Since opening our doors 20 years ago, I have gained increasing respect for the role good PR can play in growing business and revenues – both in tangible and intangible ways. But small PR missteps can have the opposite effect. Having worked with hundreds of companies from all over the U.S., I’d like to highlight four mistakes companies often make when it comes to public relations.
1. Not building a sustained marketing PR program
Countless business owners call me because they see their competitors in the paper and want positive media coverage too. The fact is, reporters are always looking to write about successful businesses and their impact on the local economy. A sustained, strategic public relations program is one of the most effective ways to raise your profile among news, trade and online media. Helping reporters learn about your company and industry, your areas of expertise and differentiation, helps you become a resource for reporters and helps your company get media coverage.
2. Focusing marketing efforts only on traditional channels
Business leaders are sometimes so focused on traditional marketing channels they overlook other important channels for reaching their core audience. While a presence in your industry’s trade publications helps build awareness among decisions-makers, trades in your key vertical markets are great avenues for expanding awareness in related industries. Likewise, getting to know bloggers that cover your industry, or starting a company blog, helps build your presence online – where people increasingly turn for information. Moreover, social media provides opportunities to talk directly to your customers and the media. Evaluating which social media strategies are most effective for your industry and business is critical. The bottom line is, if you’re not working to expand your trade and online presence, you’re leaving money on the table.
3. Going to the media when you shouldn’t
Last year leaders of a large industrial company called wanting to raise awareness in the media of proposed regulations they felt would decrease productivity. While it might have been easy to get some journalists onboard, my question to company leaders was, “How do your employees feel about the proposed regulations?” If employees see the new rules as helpful or necessary, then publicly opposing them creates animosity – and sets up a media-ready narrative pitting corporate bosses against people just trying to make a living. Before calling a reporter or local editorial board, it’s important to look several steps ahead and determine if involving the media could ultimately help or hurt your cause. Remember, the media is just one of several channels for influencing policy makers and opinion.
4. Not preparing for a crisis
No one wants to have a crisis, and smart business leaders work to minimize risk. But crises are not always of your making – they originate with a third-party vendor who has experienced a data breach, or a reporter attempting to link your company to the SEC investigation of one of your clients. Or… the possibilities are endless. Company leaders often assume that during a crisis, the most important audience is your customers. But that’s only partly true. You also need specific messages for your employees, vendors and investors, your competitors, and often for regulators. And the media. Because a crisis has many moving parts, managing it successfully requires both forethought and imagination – about what could go wrong, the impact on your stakeholders, the optimal outcome and how your crisis plan can help you achieve it.
Like many aspects of business, an effective public relations program requires planning and hard work, but can ultimately pay off by protecting your reputation and growing your business.
This article adapted from “PR Mistakes Aren’t Always Obvious” by Carol Cookerly. “PR Mistakes Aren’t Always Obvious” originally appeared in January/February 2012 issue of Profile, the monthly magazine published by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.