Companies’ success depends on PR … whether they know it or not
Entrepreneurs’ survival depends on public relations by whatever name they call it. For many business owners, PR is a mystery. They wonder why it’s necessary.
This is fertile ground for Nelisa Ngqulana. The journalist and public relations consultant heads PR Trends ZA. The company “helps clients understand the strategic value of PR and communications is the key to their brand growth and building a stellar reputation.”
Public relations specialists spread the word about your business. Content is embedded with your vision, messages and solutions for customers.
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“Public relations for business means getting your organization’s message to the right people using the right channels,” Ngqulana said. “It is essentially about managing relationships with your stakeholders.
“PR is personal,” she said. “It’s about building relationships with the right people who can share your messages. This can be journalists, influencers and trendsetters, or decision-makers. When they share your messages, your credibility gets boosted, which adds to your reputation.”
This is the external face of an enterprise.
“In business, public relations is the interaction of your how your company’s message communicates outside of the company,” Harris said.
Public relations and marketing are closely related.
Marketing is oriented toward selling and putting a good face on everything. Public relations — done well — will also put out good news, but also address issues that arise and offer solutions. That boosts corporate credibility.
“PR is the interaction between a company and its employees with the community,” Harris said. “Marketing is a process of selling a product or service to others.”
Ngqulana sees an intricate relationship.
“PR is part of the marketing mix,” she said. “The two are quite linked to each other. The difference? Marketing is about doing activities that will bring in sales and contribute to the bottom line. PR is about managing reputation through a carefully considered strategy.
“PR is about promoting the organization as a whole,” Ngqulana said. “Marketing is about promotions and sales of the organization’s products and services.”
In the words of a popular saying, follow the money.
“The bottom line is profits,” Ngqulana said. “So, marketing is about selling a company’s products or services to generate revenue.”
This differs from the company’s vision and mission statement.
“PR helps to articulate an organization’s vision and mission to help people understand what the business is about,” Ngqulana said.
Wish for coverage
Much as they’d like to command news coverage, business owners need to release information that best relates to journalists’ beats. A slow news day also helps. Become a trusted source that doesn’t spout “news” that few others care about.
“One resource I’ve seen for connecting journalists with stories is Help A Reporter Out,” Harris said.
Besides “paying a PR person to do the work for them,” which Ngqulana said with a smile, she offered these things small businesses can do for better news coverage:
- You need to actually have news beyond just how incredible your product or service is.
- Contact the right person. Know who covers your industry.
- Know what they cover and how they cover it.
- Compile a media list.
- Make the journalists’ job easy. Give them news that’ll make them look good.
Even companies without bottom lines — such as nonprofits — need good public relations.
“They still have a service to sell,” Ngqulana said. “How does it make money? Donations and grants. Nonprofits must market to those groups that will help generate income.”
A PR Trends ZA article has more PR tips and tricks written with entrepreneurs in mind.
Entrepreneurs who have less-than-stellar public relations results should look in the mirror.
Ask, Am I relevant? Do I address customer pain points? Am I credible? Do I talk too much? Do I communicate well — communicate two ways and not simply broadcast without listening?
“What if your PR strategy seems to have failed?” Ngqulana said. “What if you’re not seeing the results you were hoping for?
“The first thing to do is evaluate all your PR activities,” she said. “Look at what hasn’t worked. Understand why it hasn’t worked.”
Take a deeper dive into the facts.
“Look at what has worked such as where did you get coverage?” Ngqulana said. “Which of your social media content about your brand’s story is working? Then try doing it a different way. Maybe instead of emailing only, make follow-up calls after emailing and direct messaging contacts.
“Sometimes it happens that your PR goals don’t match the outcome you were hoping for,” she said, referring to another article about setting PR goals.
Harris has her checklist of questions to repair low or poor PR results:
- What message are we trying to convey?
- Are we connected with the correct people?
- Do we have the correct representatives in position?
- Are we unified in our message?
- Is our message clear?
Your public relations strategy should mesh with your company’s vision, mission and messages. Any disjoint in communication will send you wastefully spinning off the mark.
“Before implementing a PR strategy, companies should understand their mission and what they want the community to know,” Harris said. “Businesses should have knowledgeable reps available to speak on their behalf. This includes crisis-management plans.”
Ngqulana advises entrepreneurs not to think of making a media splash. She calls these her “no-brainers.”
- Internal and external communication within yours and other businesses
- Relationships with media
- Social media
- Crisis management when disaster strikes
“All of these points are anchored by having clear PR goals,” Ngqulana said. “Then articulate your business’ messages. Understand who your target audiences are.
“Have measures in place to evaluate your PR strategy,” she said. “Of course, you need a budget for your PR.”
Your money’s worth
There are cost-effective do-it-yourself online public relations solutions small businesses can use.
Cost-effective is another way to say free. Online, put social first and business second — more like a welcome collateral result. Twitter chats are an easy way to connect with maximum potential customers with least effort.
Create Twitter lists to monitor customers and competitors. Create Google alerts to stay abreast of issues and pain paints. Watch for trending topics and see if you can offer valuable solutions. Be active and available.
Ngqulana gave these do-it-yourself nuggets:
- Be able to tell your brand’s story on your social media platforms, website and blog.
- Keep up with your industry. Read.
- Network with top influencers in your industry online and at events.
- Be creative when pitching your brand.
“If after those tips you still haven’t been able to figure it out, it’s time to consult an expert,” Ngqulana said.
Public relations can get complicated when more people act as journalists. The notion raised Harris’ ire.
“I must respectfully disagree,” she said. “I think everyone can be a ‘reporter.’
“I’m not a journalist, but when I hear that title, I expect a certain level of industry education with willful upholding of certain ethics and behavior,” she said. “Some don’t care enough to go that far.”
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