How to Start Your PR Journey

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Are you ready for PR but don’t know where to start? Publicity For Good has got you covered with our comprehensive guide! Public relations is an integral part of any business. Similar to branding,  marketing and advertising, it’s an element of your business that boosts your image to foster trust with your target audience.

Let’s get you ready for PR and let’s take you along this amazing journey!

Benefits of PR for your brand

Unlike marketing and advertising, PR entails seeking out third parties that will speak for your brand and announce newsworthy features that center around your brand. Features with major media outlets can enhance your credibility and make you resonate more with your consumers. Furthermore, it also has the ability to make you seem bigger or more successful than you might actually be — which can encourage people to trust you more.

Public Relations is also a more cost-effective way to get your brand’s name out there as compared to advertising. All you need is an arsenal of newsworthy content for your brand to share to media outlets. It’s also a natural complement to both marketing and advertising since each follows the other. Consumers see your brand through your media channels, from there, they’ll find your ads and other marketing paraphernalia.

If your brand is suffering from a communications mishap or a marketing crisis, PR can also help mitigate the risks and can be a great strategy for damage control. And unlike ads, features through your PR efforts have staying power. Your features can easily be backtracked and be seen by consumers and other media personalities that may want to get acquainted with your brand.

Steps to Get You Started

ladder of progress on how to get started

Without any prior experience, the path to achieving your PR goals might still be a blurry mess. We’ve outlined a roadmap that you can follow to help you prepare for the journey you will take to take your brand from obscurity to ubiquity.

Create a comprehensive PR Strategy

As the old adage goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. Public Relations takes intensive planning and strategic decision making to execute effectively. You need to have a comprehensive knowledge of your brand, the external and internal factors that may affect your business and knowledge or insight on what needs to be communicated by your brand to your audience.

Identify your best practices

Simply put, what have you done in the past that’s worked? Identify these strategies and take note of consumer insights and the context surrounding your previous campaign or efforts. Also identify key messaging that resonates well with your audience in the past. There is wisdom in the saying “Look to the past to understand the future”.

Know the competition

Now look outward, who are your primary competitors? How do they execute their messaging? How do they communicate with their audience? Having an understanding of what works for them can help you capitalize on these strategies and allow them to inspire you to come up with a plan that’s uniquely yours. To quote the Chinese proverb, Know thy enemy and know thyself, in a hundred battles, you’ll never be defeated.

List down what’s newsworthy

Identify news or feature-worthy things that are relevant to your brand. Public relations is essentially communicating and bolstering the reputation of your brand through external channels (e.g., news outlets, influencers, journalists, publications, etc.). Things you might want to feature include shifts in prices, exclusive offers, CSR campaigns, company and shareholder updates, product launches and a whole lot more.

Oftentimes, these opportunities come at no expense. But they need to be of value to the journalists and reporters you pitch to. Remember to be informative. You are not necessarily pitching your brand, but you’re pitching a newsworthy story that’s of value to your media contact. 

Identify your goals

What do you want to achieve from your PR campaign? Without a goal in mind, you might as well run around in circles like a dog endlessly chasing its tail. Do you want to mitigate a recent crisis? Or maybe you need to have a year-long plan of positioning your brand to become an industry thought leader.

Goals can come in many shapes and sizes, but what’s important is that these are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound). You can start with a list or outline of the things you want to achieve for your brand’s public relations strategy and plan for success from there.

Create a timeline

In PR, it’s critical to send out the right message at exactly the right time. With PR in mind, a timeline shouldn’t be haphazardly filled up with a bunch of random features. Look back at your brand, product, story and audience and understand the important events that may coincide with these factors surrounding your brand. Take note of key awareness periods, holidays, special events and seasons that may spell an increase in your brand’s relevance. 

Awkwardly placed media opportunities and features might not have the potential you might desire from a media feature. But a well-timed opportunity can get you the traffic and engagement you need to take your brand a step further against the competition.

Select your plan of action

What’s your plan for execution? There are a myriad of tactics that PR professionals use in order to get a brand’s message across to its target audience. Below are just some tactics you can use to get you started:

Host an event

Plan out an event where you can feature your brand, product or service and gain some additional exposure in the media and target audience. This can be in the form of a product launch, gala, business event or even as simple as a year-end or holiday party.

Build Community Relationships

Cultivate relationships in your local community and communities relevant to your brand and message. Being actively engaged with the community can help build rapport for your brand and earn the favor of both the community and your target audience.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Highlight the programs and efforts that your brand performs to improve the community. Media outlets and audiences alike appreciate ethical and positive business practices that focus on community-building. It shows the more human side of your business — making you more relatable and trustworthy in the eyes of the consumer.

Crisis Control

Have you had any bad press lately? Take a crisis control approach to your PR strategy and make efforts to reduce the potential damage that comes with the negative press that came your way. PR has the uncanny ability to reverse public perception and mitigate the damage so they’re reduced or altogether eliminated.

Internal PR

Show some love for your employees and you might be met with more than just their approval. Hold employee recognition events, be supportive of and engage in union activities, offer skill-building opportunities and professional development programs. A happy workforce is a motivated workforce which can result in positive returns for your brand. Moreover, your workers can serve as advocates for your brand to gain your audience’s favor and may even get you top-quality referrals for highly skilled workers.

Influencer Relations

Foster relationships with key influencers found in your space and industry. Identify and list down these personalities and actively reach out to them for potential features and opportunities. Developing positive rapport with them is essential to get them on your side so they can advocate for your brand. Influencers are key to securing the trust of your audience since these personalities often serve as the voice of the people.

Media Relations

Develop rapport with key media contacts in a variety of media outlets relevant to your brand. It’s as simple as making a phone call or sending a mere email. Having your media contact at arm’s length is an indispensable tool for you to acquire consistent opportunities to be featured.

Social Media Marketing

Social media is an open playing field for public relations, marketing and advertising. Plan out and share your content, mitigate or resolve any issues your brand is facing and lay out how you want to set your messaging on your key social media platforms.

Track your progress

What many brands leave out is identifying a means of tracking early on in planning for their PR strategy. Early on, identify your key metrics and determine what success means for you in terms of achieving your PR goals. Identify the several forms of media at your disposal including your owned media, earned media and paid media. Identify the performance of each and ensure they’re maximized. Your historical record will also serve you very well for future campaigns you might have in mind.

Essential Skills For PR Pros

As with any profession, being a PR professional takes great skill and it may take a bit of time to develop your skills as a PR professional. Below are some of the most important skills that all PR managers and professionals must have.

Communication Skills

PR Professionals are in constant communication with media outlets and personalities. Furthermore, their job is to decipher the best way to communicate your brand’s message. This all requires adept skills in communicating and being very personable. 

Writing Skills

PR professionals also need to articulate their messages well even through writing. PR professionals develop stories and news releases that will be circulated en masse. Essentially, PR professionals need to be excellent communicators verbally and through pen and paper.

Research Skills

PR professionals are constantly on the lookout for new and emerging trends in the media and in the industry they operate in. Furthermore, they need to have avian vision to see and understand audience perceptions based on the features they acquire for their brands. This all takes exceptional sleuthing and research skills to perform.

Creativity

In order to put this into fruition, PR professionals need to have a mind bright enough to create and conceptualize grandeur plans and strategies to communicate a brand’s message. Understanding and developing PR campaigns takes a great deal of creativity, making it an essential trait for any PR professional.

Metrics for Progress

Now that you’ve taken your first steps in understanding PR for your brand, how can you know that you’ve been winning? Below are some of the key Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) that PR professionals follow to identify the success of their campaigns.

Media Coverage and Brand Mentions

Take note of the number of earned media opportunities that you have that have already gone live. Noting this will help you gain awareness of your brand’s stories and the progress of your campaign. It would be safe for you to assume that you you’ve been building some great awareness if you’ve been seeing your brand plastered and mentioned in key channels and outlets.

Just don’t forget to read them and understand the context! Who knows, maybe someone out there might be talking smack about your brand, and let’s try to reduce that with some crisis management!

Share of Voice

Sharve of voices indicates your brand’s level of brand awareness in comparison with its competitors within your industry. Share of voice helps you gain a snapshot of your industry’s consumer base and identify where your brand sits in your industry. It’s also a great metric to understand your brand’s reputation.

Pitches

As you might already understand, PR professionals do a lot of pitching. It’s critical to note these down and identify the status of each. It may take some time for some media opportunities to go live so you can understand what opportunities are working out and which ones are not.

Audience Sentiment

Audience sentiment essentially pertains to your customer’s opinion of your brand. Understanding sentiment is essential in identifying positive press from negative ones. Being aware of audience sentiment is crucial to mitigating bad press and helps you be aware of your audience’s perception of you and whether your PR efforts are taking its desired effects.

Social Media Engagement

Social Media Engagement pertains to any activity that your consumer might perform in social media to interact with your brand. This includes comments, shares, likes, impressions and even views. Tracking your social media engagement can give you an understanding of the progress of your awareness building for your brand. It also helps you identify the best channels to communicate with your audience.

Shares on Social Media

These don’t simply pertain to shares within social media. What’s often referred to as social shares are earned media in the form of your audience sharing content directly from your website or channel to their social media pages. This is a particularly potent metric since it’s a clear measure of your audience’s interest in your brand and content. The more you are shared, you can confidently say that your audience considers you a credible brand or resource.

Website Traffic

Unsurprisingly, an increase in traffic to your website is a clear sign of success in public relations. Having more traffic in your website means that your audience quite possibly heard about you through your media and decided to check you out. Website analytics are a particularly useful tool to track your web traffic.

SEO Metrics

Searchability and Domain Authority

Essentially, domain authority refers to your website’s SEO ranking and where it places in search results. The higher your score in domain authority or searchability (which is usually ranked from 1 to 100), means your website is probably on the first few pages of Google’s search results.

Backlinks

These refer to members of your audiences linking back or referencing your website in their own website or pages. Backlinks are a useful metric to help you identify brand mentions and see which of your posts or content are the most popular among readers.

Conversions

Craft strategies that can help you identify customers who have purchased from your brand. This can be in the form of a post-purchase survey or you can use certain tools such as Google Analytics to help you identify customer behaviors and journeys within your website.

Publicity Value

Publicity value, or what’s also referred to as advertising value equivalent (AVE) is the theoretical monetary value that’s associated with a certain media opportunity. If a front page feature on a major publication costs $1,000, that pertains to a publicity value of $1,000 as well. Though it’s a decent metric to identify the value of your media opportunities, many believe that it’s an outdated model to understand customer perceptions and brand image.

Pro Tips for Your PR Team

Foster relationships with the media

Your contacts in the media are the lifeblood of your PR campaign. Keep a list of all your relevant media contacts and cultivate healthy relationships with them. Remember also to always provide value for them. Don’t simply shove your brand down their throats. Understand that these individuals are seeking stories worth telling that they want to feature in their channels. They’re not there to listen to a sales pitch. 

Pitch. Constantly.

Without stories to share, there’s no point in putting in all this effort to build your brand through PR. Be relentless in identifying relevant stories for your brand and continuously pitch your message to a large variety of media channels, journalists and contacts. 

Stage an Event

Earlier we mentioned that one of the tactics you can use to host an event. It works as well to garner the attention of media contacts. Events are the perfect excuse to invite not just your consumers, but potential friends in the media with whom you can share your brand, product and service.

Speak

Though it may not be for everyone, the ability to speak is a helpful skill to gain PR opportunities. Speaking opportunities can help establish you as an industry thought leader and automatically transforms you into an authority figure. Speaking on a relevant topic of your expertise is a great way to invite members of the media and your audience to recognize you as a trustworthy figure, thus developing rapport for you and your brand.

A Final Note

Now that you know what it takes to get started with a PR Plan, it’s time for you to get out there and take the first step into the world of public relations. If the task still seems a little bit too daunting, that’s okay! It’s a hard path to tread, and that’s also why some people and agencies do this for a living, like us at Publicity For Good.

If you might ever need some help setting up your brand’s public relations, we want to let you know that we’re a short phone call or email away. If you need us to help you by the hand as you take this journey, we’re happy to tag you along and let’s learn together.


Resources:

Small Business Public Relations 101 | Accion Opportunity Fund

DIY PR: 11 Public Relations Solutions for Small Businesses

How to Do PR: The Ultimate Guide to Public Relations in 2022

About Me

Heather DeSantis is the CEO and Founder of Publicity For Good (PFG), Forbes 30 Under 30 nominee, PRNEWS Top Women in PR 2021 Entrepreneurs Award, Platinum PR Awards CEO Finalist 2021 and Ragan’s PR Daily Award – PR Leader of the Year for 2021 and has been working with CPG clients for nearly a decade.

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