Should your organization have a proactive PR effort

You might expect me to simply build a case for public relations, after all, PR is in our company’s name. While I believe every company, large or small, should have some kind of public relations effort, I do not believe every company should commit to a proactive effort.

Say, what? 

My rationale is there are different ways marketers can reach their audiences, and each marketer has to determine what is the most effective marketing mix that will help the get the best results for their company, independent of what others in the market are doing. And in some industries, there are simply not enough PR opportunities to make it a good return-on-investment.

Defining PR

Before I dive further into explaining when PR is effective for your company and when it’s not, let me start by sharing with you how we define public relations since the term is often applied to a wide range of communications practices:

  • Public Relations —The creation and maintenance of an organization’s brand story through a proactive press effort, resulting in editorial coverage
  • Proactive PR — Developing and implementing a plan for a defined audience through targeted media outlets in support of overall marketing goals and objectives. Simply put, you have people who are responsible for creating news and generating coverage
  • Reactive PR — Using this approach, a company doesn’t create opportunities. Instead, it simply responds (i.e reacts) to requests or creates content when something else occurs within the company (examples: a press release announcing a staff change or answering questions that an editor sent to you)

How to determine the right PR approach for your business?

  1. Define your audience — It’s important to break out the types of people that you want to market to, both externally and internally
  2. Identify communication channels — Determine where each audience segment goes for industry information (trade media, websites, newsletter)
  3. Research media properties (this the most overlooked part of the process) — The receptiveness to manufacturer input varies greatly by industry. Before committing to a proactive PR effort, it’s important to determine if there are enough opportunities to warrant the effort
    1. Read — It’s important to look at the type and style of the content an outlet publishes.
      1. Do articles include mentions of brand names and/or interviews with manufacturers?
      2. Who’s writing the articles — manufacturers, editors, agencies, freelancers?
      3. What’s the volume of product/press releases published? If the answer is none, there’s usually no need to send them releases.
    2. Review media kits
      1. Review their audience
      2. Look for editorial guidelines
      3. Review editorial calendars and determine if there are topics that your company can provide information about
    3. Talk to someone from the media outlet — editors, publishers and media reps are always happy to share information and answer your questions.
  4. Gauge your organization’s openness to sharing information — When it comes to editorial, your company has a lot less control over the message than you do with advertising. You need to make sure your internal stakeholders are okay with that. While many media outlets may give you the opportunity to review an article before it’s published, you should never expect that. If that makes you nervous, you may not be ready to commit to a proactive PR effort.
  5. Decide who’s going to do the work — Proactive public relations must be a committed effort. Just like anything worth doing, don’t say you’re going to do it unless you allocate the resources and time necessary to make it successful

If you’ve gone through these steps and have decided that your company should adopt more of a reactive PR approach, you need to make sure you’re taking a proactive approach somewhere else in your marketing communications. That might fall more into the area of content marketing with blogs or newsletters. Your key audiences are seeking industry information, and if you’re not providing it to them in one form or another, you can bet your competition will be more than happy to help them out.

No matter what you decide, it’s important to make sure you do have some kind of PR plan and process in place.