Good communication and successful PR go hand in hand
What would your reputation and brand look like if you and your whole team were masterful communicators? What would your sales look like if you could speak the language of your clients and customers all the time?
Our blog posts below will help you to communicate more effectively in your writing, on social media and in your personal interactions. Don’t forget that you can pick up our free guides about becoming an Influencer here, and please contact us if you’d like to talk about adding ec-pr to your Communication and PR team.
Six Reasons Why You Need A Communications Strategy
Marketing plays an integral role in the business’s growth, but without a clear communication strategy, money is being wasted and it’s impossible to be consistent and efficient. CMO’s are expected to deliver whilst working in a vacuum.
In our experience, CMO’s with a communication strategy can lead the business with greater confidence and authority.
1. Enables you to lead your business
As a CMO you need a comms strategy because it will make your job easier and more rewarding, it will also help you to lead the business and perform your duties at a higher level altogether.
The nature of being responsible for a company’s marketing means you must respond to multiple demands from the business. This can lead to a kind of tactical myopia. Your colleagues in sales will demand qualified leads – and rightly so – but if you haven’t got a mutually agreed understanding of your target sector priorities and a tight definition of your target personas, then the likelihood for disagreement or disappointment is almost inevitable.
2. Provides focus and efficiency
A well-formed comms strategy keeps you both focussed and aligned. It ensures you are more efficient, by focussing your time and money on the strategic priorities. The natural optimism, energy and opportunism characteristic of salespeople means that they can be distracted by whoever or whatever appears to be a quick win. That’s not to say low-hanging fruit shouldn’t be picked if it falls outside the specified target – but it must be recognised for what it is and should not distract everyone from the wider strategic intent.
A comms strategy provides a yardstick by which every effort and initiative can be assessed for efficacy. Everyone needs to understand when the pursuit of low hanging fruit has turned into an unhelpful distraction and drain on resources. If you own a comms plan, this will be as clear as the nose on your face.
3. Results in more effective messaging
Your target audience will rarely comprise a disciplined cohort equipped with all the information they need to select your products and services. Your audience is most likely made up of broad groups of people, with similar sets of responsibilities, who are at different stages of the buying cycle. They are probably ill-informed, confused and/or insecure in their knowledge or options. Creating typical, representative personas helps to focus attention and effort. Furthermore, understanding that your target persona will be at different stages of the buying cycle enables you to develop messaging which talks to their individual information needs, while addressing their fears, motivations and irritations. This approach, which respects your target audiences’ differences, will be more persuasive because you are telling them things that matter to them in a way that helps them to move along their buying journey.
4. It forearms you
Your comms strategy captures your sales needs, sector priorities, personas, positioning and messaging. It provides you, and your extended team and colleagues, with many of the essential tools you need to enable you to deliver your business objectives. I’m a great believer in active decision-making. The process of formulating your comms strategy will enable you to identify knowledge gaps. Then, you can decide whether you need to secure the missing information or not. It’s important to recognise and understand the implications of your action or inaction so that outcomes don’t come as a surprise – forewarned is forearmed.
5. Brings clarity of purpose
Whatever your objectives and whatever your requirements, a communication strategy just makes the process of getting there more efficient, more effective and the journey so much more rewarding. Having clarity of purpose also allows you to lead the business, fend off unnecessary or irrelevant requests and direct your resources with intent.
6. Enables effective PR
So, where does PR fit into all of this and why am I writing this article? My view is that the most effective type of PR is PR that is fully integrated; it is wrapped around the marketing activity to create impact and effect. The most effective type of PR follows a clearly defined plan, speaking to people about the things they care about in a tone that engages and persuades. We can only do this properly if there is a clearly defined comms strategy…and so, we arrive full circle.
You’ve prepped your ice-breakers, the Press Releases are printed out and you’ve got your contacts details all programmed in your phone. Now to prepare for the unexpected.
If a journalist happens to come by the stand unexpectedly or asks a question that is sensitive or ‘off message’, there’s no need to panic. Four key things to remember when handling the unexpected are:
Give yourself time to prepare
It’s ok to say to the journalist “now is not a good time and could you come back in 5/10 minutes or later in the day”. Ask the journalist what he/she is looking to discuss – that way you will have some time to think through what you or the subject matter expert need to say.
Have something worthwhile to say
If there are controversial or sensitive issues in your area of expertise, work out where you stand and don’t be afraid to air those views – but make sure you can back them up. Journalists are looking for experts who are prepared to give a strong opinion. If your company prefers not to comment on such issues that’s fine, but don’t be surprised if the reporters don’t bother to call you again.
Make it interesting and relevant
Avoid talking theoretically – use tangible examples to bring your points to reality. You will come across much more authoritative. And, don’t get obsessed with your own internal messages – by all means weave them in to the conversation, but be selective and thoughtful to keep them
Be Effective & Follow up
Follow up with the journalists you met and determine if they need anything further – if you promised to send them material, then do so. Don’t forget those images. If you have any new story ideas or feature abstracts, now is the time to send them to the Editors.
If you’ve actioned Stages 1 & 2 in our last blog HOW TO BECOME AN INDUSTRY THOUGHT LEADER you will be smiling like a Cheshire Cat about the fine piece of valuable content you have in your possession. But how do you get it to be seen and heard by the people & media that matter?
Prioritise and work through the list of targets to research the format and tone that similar articles take and where they are being shared (website, blogs, social).
Identify the contact details of the people, editors and reporters, you want to persuade to run your material and approach them on a one by one basis. Ensure that when writing to named contacts you use the research you have carried out on their media outlet and that you can tailor your piece accordingly.
Format your material.
Each channel will need its own appropriately formatted material. I would recommend that you start with one or two media organisations and do your learning and do it well. Remember, as a thought leader you need to produce new and interesting content regularly: Think outside the box!
This could be a White Paper, Comment piece, Short film, Blog, Speech or Podcast.
Approach your Chosen Media Targets.
Approach the organisations you’ve identified, one by one, and offer them a comment, article, opinion, contribution to their media channel – make sure this is relevant to their audience:
Get it subbed and edited by a colleague you like and respect. When they have finished reading, get them to answer the magic question: So what? Let their answer guide you as to what to add or take away. Ensure you chop out anything that doesn’t directly contribute to your idea. Also add as many visuals, photos, graphs, cartoons as you possibly can to bring your idea to life. Use humour to lighten ‘dark’ material.
Make it concise and dynamic but be prepared to vary your pace. Corporate films shouldn’t be more than 90 seconds long, talks no more than 17 minutes (see Ted Talks https://www.ted.com/watch/tedx-talks)
Conferences & forums
Take every and any opportunity to present your idea. If you are not an experienced speaker, start small. In your own office with colleagues, amongst clients, some people find doing a webinar is ok because they can’t be seen.
Ask for feedback.
At every event ask what your audience would like more of – this will ensure you get constructive feedback and will keep you motivated. Don’t expect to please everyone – in fact, a bit of push back suggests you have pushed the boundaries – this is good.
Be prepared to promote the pants off your thought leadership activities. It’s a good idea to get media trained (we can help with this!). Remember that practice really does make perfect. You will make mistakes, so make the bad ones in private, choose somewhere safe to make your mistakes.
Do not expect anyone to care as much about this issue as you.
You will have to be persistent and expect some level of rejection. This is fine – not everyone is as forward thinking as you are!
Be prepared to slice and dice your material for different audiences with interests in different aspects of your idea. Don’t be precious, learn to adapt and give what the media outlet is looking for, as long as it’s still true to your beliefs.
Use whichever social media platform is relevant and appropriate to your audience. Make sure your profile pictures and wording are professional and get yourself a hashtag that people can follow to find your latest pieces. Learn the tricks of the trade, like adding relevant trending hashtags to your posts to help get them noticed, and then get active, because if you’re not then no one else will be.
Now repeat, repeat, repeat!
Request our full FREE guide on How to become a Thought Leader at email@example.com
If you have reached the end of the blog and you’re not sure you have the time to action this, contact us to do the heavy lifting for you firstname.lastname@example.org
You are already an expert in your field but becoming a thought leader is considered the holy grail of PR and marketing. It’s when you’re called by the BBC News to be an expert on a breaking story, when the most respected industry trade magazine calls you for your opinion and when you’re asked to speak at those all-important industry events.
But in this noisy world where everyone has an opinion, how do you become a thought leader? How do you elevate yourself and the brand you represent, with your own clear, well thought out viewpoint?
The initial stages to becoming and staying a thought leader is taking the time to thoroughly Research & Formulate your thoughts before Communicating them with the media. Follow our tried and tested steps to get you started:
STAGE 1: RESEARCH THE 5 BE’s
Focus on something you are passionate about. You must genuinely love your subject. If you care, you will come across as authentic and credible. To remain current, you will need to keep abreast of the latest thinking relating to your area of expertise – reading widely is an essential practice for a thought leader as is talking to other experts to fine tune your opinions.
Research your area properly so that you are informed on different possible perspectives.Consider topical issues, those in the news – for example; climate change, autonomous ships and piracy, and develop your opinion on them. Writing and news reporting is rarely impartial, so think about what the motivation might be behind the various documented opinions you read.
BE EVIDENCE DRIVEN
Evaluate which angles have the most merit, and document these. Having looked at the main options, consider the evidence that the opinions are based on. Draw up a list of evidence the writers refer to and evaluate which you think is the most robust and persuasive. Which do you find the most compelling?
Develop your opinion with appropriate proof points.As you develop your opinions, remember to keep detailed notes and annotate your text so that you can keep track of where your influences have come from. Depending on the material format you produce, you may need to quote sources.
Create visual representations of your idea.Wherever possible, create models, illustrations, infographics or even cartoons to bring your ideas to life. If you struggle with this, find someone who can help you. Remember, different people engage with, and absorb, information in different ways; by using graphics you can simplify complex concepts, increasing your chances of engaging with more people.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
It’s critical to be clear about who you want to engage withbecause this will inform the tone and intellectual level you need to adopt in your language, content and presentation style. For example, the BBC News traditionally broadcasts news stories in a way that an average 14-year old can understand – this means researchers and interviewers drill down to the essence of a story, sometimes appearing to oversimplify it in order to make it accessible to its broad audience. Other media organisations will have a different approach or style.
STAGE 2: FORMULATE
PULL TOGETHER YOUR THOUGHTS IN A ‘THINK PIECE’
With the information you have researched, draft a minimum of 100 words on each of the points below… alternatively, you can record your thoughts into a voice recorder. Ask yourself the following questions:
Why do you care about this?
Why should your audience care about?
What facts/developments do they need to be aware of?
What common assumptions/mistakes are made when trying to deal with this and why are they wrong?
Can you provide some examples of good and bad practices… – names, case studies, more names!
How do you propose this issue could be approached? Identify your evidence for suggesting this could work.
Map out the resistance you anticipate to your proposal, quote naysayers. Explain why you believe these naysayers to be wrong.
Summarise what you expect to achieve if your approach is followed.
Draft your introduction… and your conclusion.
Once you have your 1000+ words, take your draft to a colleague or your PR company, to review and provide constructive comment. For your key ‘Think Piece’, do not aim for a word count. You are aiming to produce a thoroughly researched, well argued, interestingly composed opinion that will provoke responses in thought, word or deed. And when you have done that – stop.
With your Think Piece done, your next challenge is to get your opinions out there!
For help on how to reach the right media outlets and audiences, don’t miss our Stage 3 article on Communication coming soon or request our full FREE guide on How to become a Thought Leader at email@example.com
If you have reached the end of the blog and you’re not sure you have the time to action this, contact us to do the heavy lifting for you firstname.lastname@example.org.
This blog is part of our series Event Publicity: The Gold Standard.
For a FREE DOWNLOAD of our full guide, with handy checklists to keep you on track and space to scribble down your creative thoughts, please email email@example.com
Trade shows are meccas of newsworthy announcements because they provide the perfect launch pad to reveal new products, offer thought leadership from industry experts, and discuss industry trends. Media and consumers alike pay close attention to event news. If your company has a presence planned at an upcoming trade show or exhibition, you need to be prepared with the story you are there to tell. You need to create a press release that will get you noticed.
Identifying the Story
Before you put pen to paper, ensure you ALWAYS ask yourself the following questions:
Is my story ‘news’? Is it something that hasn’t been released to the press before and is it relevant or useful to your target audiences.
Have you secured third party permission to release the information? You don’t want to upset existing or potential clients or leak news too soon… take particular care to check facts and quotes.
What is the hook that will engage the journalist? You need to know what the USP of your story is and communicate it clearly.
What are the key messages you want to convey? Stick to having no more than 3, otherwise your key message will get lost.
How to Write an Effective Press Release
Answered the above? You are now ready to write the Press Release.
Beat writers block by using our 5 W’s to help you write a stand out piece that will grab the media attention you are after.
WHOyou are working with:
WHATdifference have you made:
WHEN did this take place:
WHEREdid it happen:
WHYshould anyone take notice of this:
Your Final Check List
You’ve broken the back of it but time to top and tail your story and tick off to ensure everything is covered.
You have the Angle right. Make sure your story has thefollowing attributes: It’s timely and unique, newsworthy or contrary to industry norms and trends.
You have a concise Headline. Keep it punchy. Use less than ten words. The title should clearly signpost the key point presented in the opening paragraph.
It is written in the Third-Person. A Press Release must be presented objectively. Refrain from expressing personal opinions unless in quotes. Remember, you are the voice of your business or organisation, not an individual.
You have included relevant Quotes. Journalists will use these to add an authoritative voice to their reports. Don’t waste quotes with ‘bland’ statements – say something intelligent and analytical and make sure the person who is saying it carries credibility or industry weight.
And don’t forget your ‘Notes to Editors’ section. Editors may want to follow up – make it easy for them, including all relevant contact details if they want more info, relevant social media hashtags, and any short facts (like recent awards or accolades) about your company that may be useful.
Now there’s a phrase I hear all the time, particularly when out socialising and I’m asked the obligatory “so what do you do?”. That’s when I hear the phrase “well, there’s no such thing as bad PR”. Frankly, that’s codswallop. There is bad PR. Let me talk you through some examples.
Firstly, let’s get really clear here. Just because you don’t have a PR budget, or a PR/marketing manager looking after your PR, doesn’t mean you don’t have PR. Every business has PR – it’s simply a case of whether it’s being managed or not. Why? Your reputation is active, it moves, it changes.
Imagine your company reputation is like a yacht on an ocean. The sails are up and it’s being caught in the wind. You may think you’ve anchored it in place, but the elements have a mind of their own and your yacht is drifting. Without someone navigating, your yacht is at the mercy of the weather. And before you know it a great big unpredicted wave could cause your yacht to crash. So if you’re being inactive with your PR I challenge you to consider who’s navigating your company reputation? Are you in charge, or are unknown forces in control? We believe that all business leaders need a media profile.
Secondly, there’s been a major trend in reactive PR. You’ve probably seen examples of it without knowing that’s what it is specifically, but you know how it makes you feel. It just feels wrong. It doesn’t make sense, and there’s little connection. Its where we see a company respond to a news story but don’t say anything of substance. They’re simply jumping on the efforts of others and riding on their coat tails while saying nothing of importance. No don’t even get me started on vanity PR, which also falls into this category, where arrogance or self-importance drives the communication rather than the needs of the business.
Finally, what about PR that is pushed out without purpose, measurement or focus, “proactive” PR. It’s like dropping a stone in the middle of the Atlantic and expecting the ripples to hit Cornwall. For me, this is the worst kind of PR. It’s an insult to your media contacts, your audience and damages your professional standing. It demonstrates a lack of thought, strategy and standards. Not only that it reflects poorly on your brand and is simply a waste of money. Poor proactive PR is quite possibly the worst type of PR there is – it’s being wilfully negligent of your reputation.
That’s why when I’m asked what I “do for a living” I don’t say I’m in PR. I say I’m a communications specialist. Because I don’t want to be associated with bad PR. Our communications are accountable, effective and provocative. We create compelling ideas. We care deeply. We care what our clients say. We care how their audiences respond. And we always evaluate the impact.