Monthly Archives: August 2016

The Secret of Public Relations Strategy

images-5Public relations campaigns require a whole lot more than just sending out press releases — or at least, they should. Mass emailing and cold-calling can get you only so far. If you really want your PR strategy to be effective, you’ll need to put more effort into networking, creating content and crafting pitches.

Want to make the most of your PR campaigns? Follow these expert tips from business owners and PR pros.

Get to know the media

Blindly sending out mass pitches to every news outlet you can find might get you some coverage, but it’s much more effective if you take the time to establish relationships with journalists at relevant media outlets. This means researching who covers which topics, finding out what interests them, and making personalized pitches.

“My best tip for planning and running a PR campaign is to get to know the journalists or targets you’ll be pitching ahead of time,” said Tami Brehse, freelance PR and digital marketing consultant. “Learn what they like to cover. Follow their stories and actively comment on them.”

You should also try interacting with them on social media to get more of a feel for their personality. Brehse suggested adding them to a Twitter list dedicated to their niche.

“Build an actual relationship so that when the time comes when you’re looking for coverage of your latest campaign, you’re reaching out to an acquaintance rather than just cold-calling a journalist who has no idea who you are,” Brehse said.

Develop a brand voice

Every successful brand needs to have a unique brand voice that is tailored to their  audience. It doesn’t matter what your brand’s voice is, so long as it works for your business and you maintain it.

“Be true to your brand voice,” said John Znidarsic, senior director of social influence at The Adcom Group, a marketing and advertising agency.

“If you are disruptive, then be disruptive. If you are more reserved, that can work too,” Znidarsic said. “There is nothing worse than a PR campaign that reeks of inauthenticity. Be interesting. Have something to say. But, make sure you are saying it in your brand voice.”

It’s also important to keep in mind that just because one brand is saying something, it doesn’t mean you need to be saying it, too. Stick with what works for you.

“Say what you feel — not what you think someone in your position should be saying,” Znidarsic added.

Get your website ready

Before you run a PR campaign, Sam Anthony, co-founder and director of development at Web agency TheSiteEdge,said you need to make sure your website is prepared.

First, Anthony said you should make sure your Web hosting can withstand a surge of thousands of visitors.

“I cannot tell you how many times we have seen websites get [what we call] the ‘PR hug of death,’ where they hit the jackpot with a media placement and then their website crumbles from the traffic,” Anthony said. “Not only does the PR campaign suffer, but it hurts your general reputation and makes you come off as less trustworthy.”

You also need to make sure your website is set up to take advantage of any extra publicity you get as a result of a campaign — this means offering deals or exclusive content to visitors.

“Capture email addresses with an offer people actually want to take advantage of by giving them a PDF resource that truly offers value,” Anthony said. “Or have a sale running to ensure you are in the best possible spot to begin a business relationship with as many new customers as possible. Whatever your goal is, you just need to ensure that you put as much effort into capitalizing on the PR as you do setting up the PR opportunity.”

While you’re crafting your pitch, you need to maximize your time. Ben Landers, president of online marketing company Blue Corona, suggested using the 10/80/10 rule to make the most of your campaign and maximize the return on your time.

“I spend roughly 10 percent of my time connecting whatever we’re promoting to a trending topic,” Landers said. “I spend 80 percent of my time crafting the story and researching the journalists I’m targeting — their recent stories, areas of interest and anything else I can use to connect with them on a more personal level.”

Then, when you’ve finished your research and crafted your story, that’s when you launch your campaign.

“Once I’ve done all this, I spend the remaining 10 percent of my time actually doing outreaching and pitching,” Landers said.

Get the CEO writing

You won’t always have newsworthy press releases to send out, especially if you’re a smaller business, so one way to get recognition for your company or clients is to blog and write contributed content for other media outlets.

“One of the most difficult parts of doing PR for a small company or startup is that no one has heard of your company,” Maizie Simpson, PR and editorial professional at Magoosh, an online test prep company. “On top of that, you’re probably not constantly churning out huge product releases like Apple or Google.”

To keep your company afloat in a sea of press releases when you have no news to announce, Simpson said you should establish the CEO of your company or the client you’re working with as a thought leader in their industry.

“Help him or her create thought-provoking and authoritative articles related to his or her area of expertise, then publish them on your blog or pitch to a bigger publication,” Simpson said. “Either way, it’ll help get your company’s name out there, gain some valuable links for SEO, and give you something to promote in your slower news seasons.”

What should you efforts on marketing

There’s a good reason companies are willing to spend big bucks on marketing and advertising: Wide-reaching campaigns on social media, radio, television and other channels can be a highly effective way to drum up a lot of attention for your company. But be warned — it may not always be the kind of attention you bargained for.

Despite their large marketing and social media teams, corporations will occasionally miss the mark in their ad campaigns, resulting in confusion at best and an offended, irate consumer base at worst. These marketing gaffes are even further amplified in an age of instant communication, viral social media posts and Internet archives, which means a company’s error can live on long after the tweet has been deleted or the TV spot has been pulled.

When you’re planning your business’s next marketing campaign, learn from the mistakes of these five companies, whose recent advertising efforts sparked controversy rather than sales.

Bud Light’s “Up for Whatever”

In 2014, Bud Light introduced “Up For Whatever,” a campaign that was intended to promote carefree spontaneity and fun with one’s friends. During the campaign’s second year, a slogan began to appear on Bud Light bottles alongside its #UpForWhatever hashtag, claiming the beer was perfect “for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night.” This turned out to be a very serious misfire on the company’s part: Many social media users felt the slogan was an endorsement of date rape by implying that Bud Light should be used to get people so drunk that they can’t say no to your advances. An April 2015 Entrepreneur article reported that Bud Light quickly apologized, saying that it “missed the mark” with its message and would pull the slogan from future iterations of the campaign.

Huggies’ “The Ultimate Test”

Gender stereotypes about families — namely mothers as child-rearers and fathers as breadwinners — have all but flown out the window as more and more couples split up their financial and child care responsibilities, or raise children as single working parents. A 2012 Huggies campaign seemed to draw its attitudes on family life from decades ago, with a commercial claiming that dads left alone to care for their babies are “the ultimate test” for the company’s products. A Change.org petition started by an offended father called Huggies out for reducing dads “to being little more than test dummy parents, putting diapers and wipes through a ‘worst-case scenario’ crash course of misuse and abuse.” Huggies received so much backlash over its depiction of an incompetent, neglectful father figure that it eventually pulled the ads.

Malaysia Airlines’ “My Ultimate Bucket List”

Last year, Malaysia Airlines was at the center of two passenger aircraft tragedies — one plane disappeared and another was shot down — that resulted in the loss of 537 lives. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the company suffered from a decline in ticket sales after the incidents, leading to a promotional giveaway contest that it hoped would reinvigorate the brand. The idea was a good one: Submit your dream travel destination for a chance to win either an iPad or a plane ticket. The “bucket list” premise, however, was decidedly not. Customers were shocked that the airline would associate the contest with fulfilling a bucket list item — something people hope to do before they die — given the hundreds of passengers who died flying Malaysia Airlines in 2014. Mashable reported that the company apologized and removed all references to the original “My Ultimate Bucket List” title.

SeaWorld’s #AskSeaWorld

Question-and-answer forums like Twitter chats and Reddit AMAs (Ask Me Anything) have become popular PR moves because they allow people to connect with their favorite celebrities on a more personal level. But that same line of access can also be used to embarrass a public figure or brand — so if you’re in the middle of a controversy, you might want to avoid promising the entire Internet that you’ll answer any questions it may have. There have been quite a few examples of AMA-style Twitter chats going horribly wrong in recent years, including SeaWorld’s March 2015 #AskSeaWorld campaign. Designed to rebuild the company’s crumbling image as a heartless corporation that mistreats its aquatic captives, the #AskSeaWorld hashtag was flooded with questions from angry Twitter users calling SeaWorld out for its practices, according to Slate.