A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of being the agent of inspiration for a room full of bright-eyed entrepreneurs (not an easy role to play in an economy still trying to rebound). I delivered a presentation on what PR professionals do to help people take advantage of the limelight.
Mid-delivery, I realized that sometimes we get so wrapped up in the daily grind that we forget not everyone understands what we do. They might understand our work in theory, but don’t necessarily connect the dots from billed hours to Forbes cover.
That’s not their fault—it’s ours. Responsibility to communicate falls on the message bearer. So if they don’t get it, we have failed to communicate our message. Funny, that’s what we do for a living, but when it comes to selling ourselves we sometimes forget the basics.
So what are some specific things we do that help businesses succeed?
Here are my top 10:
1. Seek and apply for industry awards. Seems simple, right? Local, regional, national, small business, big business, best place to work—awards abound at many levels. There are some awards for which few people even apply. When your client is nominated, tell everyone and get them to vote. Recently, our client Campo, a popular new restaurant in Reno, won 11 local awards. The power of PR helped rock the vote.
2. Foster an emotional connection through the back-story. Finding the interesting story about your client takes more than a one-hour onboarding meeting. It’s often during the idle chatter when they reveal the most intriguing details—the ones that lead to feature stories.
3. Host a big event or partner with someone who is. Think about how a smaller business that isn’t resource-rich could piggyback off a bigger event you’re producing or one that’s being produced by a colleague. This kind of partnership benefits both parties involved. For example, combine a ticket giveaway for the event with an in-store promotion at a smaller local business.
4. Position them as an expert. Sometimes the best placements you can get are the ones secured through your client’s voice. Expert columns are more than fantastic submissions; they work overtime as great pitching tools.
5. Develop a corporate social responsibility profile/program. Combine an event with a charitable cause. People like to be entertained, and they love to feel good. Plus, helping your local food bank increases everyone’s karmic profile.
6. Have fun and/or add value through social media. Remember that social media defines a brand’s personality. Generally, people go to social media for fun or value. Sometimes you can combine the two. Give advice, ask for captions, lighten moods with inspirational quotes. Engage your audience in ways that make sense for the brand.
7. Stay updated on news and current trends. Account management requires lots of research on an ongoing basis. How do our clients fit into what’s happening locally and nationally? What’s the competition doing that’s working or not working? While no one expects you to be an expert on every aspect of each client’s business, to be successful you must be damn close.
8. Keep others’ posted about newsworthy events. OK, some clients think sneezing requires a press release. Our job is to filter what’s tweetable (a really big sneeze) from the jewels that make news.
9. Create a successful social media campaign. Set a goal, research the audience, and get savvy with your approach. For one of our clients Oxygenics, we had to get 10,000 fans in 90 days. We partnered with bloggers to do reviews and host giveaways. But to find those people we had to research and dig deep. It worked.
10. Build relationships with your customers. Finally, the most basic and grassroots level public relations is not media-based; it’s relationship driven. The “word-of-mouth” (WOM) effect makes or breaks businesses, and yes, that WOM gains momentum via today’s myriad social media platforms. Not only does this pertain to the relationships that our clients build with their customers, but also for the relationships we maintain with our clients. Do so with integrity. Be honest, treat everyone with equal respect and importance, and be authentic. The work we do is foundational; we cannot build our castles or others’ out of sand.
Earned media works. For all the measurement tools we have, the results that matter manifest in the bottom line.
Amanda Horn is an account coordinator with The Abbi Agency in Reno, Nev. You can follow her on Twitter @TeboHorn or email Amanda@theabbiagency.com. A version of this story first appeared on The Abbi Agency blog.