we call these assets) are consistent and reflect your brand values and offering. You need to consider assets such as your website, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google plus, blogs and the list goes on. When we take clients through our 4 week program we conduct an audit of their existing assets and then build from there. Offline you should also consider your everyday presentation – your dress, what events you attend and who you socialise with.
3. Understand your audience and how to ‘add value’
One of the first things I ask a person when they approach me about PR is ‘who is your target audience and what problem are you trying to solve?’ As a starting point there is nothing wrong with describing your audience in a broad sense, but once you do that the next step should be to break it down into segments. Prioritise their importance and put some structure around how and when to target each.
4. Clear, actionable goals and timeline
For any PR campaign you must have a clear vision for what you want to achieve, when and how. A great PR campaign should incorporate short and long-term business objectives. You should clearly define what these are and be willing to share them with your PR agency. Significant achievements or developments should also be shared ideally with more than 24 hours notice.
5. Availability and commitment to the campaign
Hiring a PR agency still requires your involvement. Sure, they will carry out the majority of the work but being available to discuss angles, share feedback and sign off on content is critical. If you want to be in the media then you must be available, and sometimes at short notice. Alternatively you can delegate that role to a team member who understands how PR supports your business objectives. Designating a spokesperson is essential for both media opportunities and speaking engagements. Competition for the spotlight is fierce so if you lack experience then consider some media or presentation training. Make sure it is ‘built in’ to your overall PR strategy and that your agency is involved in the brief and process to get maximum results.
If you’re ready for PR you need to embrace it as part of your overall business strategy and allocate a realistic budget. It’s important to remember that just like any other key employee or hire they will need time to grow into the role. The best way to manage this is to be open from the outset on expectations and make sure you agree on outcomes. Many PR agencies operate on a monthly retainer and the length of the campaign is something you should discuss together.
There is no question that brands benefit from great promotion and with the rise of the entrepreneurial ecosystem the competition for consumer attention and media coverage can only get more intense. Answering the question, “Am I, or are we, ready for PR?” is a critical business skill, and one that will deliver a competitive edge and help maximise your investment.
Samantha Dybac is the founder and director of Sammway, a public relations and communications strategy agency. They have recently launched a 4-week program for individuals and companies called, “Uncover your Brand and get PR Ready.