In this day of digital, it seems like everything we touch as marketers has some form of digital component. Public Relations is no exception. Today’s successful public relations programs have to include digital elements to be effective. With daily advancements in technology and digital media outlets rapidly expanding, a person could reasonably ask, “Is traditional PR still relevant and does it still work?”
According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), public relations is defined as a strategic communications process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics. An “organization” can be can anything–a brand, company, or an individual.
Whether it’s traditional PR, digital PR or a combination of the two (which is where most programs fall today) this definition holds true to the concept. Public relations is a strategic communications process that builds relationships with a company’s target audience. The difference between successful PR programs and PR programs that fall short is what that strategic communications process entails.
PR is All About Relationships
We know the goal is to build meaningful relationships with the target audience. However, a simple, but very important component of a successful public relations program is part of that strategic communications process mentioned in the definition. It’s building relationships with the media outlets–the writers, editors, content providers, etc.–that can help build the meaningful relationships with your target audience. So in turn, they will want to cover your product or service.
So back to the question in the title. “Does traditional PR still work?” The answer is, without a doubt, yes. But, (there’s always a but,) it needs to be done right to maximize the return on your investment. So in the day of digital how do you do traditional PR right? We’ve put together a few tips to help you master the art and your strategic communications process to help you get the most bang for your buck.
Don’t Dip Out on Digital
Just because we’re talking about traditional PR does not mean there should not be any digital components. Think of the word “traditional” more as a mindset than an actual tactic or outlet. We know there are tons of new digital media outlets developed and launched each week and we know there is a new online influencer born every minute. You can not and should not avoid or dismiss the power these media and people hold in forging relationships with your target audience.
What we suggest, with “traditional” being more of a mindset, is that you and your company take a traditional approach in communicating with them. We are not saying traditional can’t be digital. As a matter of fact, in a lot of cases it will have to be digital. We’re suggesting traditional should mean “personal”. Companies that win at public relations, companies that build great relationships with their target audience, also build and nurture great relationships with key (digital and non-digital) media outlets and influencers.
This goes much beyond the blind or blanket press releases to a contact list of hundreds of various media outlets and contacts. These blanket releases do have their place and can be cost effective depending on the content they are covering, timing and a variety of other factors. However, they should not be the status quo, and they should not be the only element of your public relations program.
Adopt a CRM Tool and Process for PR Contacts
If you’re already using a CRM system, consider implementing your PR contacts into your CRM. This will help you manage and nurture each relationship, maintain consistent lines of communication and will bring documentation of all your efforts into a centralized location. CRM programs can serve as a database for all of your PR contacts, help you prioritize your work, send you notifications when contacts are due and help you manage your lists more efficiently. This will save you time, make your life easier and boost the measurable results you’ll be able to achieve through your PR program.
Be Strategic in What You Pitch
We like it when people make our lives easier. Media outlets, writers and editors are no different. If you can pitch them a story or idea that makes sense for what they are trying to accomplish and give them all the resources they need to write or assign coverage for that topic in an easy-to-use and easy-to-access format, it’s a win-win.
In your PR contact CRM, identify ten to twenty-five key media outlets, places where you would really like to get some exposure because those places have a credible relationship and influence on your target audience. Spend time researching the editorial calendars (if they have them) and content themes for these key media outlets and pitch stories accordingly. Don’t be afraid to follow up an email with a phone call. If you’re pitching good story opportunity, the media outlet will appreciate and often award your diligence and follow through.
Keep your top media list involved in T&E (Testing and Evaluation.) Listen to their input and make sure they feel heard. This will give them a sense of ownership in your product or service and these outlets will be much more likely to cover your brand and company in feature articles, as well as mention you in related content. Try your best to minimize the hoops these outlets need to jump through to get access to your products, experience your services and get the supporting photography, information and other resources they may need to provide an adequate story.
Commit to a PR Program Over Time
The press can’t and won’t cover everything you pitch to them. If you’re working to get exposure in a printed book or magazine, the lead times can be long, up to six months or longer in some cases. Sometimes you have to think of PR in a similar fashion to building brand awareness with your target audience. In this case, your PR contact list is your target audience and even if a communication does not lead to direct coverage, or even a response or reply, that communication is a positive impression you’re leaving with them. So in turn, if you maintain regular communications, these outlets will come to you when the time is right and your company can help them achieve what they’re working towards. Consistency is the name of the game, and a steady stream of professional communications over time will help your company achieve success in your public relations efforts.
These are a few of the ways we’ve found success taking a “traditional” approach to a blend of traditional and digital public relations. There are many more tactics that can be effective to get your company and brand the coverage and recognition you desire and deserve. For example, live events, plant tours and trade shows are a few other traditional approaches that, if done right, can deliver nice returns. We’ll dive into those areas and more in an upcoming OUTthink article. For now, we hope you find this information helpful in your daily routine and that these insights can help you achieve a greater return on your PR investment. As always, if we at Callis can help you achieve greater success in any area of your marketing communications, we would love to hear from you.