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The goal of public relations is to raise the public's awareness about your company and its products and services, but why stop there? Smart businesses work hard at their public relations efforts, especially when the cost of an effective campaign can be significantly lower than the cost of traditional advertising. No matter what type of business you run, it's likely you have a number of public relations needs and more importantly, opportunities.
Publicity and public relations can mean different things. In general terms, you may get publicity if, for example, you donate goods or services to a local charity. The publicity you receive may generate positive public relations, but publicity is by nature short-term and is based on a specific event or activity. Public relations refers to ongoing activities and strategies to promote and publicize your company and generate long-term, positive brand awareness.
The key to creating your own public relations campaign is to start with a plan.
What do you hope to accomplish? Get the word out about a company you've just launched? Promote new products or services? Create a more positive public image? Build a positive impression of your brand? Deal with recent negative publicity?
Most likely you answered, "all of the above," and that's okay. But you still need a plan to get the most out of your efforts.
Step One: Determine Your Goals. First determine how broad or narrow your goals are. You may simply want to create greater public awareness. On the other hand, you may want to publicize a new product, service or location. Either way, deciding what you want to accomplish will help you determine what steps to take. Keep in mind one goal may accomplish more than one thing. For example, if you spread the word about a new product, overall awareness of your company should naturally increase as well.
Step Two: Create Measurable Outcomes. "Greater brand awareness" is a great goal, but how will you know if you are successful? Create specific targets that you can measure. You may hope to increase traffic to your website by a certain amount, or to land two mentions of your company in print media, or to get 10 bloggers to review your products on their sites. You must know not only what you want to achieve, but how you'll know when you've reached that goal.
Step Three: Define Your Audience. Who do you hope to reach? Do you want to reach current customers? A new audience? Influential opinion leaders? Determining who you want to reach will help you decide how to reach them. Landing a story in your local newspaper will help you reach local potential customers; it won't help you reach an influential blogger in your industry.
Step Four: Determine Your Methods. Creating good public relations is based on effective communication. The methods of communication you choose will depend on your audience and your goals.
If you want to raise general awareness, focus on creating press releases and engaging traditional media. If you want to reach bloggers, send press releases, emails, and leave comments on their blog. If you want to reach a specific audience, try seminars and speaking engagements, run promotions or contests, sponsor an event, or consider charitable activities geared to that audience.
You may choose a combination of efforts – you are only limited by the resources you are willing to commit to your public relations efforts.
Step Five: Coordinate Your Efforts. Public relations and traditional marketing and advertising should go hand-in-hand and complement each other. Running a sale in conjunction with an effective general public relations campaign could help new customers decide to try your products. Print advertisements that appear in the same newspaper as a feature article on your company could multiply your exposure and brand awareness. If you will be sponsoring a charitable event, mention it in your advertisements – not only will you publicize the event but you will spread the word about how your company gives back to the community.
Step Six: Track Your Results. If you run a print advertisement you probably evaluate its effectiveness in terms of sales or leads. Public relations campaigns should be tracked in a similar fashion – even though the measurements you use may be different.
For example, you may measure brand awareness by the increase in visitors to your website or blog; or, you could measure the number of mentions your company gets in local or national media. Perhaps you could determine the quantity of promotional literature distributed at a recent event. Look at what you hoped to accomplish, and determine if you were successful. If not, modify your plan.
A note of caution: Public relations allows less "message control" than traditional advertising. With a television ad, for example, you can say exactly what you want to say. Public relation actions present more variable, since you cannot control exactly how the local television station delivers your message.
Make sure you carefully think through what you want to say, how you want to say it and the tools and strategies you use to get that message across. Then, find the right outlets for your message, track the results and adjust your strategy accordingly.