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O'Notes PR Tip #3 - Are you ready to hire external PR support?

Whether your business is new, small, mid-sized, fast-growth and/or well-established, you may have wondered about the right time to bring in an external PR firm or consultant. As an owner of a PR firm working in the field for more than 25 years, I know that PR is a smart investment for many businesses and organizations, regardless of size. However, not everyone is ready to make the investment. In fact, some businesses may never need to hire external help.

Here are a few key indicators that your business is ready to bring in outside PR expertise:

  • You have time. That translates into a designated in-house individual, preferably senior level communications pro, to manage the PR person or firm. PR takes time, consistency and frequency. We need regular care and feeding, and can only produce as good as we get.
  • You have a budget. Real dollars, not just a few thousand dollars to get you through the year. I can’t tell you how many young businesses – and even a few more established businesses – think that they can generate results from a few thousand dollars. That may be OK if all you want is a press release and the follow up time it requires, but you’ll never get the train too far out of the station. Again, per bullet point above -- this takes frequency and consistency over time.  The price range can be broad. Larger public relations firms with corporate clients can charge $20K per month or higher; mid-sized firms with mid-sized clients may hover around $8-12K per month; small firms with small businesses, including non-profits tend to charge less. However even non-profits should have a budget ready, unless they have formed a sponsorship or pro-bono arrangement with a firm.
  • You are launching a new business, service, product, or event series and you can commit to a PR plan for at least a year. That means, you will need to work with your PR representative to develop an editorial calendar slotted with post announcement story ideas, news hits, bylined articles, events, etc to keep the news pipeline filled. (i.e., you need to be and stay newsworthy.)  *With special events, it may not be necessary to commit to a year of PR support, but hopefully, the event is part of a larger marketing strategy that does require longer-term assistance. 
  • Your business has a proven track record with success stories and/or metrics to share. A big chunk of public relations is media relations. Media and even influencers (aka top bloggers and social media stars) must have news or very interesting stories to tell. (see bullet point above)
  • You understand that PR will build credibility and awareness, but not necessarily sales. Your PR partner could place a lovely, two-page story in your industry trade or monthly city magazine, but that does not necessarily equal a bump in sales. It WILL increase brand awareness, especially as these placements continue; and it should make the sales process more fruitful if properly leveraged.
  • You want PR for the right reasons. In a nutshell, don’t seek a PR firm to make you or your business an instant household name. As I read in a great article on PR in The Observer, “Ego-driven PR is not a strategy; it’s a waste of everyone’s time and money.” Your PR firm can drive attention to your brand messages and concrete examples that set you apart from the crowd, but we’re not here to make you famous.
  • You have patience. It’s been said time and again: public relations is a marathon vs a sprint. There’s no magic formula on length of time or investment required, so find an experienced, ethical PR representative who will be a valued partner with external perspective.

Thanks for reading this week's O'Notes! Follow us on social to be updated on our weekly series. - NONC Team

How's Your Community Relations Program?

Do well by doing good. It’s more than a saying, it’s an accepted truth in business and in life. And, the way to deliver in business is via a thoughtful, active community relations program. If you want thrive versus simply survive, you’ve got to be a good neighbor.
 
Most large businesses and corporations have committed to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs -- many of the leading public companies (think Exxon Mobile, IBM, AT&T, Coca-Cola) have mastered the art of community relations, ie. CSR, for decades. They have formed foundations and created multiple streams of social good programs that have a powerful impact on select audiences around the world. It’s more than good PR; shareholders expect these companies give back, do it extremely well and provide thorough documentation.
 
Small businesses and entrepreneurs who have no idea where to start can look to these international leaders for ideas and inspiration and, in particular, documenting progress. However, when we advise our smaller clients on community relations, we ask two simple questions:

  1. What are the personal social impact passions of the founder/leaders?
  2. What segments of the community does your business directly impact and where would you like to see market growth? 

Your community relations program must connect to your business values, excite your employees and serve your business audience.

For example, our small PR firm works with a range of consumer organizations, mostly based in Austin. We are primarily made up of young women (I’m young on the inside). The industries we serve are travel and tourism, hospitality, health and wellness, and non-profit. Because we work with non-profits pro bono and at discounted rates, community relations is built into our business model. Therefore, we attempt to keep the non-profit work focused in categories that reflect our industry expertise.

We encourage the team to bring new ideas to the table, whether it’s group volunteering at a special event or individual participation in a longer-term program.  Our account manager, Emily Ergas, has been involved with the VICTORY tutorial program for the past two years; I have served on the board of Kids in a New Groove for the past two years and oversee its marketing committee.  We all love the benefits and often life-changing aspects of travel, not to mention serve the travel industry, so taking a leadership role with Travel+SocialGood’s Austin hub was a no-brainer.

Our client, Hilton Austin, commits time and treasure to 10 local charities each year in order to spread their support widely with a primary focus on children and education.  This focus reflects their interest in a healthy and educated community which in turn could lead to great employees and prospective hotel clients. Another NONC client, Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden, has planted its flag in support of dog welfare in Austin. The owners are passionate about dogs and they know Austin is a dog-loving city. With its dog run and monthly Mega-Mutt Mondays, Banger’s is well-established as one of the city’s most dog-friendly businesses.
 
As with any marketing campaign, evaluate your community relations program regularly to ensure it’s delivering its business objectives and remains internally fulfilling.  Frequency of evaluations can vary widely based on the size of your business and level of your community engagement (events, board membership, donations of services, products, time, etc).
 
One simple and highly recommended way for businesses of all sizes to make a local impact is via the Austin Chamber of Commerce’s Austin Gives program. It’s free for any local business to join who donates 1% or more of their pre-tax earnings to philanthropy. Austin Gives will then publicly recognize these participants through traditional media, social media, on its website, and an annual community celebration.
 
Have questions about kick starting a community relations program or making a shift in your current program? Drop me a line, lisa@newtononeill.com

O'Notes - PR Tip #2

Be a news junkie!

To put it bluntly, if you’re in media relations, which comprises a majority of the work we do at Newton O’Neill Communications, it’s imperative that you stay on top of the news.  More importantly, you need to be familiar with the stories/content your media contacts cover. 

There’s an ever-expanding world of news and information out there, so before your head explodes, know that I’m referring to the news in the industry(ies) in which your client exists. That, and it’s highly recommended to keep up with your local news unless your media relations is focused in a totally different market(s).

That said, I always advise a diverse source of news, bloggers and social media sources. Relying too heavily on a select few sources will bite you every time, and you’re doing your clients no favor. It’s also important to mix the consumption of local, national, industry and pop culture news. PR folks need to be informed and creative.  Taking a news trend in one category and applying it to your client’s work in a separate category can lead to a brilliant idea for a bylined article, community event, new product/service or special promotion. 

Regardless, keeping up with the news of the day is no easy feat so it helps tremendously if you LIKE the industry you’re promoting.

Below are a few ideas to streamline your news absorption. Disclaimer: I haven’t tried them all. 

Enjoy!

·      Subscribe to newsletters of the top publications or bloggers in the industry you’re covering

·      Set up RSS feeds from top news sites.

·      Set up subscription with keywords to a news aggregator of choice such as Reddit or Digg

·      Social media feeds and searching by hashtags

·      Set Google alerts for keywords related to your client and client’s industry

Thanks for reading this week's O'Notes! Follow us on social to be updated on our bi-weekly series. - NONC Team