What separates the good from the truly great when it comes to the success of a public relations program? Beyond native talent and strong skills, there are lessons on execution and optimization that simply come with experience.
5 keys to PR success
PR plays the long game
Great PR rarely exists in a vacuum. In the same way, earned media coverage may seem spontaneous, but it’s typically the result of a long-term plan. The PR quarterback has to see the whole field while keeping his head on a swivel. Every move is made to get closer to the goal line – in this case, a set of business objectives, like creating prospects or building a specific reputation. There are few sadder outcomes than working to generate coverage that turns out to conflict with goals, or that doesn’t move the needle, so the “invisible” work of planning and messaging is critical. And when it comes to execution, it takes a sustained PR effort to build real brand attachment, rather than a single media hit or initiative. Short-term thinking and quick fixes are characteristics of inexperienced PR pros.
PR pros know business
Once upon a time, the PR department could fax out press releases all day with little understanding of the company’s business strategy. Since the digital revolution has multiplied the breadth and number of communications channels, the role of PR teams expanded. With every business maneuver magnified, reputation now carries measurable, concrete value. In today’s era of globalized connectivity, the chief communications officer has evolved into a trusted advisor to the CEO, expected to offer counsel on corporate moves. Additionally, the PR team’s efforts must align with marketing, advertising, and sales departments, all under a unifying set of business aims.
It’s about telling, not selling
Much of PR and marketing is less about delivering messaging and more about delivering entertaining, educational, and useful content. While some PR activities can surely generate impressions, leads, and conversions, PR is not necessarily a reliable demand-generator. Rather, it builds brand awareness and reputation over time. A good PR team will often need to shape and tell how a company was started or to explain the founder’s game-changing point-of-view. They work to open up channels of communication through speaking engagements, panel discussions, and expert commentary placements. All require the ability to tell a compelling story with a consistent voice across a variety of channels.
The best PR leverages everything
A media placement is not just a media placement. Every piece of content should do double duty, be recycled, and leveraged for all it’s worth. Sure, it’s a tactical detail, but repurposing can magnify outcomes beyond your expectations. A company founder’s conference keynote can be a series of blog posts, or a podcast, or possibly distilled into a trade media pitch. Company milestones like an award or an acquisition can be amplified through earned and owned media, with an occasional paid post or initiative mixed in. But PR multi-purposing does not exist solely to squeeze all the juice from the lemon. It is a product of a comprehensive PR plan where the full marketing and communications orchestra plays in harmony.
Great PR carries a creative license
As we noted in last week’s post, the creative PR pro is a powerful PR pro. Creative thinking is the edge that helps rise above the rest. So-called “creative agencies” were once the domain of advertising and marketing, but inventive content and fresh tactics are fundamental to great PR campaign development and execution. Success is contingent on bringing fresh angles to established narratives, new ways to present stories, and original approaches to pitching stories. It translates abstract concepts into compelling language – language that also aligns with business strategies.
In many ways, these pillars make up a certain mindset that fuels achievement. The good news is all five keys to success can be learned. If you have this mindset and are looking to break into the profession — great!