PR is a process
Ok this is a bit of the pot calling the kettle black. Unlike my blog, PR activities can take on a momentum of their own and we can neglect a lot of the housekeeping that really helps us move the dial.
I have said it before and will say it again. It is not about volume, it is about quality. You can be in a million publications, all with the wrong message, and your business will not reap the reward of those opportunities. But like a ship on fire, we have a tendency in PR and marketing, to pick a date to light a flame and keep sailing until the very last ember with nothing to show for it but a serious 3rd degree burn. Did I take that metaphor to far? Well it is October, almost the end of conference and launch season. Have you taken the time to look at the back of your shirt? It is charred.
But fear not. Your hard work hasn't been for nothing and most of you will come out of this year unscathed. However, PR without analysis, post mortem and reflection is like running in the same place for years. You have great legs but you aren't going anywhere and it is not sustainable month after month. Waiting until the end of year to evaluate your progress removes your ability to get out in front issues, make changes, get creative and make an impact. And just to drive this ship metaphor into the ground, a good captain charts a path but constantly recalibrates given new information, weather and opportunities. So here are 5 things I beg you to do for yourself, with your agencies, consultants and teams. If only so you can say things like "we are in uncharted territory", "smooth sailing" and "open seas ahead." Someone please stop me.
- Messaging analysis - Gather all your clips and reports. Compare them to your messaging doc. What messages were repeated, what was well received, what never worked? What did the comments say? Did you come off as genuine or disingenuous? Is it clear what you do and what value your bring to the market? What should you change?
- Media analysis - Invest some time reading the top editor, influencer and/or analyst coverage in your space. Were you mentioned? What did they say are the market trends and needs? Where you different or more of the same? How did you compare to your competition? Did a new player enter the market and what were their messages? Are you responding to their top concerns and questions? What should you change?
- Success metrics - KPIs are important but need constant recalibration. What is the use of an increased UVPM if there is no metric surrounding being on or off message? In one quarter you may find that press releases drive more traction because of a buying cycle but blog posts might be more important because of an event where expertise is king. One cycle needs partner participation and the other needs more speaking engagement. KPIs - especially in PR - are not something you set and then just ask for more YOY. They should be based on campaigns, sales pipelines, events, customer and buying lifecycles. Focus on what is really important. Figure out what success means for this instance, and then and only then figure out how to measure it. What should you change?
- Media training - I know, I know, you have all had it and you are good to go, cheers, thanks. Let me tell you right now. You are not. You need practice. Even I, as a media trainer, cannot go on camera at this moment and not look like a hot mess. There are 3 types of media training 1. for skills (how to respond and the do's and dont's.) 2. Overall messaging (how do we talk about ourselves at a high level? What are out key talking points.) 3. Impending actions (the newest campaign, next event, new thought leadership, 6 month message push.) There is no way you are prepared for all of these. If you set up an hour, quarterly, you can review and add the new. Repetition is not only key in interviews but it is key in prep. All those speakers you admire work with a speaking coach on a regular basis. Want to nail your interviews and come off as a pleasant human? Train and train again.
- Creativity offsite - We can't just get together for cocktails at the end of the day and think it was team and creativity building. The key to what we do in marketing and PR is bringing new ideas to the table. There are many ways to do this and if we all had the vacation policies we deserve, we would literally be the Walt Disney (or insert your favorite creative muse) of our industries. But we don't have all that time. What we do have time to do, is take a day to do something creative with our entire teams, consultants and agencies that will inspire our next campaigns. I don't care what it is, paint, go to a museum, crush grapes, hike a mountain, volunteer, go to the ASPCA and pet animals. Whatever it is, it has to take at least 4 hours and use different brain muscles than you use for your everyday work. Just trust me on this one. Water is my muse.
So with a little extra effort you can stop and figure out where you are on the map to achieving your PR goals. I will talk about setting those goals in another post. But for now, let's just learn to stop, look at the map and move a little to the right or left before we sail forward. Not only will this help move your business in just a single quarter but it will make your work more rewarding by having teams on the same page, getting creative and knowing that success is measurable, living and breathing but not out of reach, and something worth working toward.
P.S. Not a single sailor was consulted for this post. All nautical inaccuracies are mine and mine alone. Bon Voyage!