Scott Smith

No Product, Money or News? Creative PR Keeps Your Message Engine Roaring

Flexible PR Strategies Provide Multiple Routes to Your Audience

I was recently talking with a friend who had started a business around a new technology. I asked about his PR plans. We’re just starting out and want to keep our product secret. We’ll issue a press release when we launch it.

I regularly hear similar reasons why businesses adopt a stealth-mode strategy, forgoing any PR initiatives. Word of mouth produces customers in this business. We sell socks, hardly a headline grabber. My PR budget only covers the electric bill.

Since these were decisions they’d thought through, they all have an element of logic to them. In my mind, such marketing strategies are like keeping your brakes on at the Indy 500 starting line while the field roars away to ensure your engine still sounds like it’s running perfectly. As a result, valuable ground is lost.

Too often businesses consider PR a marketing tool only for product publicity, seldom venturing further than a press release to launch a product. PR is the most adaptable and cost-effective of marketing tools. Those who see its potential weave it into to their plans for virtually every marketing objective.

If your product isn’t ready for prime time, rev the engines of a complementary objective: expand customer’s consciousness around the problem you’ll shortly solve; increase your company’s industry and community prominence; grow your startup’s reputation as a technology superstar; or turn senior execs into luminaries and engineers into thought leaders to turn up the volume around your Key Messages.

By focusing creative PR strategies on other objectives that enhance the market environment, you stay in the race.

Small businesses, in particular, often cite limited budgets and lack of PR expertise as their chief limiting factors. PR has always had a reputation as the “free” promotion discipline. It’s certainly cheaper than advertising and offers much higher credibility.

PR isn’t just common sense as some claim. It requires expertise. That said, there are numerous situations where nonprofessionals can and should take advantage of PR opportunities. Normally, it’s just knowing how to spot them when they appear.

I’ve found that good PR 101 training helps people acquire a good “head” for PR. You become attuned to where PR can benefit a project. You’ll absorb a Sixth Sense that enables you to recognize a PR opportunity when you see one.

If you use an external PR consultant part time, staff with basic PR know-how normally make the partnership much more productive and cost efficient.

Here’s a common example of where trained staff can assume a PR role. A business seeking to increase its visibility locally should build a relationship with the appropriate business reporter at the community’s newspaper.

It’s no different than developing any other business relationship. Ask someone who knows the reporter to introduce you. Your objective isn’t to score a story. Asking someone you just met to do you a favor is bad form anywhere. Instead, let the reporter do the talking and learn how you might become a resource for him.

Hmm . . . This sounds like the networking you do all of the time, doesn’t it?

Category: How To, Marketing Smarts

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