Tag Archive for: hiring a PR firm

Purpose-driven brands value PR, but it requires emotional intelligence and keen cultural sensitivities. Never has this been more true than in today’s divided political climate. Before we get into purpose-driven PR, let’s establish what a purpose-driven brand is.

A purpose-driven brand is one that has authentically and thoroughly instituted a larger social benefit into their company culture and business model. Purpose-driven brands exemplify values, not just talk about them or use them in advertising. Brands like Toms, Patagonia, and many B-Corps are good examples.

So why is purpose-driven PR important for these brands?

Purpose-Driven Values Require Courage

While consumers are increasingly demanding brands and companies take a stand, it’s not all roses for purpose-driven brands. Successful purpose-driven brands value PR firms for their independent perspectives.   Sometimes a purpose-driven brand will need to defend its purpose, or explain why it made a choice inconsistent with its stated purpose. Sometimes a brand should double down on its purpose, and sometimes an exception can and should happen. Sometimes a brand’s legacy reputation needs to catch up with today’s cultural expectations.  Having PR executives at the table during these discussions ensures brand reputation and brand value are part of the decision matrix. PR will ensure that the message is clear, and brand consistent with the press and consumers. The more consistent a brand is in its purpose, the more noteworthy it will be when it’s inconsistent. PR will help you navigate those sharky waters. More and more consumers expect candor when brands make mistakes, but this kind of candor is antithetical to many executives, but when PR has a seat at the table from the start, they can avoid many expensive pitfalls.  

 

Speaking of Purpose-Driven Apologies

In PR, we often talk about “getting ahead” of a problem. Purpose-driven brands, for all their glory, are imperfect, so well-considered and authentic owned media and earned media can really make a difference. Purpose-driven brands value PR firms for the ability to get an apology to the right place at the right time. Recently, Patagonia’s CEO wrote that Patagonia is imperfect, even as it remains committed to its sustainability purpose. The piece was incredibly well executed and a brilliant example of leadership, but it was also incredibly well executed. CEOs deserve credit for this kind of leadership, but it’s often PR that puts the resonance into a big, bold, statement like this.

Communications Needs to Reflect Internal Purpose

Purpose-driven brands value PR’s ability to collaborate across departments. No matter the size of your company, if you’re a purpose-driven brand, business decisions and internal communications should consistently reflect this purpose. Sometimes authentic purpose will require training for purchase managers. Sometimes purpose-driven brands need to incorporate legal and compliance into their purpose. And purpose-driven brands consistently incorporate their purpose into internal employee communication too.

Purpose in Partnerships

It isn’t only internal comms that should reflect purpose, but sponsorship and ad buy too. A PR professional knows corporate responsibility isn’t defined by a single cause-marketing sponsorship or corporate donation. Today’s consumers are very aware of greenwashing, a good PR agency will help you find opportunities right for your purpose, and keep you out of the fray of disingenuous choices.

This is also true for earned media. Purpose-driven brands want to be sure that their earned media is consistent and that it occurs in the right media outlets at the right time.

Purpose-driven brands can evolve while remaining consistent, such as the Patagonia example above. As more and more U.S. brands look within at their internal culture, it will surprise many to find there was purpose there all along, all it needs is a dusting off and perhaps some polish.

Marketing and PR during a recession? Who does that? Well, the answer may surprise you: brands that grow the fastest. Why? Studies who brands that market during recessions gain additional advantages because it’s less noisy and easier to be seen and heard. Make your marketing and PR budget go further by tapping into these consumer trends.

Consumer Brands: Remember the Lipstick Effect

Coined by Leonard Lauder in 2001, the term “lipstick effect” when he observed that lipstick sales are inversely correlated to economic health. Why? Because consumers still want to treat themselves and small indulgences fit the bill, even during economic downturns. Luxury lifestyle brands do this with their perfume and makeup offerings. Yes, $69 for Hermes lipstick is a lot for lipstick, but for the Hermes customer or aspirational customer, $69 is an easy purchase compared to a $6,000 purse. Consumer PR and marketing during a recession can help you gain market share and grow when you offer your customers a way to sport your brand without making a gigantic purchase.

What’s your brand’s “lipstick”? What is the product that makes customers feel like they’re treating themselves without large expenditure? 

Find the Fun with Your Customers

What did the post-pandemic consumer teach us? They want fun and frivolity in the pandemic’s wake – and they STILL want that, perhaps even more, with all the gloomy news about a recession. While you, as a CEO, or CMO, might feel doubly beat up, it’s really up to you to bring the fun. From marketing to PR, if you give consumers something fun to talk about or a sense of escapism, consumers will find a way to your party, because they really want to have fun. So while you may be cutting your marketing or PR budget, make sure the things you keep are fun-filled. Not only will this improve your bottom line, it will attach fun to your consumer’s experience of your brand, which means they’ll associate you with fun after the recession too.

What’s your customer’s ideal way to escape? Find them and play with them there. 

Make Lasting Memories with Nostalgia

When uncertainty strikes, consumers love to “remember when.” Whether it’s nostalgia-based packaging or scents to connections to movies and songs, yesterday always brings comfort to consumers. If you’re a legacy brand with long-time customers, then you should absolutely take this opportunity to remind your customers of the good ole days you had together. If you’re a new brand and you don’t have that depth, you can trigger fond memories through partnerships and advertising.

What era makes your customers nostalgic?

Avoid Deep Discounts that Train Customers

If you train your customers to wait until the next sale, they will never buy if there isn’t one, whether or not there is a recession. Resist the urge to devalue your own brand right now. Not only do price discounts squeeze your margins during a time when you can least afford them, constant discounting feels desperate. Desperation is never a great look, especially for luxury brands. To maintain brand and positioning, the beloved cupcake brand Sprinkles resisted the urge to discount during the pandemic:

“Customers had been taught by other bakeries to expect that the product at the end of the day was worth less than at the beginning. But with our just-in-time baking system, these cupcakes were as fresh as their morning relatives. Even then, as tempting as it was to sell off those last few cupcakes at a discount right before closing, I knew we had to stand firmly behind the price. I preferred to donate those cupcakes than to eat into the value of our brand.” -Candace Nelson, founder.

The better option is to carve out a single day (or two) that your brand will offer value pricing, and when you do, look for ways to add value to your current price rather than discounting the product itself. You could offer a gift with purchase or a VIP experience.

Budget planning for marketing and PR during a recession feels less fun than when budgets are flush, but the reality is, you can make major headway during a recession AND you can enjoy the process and the output just as much if not more.

When Should Your Fast Growing Company Hire a PR Agency or a Marketing Firm?

With everything happening so fast in your hyper-growth company, when SHOULD you hire a PR agency? We speak to businesses all the time asking us if they’re ready for us and often, the answer is “no, not yet.” So, how do you know if you’re ready for an agency? We specialize in working with organizations with ambitious growth goals, so we’re in a good position to know what works and what doesn’t.

6 Signs Your Ready for a Public Relations or Marketing Agency

You Have A Proven Business Model/Product

It’s easy to think that if you had a PR agency or marketing company running things you’d have those customers you need to prove your product works. But if you haven’t been able to get a grass-roots movement on your product, the question is whether the product is viable and whether more exposure means more users/customers or not. There are simply times when throwing money at an exposure metric just isn’t the right thing at the right time.

Plus, it’s important for you, the founder, to get out there and get feedback on your product. You’ll learn things about your customers and your product that you really need to know. You should have a stable team and at least some certainty that the market wants your product. If you’re unsure, it’s too early for an agency.

It’s A Race To The Best Brand

There are some industries where the biggest distinguishing factor for your product is the brand, the emotional response customers have to your product and style. In these situations where you need scale and fast, having an agency is important because you’ll need consistent execution that also adheres to a strategy. Consistent press coverage is a defining factor for becoming the best-known brand.

You Have A Story To Tell

It’s heartbreakingly true: starting a company is not news. Globally, there are about 11,000 startups per hour every single day. You hear about 1/100,000,000 of them with any regular basis. The ONLY way to cut through the clutter is to have a real story. You something truly compelling, because journalists are soooo tired of hearing about “the <insert adjective> new CEO taking <insert startup community or vertical> by storm.

If you THINK you have a story, but need some help, call us. We offer a consulting strategy service that will help you flesh out your story and we can help you determine if there are any other gems.

You Have The Internal Resources and Assets

This is the moment when you’re probably considering hiring an internal team, but you realize hiring this group of people would require you to take your eye off your core mission.

Internally, you DO need someone who provides your marketing or PR agency with access. It’s this person’s job to interface with questions and changing directions. They need to be both in the C-level loop and empowered to give direction to the agency, which leads me to the next…

You Have A Budget Over And Above The Monthly Retainer

Whatever you’re spending on a Branding, PR or Marketing execution, plan on at least another 30%-40% for activation and assets. In the PR world, you’ll need assets (video, images, studies), events, and press services. In the marketing world, it’s one thing to create the content; it’s another thing to make sure it gets seen.

We provide an audit and a digital strategy program that allows brands to take the roadmap and either implement it for themselves or hire us (or another agency), this plan usually includes competitive analysis, campaign ideas, and best practices for everything from content development to advertising.

Do you Have a Campaign or Project That Needs Person Power

The best time for a PR and Marketing Agency to come on board is when you need a variety of unique skill sets, and you need them fast. Sometimes, you have an idea or campaign that you need help to execute. Hiring an agency to identify opportunities, solutions (and potential pitfalls) is a good idea here because you’ll get that execution boost you need without having to recruit and hire a team. You need a team of specialists, amazing writers, creative graphic designers, analytics interpreters and you don’t need any of them full-time, nor do you have time to manage this in-house team of creatives, but you do need them.

PR firms in major markets come with a premium investment. In today’s world, does working with a cannabis PR firm in a major metro market worth it? Yes, because major market PR firms tend to be in touch with media trends and have deeper personal relationships with journalists over the years. With more states coming online with legal cannabis, cannabis industry businesses are often expanding in multiple of states, and because the regulatory environment in cannabis prohibits cross-state commerce of cannabis, a cannabis brand might consider PR firms in several of states, which is expensive and impracticable. So why would a Los Angeles-based PR firm be an advantage at all?

 

  1. Do Media Markets Do Matter?

    In the early days of cannabis, having a presence in Denver was really important, as Colorado was the first state to legalize adult-use cannabis. As cannabis becomes increasingly normalized and cannabis brands look to mainstream consumer coverage, having a PR firm with LA and New York presence is vital. Los Angeles-based PR firms like Avaans Media have been active in cannabis marketing and PR since 2015. The media contacts in LA are often entertainment, trend, and lifestyle, so if you’re looking to appear in consumer media outlets within any of those broad categories, you’ll want a PR firm who knows what journalists and freelancers in those topics are interested in covering. LA PR agencies also have the advantage of being dialed into the San Francisco media market, which is technology, venture capital, and startup oriented.  New York-based journalists also have some lifestyle coverage, especially legacy lifestyle titles, along with financial business journalists. Media markets ESPECIALLY matter if you’re holding a product launch event with journalist invites.

  2. But What About Local Cannabis Coverage?

    Cannabis businesses in a multitude of markets should consider agencies with team members on the ground in multiple states. If you’re lobbying in local markets or you’re launching in a new market, a local presence may very well be relevant.

    But from a trend perspective, journalists tend to live in larger metro areas, meaning they’re on the cutting edge of what’s happening. You want a PR firm that is on the ground and in touch with the earliest trends, as well as those that are passe.  In the case of Avaans PR, our network of PR experts around the country, including important cannabis markets like Miami, Washington D.C., Massachusets, Chicago, and more, means we can ensure local coverage in those markets as well. A cannabis brand can always hire freelancers in every state and then manage them directly, but few cannabis brands can manage a disconnected, disjointed, and distributed team of freelancers. Working with a PR agency allows cannabis companies to expand their reach without adding layers of additional management hours.

  3. Is Cannabis Industry PR Experience Relevant?

    California leads the country in cannabis normalization. California’s medical marijuana Prop 215 passed in 1996, and in 2016 California became the largest legal cannabis market in the world. Los Angeles cannabis PR agencies like Avaans have deep experience in cannabis PR, and know the journalists who have been covering the cannabis industry for a long time. In cannabis, context is everything and knowing what journalists have covered helps cannabis brands stand out in their pitches and PR campaign.

  4. What About B2B Cannabis PR?

    While national B2B cannabis industry businesses may not have the same issue as consumer cannabis products, having a cannabis PR firm in a major market like LA is still important. That’s because B2B cannabis brands need a strategic, experienced approach to cannabis media, and experienced PR professionals with decades of experience crafting business stories and developing campaigns that stand out in the cannabis industry and business media outlets.

 

If you’re not sure what you need from a PR firm, look at the Avaans pricing approach and then get in touch with us. We’re candid and honest, and if we’re not a good fit, we can make recommendations for experienced cannabis PR agencies that would suit you better.

What is the difference between public relations and communication? PR and communications are so intertwined that distinguishing between the two may seem like splitting a hair. Public relations always involve communications, but communications does not always involve public relations. For example, advertising is communication, but it is not a form of public relations. The term “communications” encompasses a variety of positions, skill sets, and ways to promote a company’s message, both internally and externally. More than ever, there are many similarities between public relations and strategic communications. Both require skill in delivering the desired message to customers, media, and stakeholders using the best communications techniques for their audiences and their organization’s goals, such as written word, video, graphics, and photography. The communication tools you use, including PR, depend on what you are trying to accomplish.

We Always Communicate, Intentionally or Not

People who go into a communications career often have a knack for conveying ideas through writing, speaking, or graphic design. Both verbal and non-verbal communications provide the foundation for specific communications professions, such as journalism, advertising, marketing, public speaking, graphic design, public affairs, advocacy, videography, website design, social media specialist, and public relations. Professional communicators can articulate the implications of a particular message – will they will perceive it as trustworthy? Will it be memorable?

When is Communications “Strategic?”

“Strategic communications” is knowing when to use a specific communications vehicle, method, or discipline – such as advertising or social media – to accomplish an organization’s goals, campaign, or movement. In other words, strategic communications is considered the intermingling of public relations with marketing, and at times,  advertising as well. Used strategically and holistically, there may be very little difference between public relations and communication.

For example, if you are running for public office, your goal is to get elected. Your strategic communications planning may include a lot of grassroots advocacy work, which puts you into neighborhoods, knocking on doors, speaking at public school events, or holding neighborhood rallies. You may also use paid advertising to ensure your specific message gets out to the potential voters at specific times of the day or in specific places, like the billboards of key neighborhoods or on certain social media platforms. And you almost certainly have a media relations component.

A business that is launching new product,  may also use advertising to promote the benefits of its product or draw comparisons between its product and the competition. Some marketing tactics include holding special events with the public, inviting them to try your product for free, or offering discounts.

Both examples may want to try to get unpaid or “earned” media attention through a journalist that covers voting activities or your company’s product. This is called media relations and goes hand-in-hand with public relations.

PR: The Definition is in the Name

A public relations professional works to develop, foster, and maintain positive relationships with the public or other identified stakeholders which can include the shareholders, policy creators, customers, and even employees.

A PR professional uses several communications tools in their relationship building, particularly writing. Most PR professionals will write press releases for news media, give presentations or press briefings, or write for company executives. They exercise persuasion and work to present their organization in the best possible light—and they do it by “earning” publicity and public goodwill versus paying for it, as advertising professionals do. They also try to limit or mitigate any negative information or crises.

While public relations may be persuasive, the best PR professionals understand that being truthful is the cornerstone of PR. In the early 1900s, a man named Ivy Lee considered the founder of modern public relations, argued that the public deserved honest and accurate information versus simply persuading an audience.

The profession took another turn when Edward Bernays, a member of President Woodrow Wilson’s Committee on Public Information, advocated that PR professionals use psychological precepts that target emotions to elicit the desired responses from an audience. (This makes sense when you realize that Bernays was Sigmund Freud’s nephew.)

A glaring example of Bernays’ philosophy in action—and genius in tying it to a current event—was his success in tapping into women’s emotions amid the suffrage movement by declaring that cigarettes were the enlightened woman’s “torches of freedom.” By smoking in public, women were declaring themselves equal to men.

The shift toward true relationship building as a tenet of public relations occurred during the 1950s and 60s, as the public began to protest corporate power in America. Organizations began to see the importance of building relationships with their audiences and promoting two-way communications, which is still the touchstone of today’s PR profession.

PR’s Evolution

Some people still consider PR as “propaganda.” Bernays himself wrote a book simply titled “Propaganda.” His long-tenured influence on public relations undoubtedly had a great deal to do with other derogatory adjectives commonly associated with PR, like “slick” or “hype.”

PR’s early inroads into America created a catalyst for change. In 1948, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) was formed. Soon after, the organization developed an ethics code and voluntary accreditation for PR practitioners. Professional PR professionals take professional ethics seriously because PR is a powerful tool that is an investment in your company.

The Bottom Line

History teaches us that as society changes, public relations—and all communications – also change. The difference between public relations and communications waxes and wanes depending on the public’s trust of particular message delivery mechanisms. The rise of social media demanded that PR professionals build their communications proficiencies. Print newspapers and magazines declined significantly, highlighting the need for digital communications. These changes, along with other media and audience consumption, have blurred the lines between PR and multiple communications competencies. Americans’ trust in the news media continues to decline, making earned media less of a PR weapon than it once was.

 

 Is a press release an effective investment? That’s a question that many business owners and marketing professionals are asking themselves in today’s digital age. The answer, unfortunately, is not a simple one.

If you’ve already done your press release research, then you know it’s expensive for good press release distribution and it’s time to focus on press releases. However, before we talk about press releases, let’s take a step back and look at some basic PR knowledge.

On the one hand, press releases can be an incredibly valuable tool for getting your story out there and reaching a wider audience. They can help you build credibility with media outlets and create a positive image for your brand.

On the other hand, press releases can be quite expensive to produce and distribute, and they may not always be effective in reaching your target audience. 

Given the state of the press in today’s media-saturated environment, press releases do this: more people see them than they did years ago when people actually opened their mailboxes to find physical press releases with paper clips on them! In other words: today’s press releases aren’t exclusive to journalists. In fact, most PR experts agree: press releases do little to gain earned coverage. Direct pitching an inside scoop is much more effective. 

But, press releases are still an effective way for organizations to disseminate news to journalists, media outlets, and bloggers in a format that is easily digestible by search engines. This allows for wider distribution of your message, which will eventually lead to backlinks and press mentions. However, if you’re looking for tangible ROI from press releases, you might be disappointed – press releases are not the silver bullet for marketing success.        

Whether to issue press releases is a decision made on a case-by-case basis with your PR agency. If they recommend press releases, there are a few reasons:

1) Well-written press releases are an effective part of an SEO strategy and improving search engine rankings. 

2) Press releases help to establish your company or organization as an authority in your field.

3) Issuing press releases can help you to build relationships with journalists and bloggers.

4) Press releases can enhance the all-important trust factor.

5) Press releases can be a way to spread the news about your company’s products and services during slow news periods.

6) Issuing press releases is a great way to stay connected to journalists and bloggers who might write or blog about you in the future.

7) Press releases can serve as “proof” that you are actively involved in your industry if someone were to call out of the blue for this reason.

8) Well-written press releases can establish thought leadership, which may help attract new clients down the road.

9) In today’s world, press releases can be powerful social media content tools — if they’re written well, quickly go through press mentions and social sharing.

A modern PR agency can help you determine whether press releases are the right tool for your organization and, if so, how to write them to garner the most attention. We’re a top-rated Los Angeles PR firm with a distributed team in major media centers. For more information on press releases and other aspects of effective PR, please contact us.