Plan for public relations success with these critical 3 tips
A little advance planning can make all the difference between public relations success and public relations frustration. Public relations is increasingly important for companies and there’s nothing like a new year to give your brand and company a fresh image. PR firms are here to be your partners in success. As you pull levers for world domination next year, lean on your PR firm so that together you’re on the same page about how you mutually define success. Here are 3 tips for working with a PR firm or formulating your in-house PR plan.
1.Determine Your Measurable PR Goals for Public Relations Success
PR success comes when there’s absolute clarity about goals. Your PR goals should match your business goals; make sure your PR firm knows how you’re REALLY defining success. Don’t hide your perspective from your PR firm and expect that the results you want will magically appear. Make sure your PR goals align and support your activations, product launches, and partnerships.
PR and marketing goals and KPIs should be:
The two most important considerations when defining your goals is ensuring that they are measurable and ambitious enough to be significant, but attainable with your budgets and efforts.
Measuring your PR and marketing efforts should include a baseline so you can track improvement. If you don’t have a baseline, you may need to evaluate how you will measure success and it may require something like an industry average or an industry survey. At Avaans, we include a number of KPIs during our monthly reviews, these KPIs are tracked the same way every month, so over time, we can really pinpoint what works and what doesn’t for each brand. We’re completely transparent with our clients about how we came to those KPIs and why they’re important for us to track internally for cannabis PR success.
Attainability is an important KPI. If you’re shooting for the stars, make sure all your assets are in place to support that goal. Assets also include time and brainpower.
There should be KPIs for marketing and KPIs for PR that have crossover. For example, new website visitors, inbound links to your website, both of those metrics will be impacted by both PR and marketing initiatives. Sometimes we hear people say that they don’t want to give PR and Marketing joint KPIs because they feel it reduces responsibility, but when your KPIs are aligned with your overall business goals that encourages your PR firm and marketing agency to work together to accomplish the company’s mission-ultimately it’s not about pitting one set of KPIs against one another, it’s about achieving success and measuring respective impact.
2. Define Your Target Audiences
As a PR firm who works with highly ambitious brands, we often hear goals like “We want to be featured in XYZ publication.”
When a single piece of press helps secure millions of dollars in funding, throwing all your efforts at securing that press is worth almost any PR and activations fees. That’s a great goal, so consider who your ultimate audience really is for any given publication so you can set yourself up for public relations success. Many times, public relations success is defined by share of voice within a specific audience.
Your audiences may be in the B2B space, they may be consumers, they may be investors or partners. Be clear on who you’re trying to reach with each KPI and objectives-share your objectives with your PR firm, so they’re clear on where you REALLY want to be.
Sometimes earning national press even when you’re only in a few markets is strategic as the audience is potential investors or industry partners who like knowing that the brands they’re partnering with have enough clout to secure national coverage. Alternatively, you may want to show that your brand is well received by multiple consumer types, in which case you may wish to have press in particular interest verticals.
3. Plan for Public Relations Success and Budget Your Activities
Public relations is an incredibly broad level to pull. Within your budget, you should be allocating events, sponsorships, social media, media relations, and asset/owned media development.
Chances are, in order to reach your pr and cannabis marketing goals, you’ll need to execute on some initiatives.
And, you’ll need a corresponding budget for these activities. A good marketing and public relations firm can help you allocate your budget to match your objectives.
At the very least they can tell you how to best allocate an over-all budget or at least inform you of best practices and first steps. A great example of this is events – events can be held for all sorts of objectives, from customer appreciation to media awareness. While both of those objectives MIGHT turn into earned media, it’s important you consider what it will take to earn press coverage on an event, before you spend the money on an event. Sponsorships are another area where the activation is an important marketing objective, but PR may be able to help you define some ways to use your sponsorship in a way that improves your industry image or earns you media coverage.
What Should You Really Be Look For In A PR Firm?
We know, hiring a PR firm can be daunting. With increasing frequency, we’re hearing stories from colleagues who have experienced “bad PR.” What should you ask before hiring a PR firm?
We truly believe many of these stories are due to client and agency were a mismatch, rather than a “bad PR firm”. Taking a deeper look at PR before hiring them can save you money, but most importantly, time. Much of this can be attributed to the vast distinctions with how PR agencies operate and handle their clients. The intention of this piece is to provide you with questions we would be asking OUR PR firm before we hired them, and why those questions are important. Also, consider these “6 great questions you can ask us before hiring Avvans PR”
6 Questions to Ask Before Hiring Your Next PR Firm
Do You Understand Our Product?
Ask yourself how important a baseline understanding of your product or industry is to your overall communications. We’ve heard story after story of people unhappy with their PR firm because their PR firm doesn’t understand an emerging industry’s regulations or a technology. Understanding the industry isn’t just important from a regulatory and technical perspective, it’s also the ability to monitor relevant news, understand what’s relevant (and what isn’t) and move quickly. Now, that’s not to say that a beauty PR can’t handle B2B PR for the industry, but expect to educate your firm.
What tradeshows and conferences has your team attended?
Does your PR firm understand what makes your product distinct within your industry?
What publications are writing about your vertical?
Before Hiring a PR Firm, Establish Clearly Defined Ways of Measuring Success for PR
Most companies today want consistent placement, strategic oversight, and outstanding communication. But what else? In a mature, less regulated industry, a PR firm typically works with multiple other firms from branding to experiential to an ad agency.
PR is THE leading brand trust and awareness tool.
In addition to earned media, companies should be looking at additional metrics for PR such as SEO value. Website traffic, brand mentions, brand name reach, and even share of voice are all KPIs that are relevant, depending on the overall strategy. Your PR firm should be ready and able to provide those kinds of metrics to you on a monthly basis. Changes in public perception or decreased sales cycle are also metrics with which PR can support. If you’re measuring your PR firm against KPIs like this, work with your PR firm to set a baseline and a reasonable timeframe.
Is the Fee Structure Fair & Does It Make Sense?
Most PR firms work on a retainer, so make sure you have an understanding of what’s included in your retainer?
Does the firm charge for wire releases?
Is branded content included, and if so, does that extend to graphic design?
Is there a markup on expenses incurred by the PR agency and if so, what is it?
Are off-site activations included?
How are hours tracked?
There’s no single way to manage a retainer, so asking questions like this upfront will give you a deeper understanding. Be fearless about asking these questions, after all, you’re the client. You should expect a rationale that isn’t arbitrary. While you may view this as a negotiation opportunity, be wary of cutting the budget to the point where your brand isn’t on the radar daily. You want your PR firm engaged with your brand on a daily basis – make sure you’re getting that because the alternative often provides unsatisfactory results. A great PR firm will be transparent about their billing methods. Financial terms form the foundation of your relationship with your PR firm. Get that right and find a balance that works for you and your PR firm.
Look for Good Personal Chemistry in Your PR Firm
While this one is tough to put on a spreadsheet, asking some tough questions will often reveal the quality of the chemistry. As an engaged client, you should be working with your cannabis PR experts regularly and you REALLY want that process to be enjoyable. Make sure your company culture meshes well with your cannabis PR firm’s value system. Teams who like one another, work better together. If you’re not gelling with someone in the first call, chances are, that’s not going to change.
Compatability breeds productivity and results.
Before Hiring Your Next PR Firm, Consider: Location, Location, Location
Before you start narrowing down your PR firms, decide how important location is to you. We think having account presence in major journalism markets is priority one, but if you’re the kind of person who needs to meet face-to-face once a week, acknowledge that and find a firm close to your base of operations and hire a PR firm that’s near by.
Flexibility AND Systems
Pay close attention to the systems your PR firm uses and also take notice of their flexibility.
For starters, there should also be a clearly defined exit clause in the contract.
Who owns content?
How will the PR firm handle future press inquires when/if the engagement ends?
What is the cancelation agreement?
Your PR should have systems and processes in place, but those systems and processes should also be nimble enough to manage the PR world. For example, getting a press release right is exceptionally important, but it shouldn’t take your PR firm a week to write it. You should be able to review the first draft within hours on an emergency or breaking news circumstance. On the other hand, there should be a consistent drum beat and strategy behind media relations. Which bring us to:
A Strategic Approach That Makes Sense
Before hiring, your PR firm should be able to articulate an approach and strategy that makes sense to you. While credible PR firms won’t reveal details about clients, they should be able to articulate some case studies of PR strategies and why they worked. For example, provide an experience that required a decision to respond to industry news. When, where and how you respond to breaking industry news is determined by your brand strategy, BUT your PR should be able to articulate a strategy and when/why it worked. Your PR firm should have some strategic storylines and outlines in mind for your brand, which proves they’ve done a little research. Even if they aren’t perfectly on-brand, at least you’re starting with a strategy which is better than starting from zero.
Public relations isn’t new, but cannabis PR hasn’t been around very long. You’ve probably heard that particularly because of limited advertising options, PR is an excellent investment in your company. But maybe you’re still wondering what you should expect from cannabis PR.
Here are 9 reasons why every cannabis company should be investing in cannabis PR.
- Great content inspires trust, creates credibility and increases brand value.
There is no greater content than an unpaid third party. Cannabis consumers today are hip to the fact that influencers, affiliates, and advertising are all getting paid to say what you want them to say. But journalists remain independent and adhere to a code of ethics and that’s exactly what makes their content so trusted and valuable.
- Allows a company to own its own story.
Cannabis companies who fail to invest in cannabis PR are basically allowing everyone else, from media to competitors to customers, to create your brand story. Why not author your own brand’s story? That’s what PR allows you to do.
“PR is not something a CEO can do herself. PR is a highly specialized vertical with a distinctive set of talents, relationships and experience, plus, it takes an exceptional amount of time away from running the company. An agency allows CEOs to get back to their highest and best use of time. – Tara Coomans, President Primo PR
- Cannabis PR outlasts advertising and social media.
Unlike advertising which turns off the minute you finish paying, PR sticks around indefinitely. We’ve placed pieces which continued to drive traffic and conversation 3-4 years later. What advertising or social media has that kind of longevity?
- Amplify and maximize your cannabis message.
A strong PR program typically involves media relations. Media relations means your PR team is working with journalists who are interested in the verticals your brand best fits into. For example, if you’re a cannabis beauty brand, you’ll have stories you want to tell to each vertical.
- Building community capital.
As we’ve discussed previously, crisis and downturns happen. Having relationships in the media is particularly important when you need support. An ongoing media relations campaign provides trust both with journalists and the public which you can put in the bank and earn interest on for a rainy day.
“When we discuss the value of PR, we often forget about the sales, M&A and partnerships that come more easily because PR drives trust and shortens the sales cycle,” – Tara Coomans, President Primo PR
- Compliments sales efforts.
Ask any salesperson, distributor, or business development executive what happens when they can reference a piece in major industry or national publications. Suddenly, people start paying attention. Adding your coverage on your website, sales materials and other external communications amplify your cannabis PR.
- Creates an opportunity to consider your company’s impact.
Ongoing PR makes a company and it’s stakeholders consistently aware of its impact on people. This is important because it’s those same people who have perceptions that shape the company’s values and builds (or damages) its reputation.
- PR IS content. Content is a big buzzword today, but PR has always been about content, the only thing that’s changed is that there are more avenues to share content. That’s why so many cannabis PR firms also offer social media and/or event marketing services. PR’s perspective provides a well-rounded point of view that makes content more accessible, shareable, and timely.
- Enhances digital efforts like SEO.
Online earned media is usually chock full of relevant keywords and known publications have strong SEO signals. Consistent media placement helps with organic search results and the best part is, the efforts pay increasing dividends over time.If you’re ready to invest in PR to get all these benefits and more, why not find out more about whether you’re a good fit for Primo PR’s services?
It’s no secret that social media applies to today’s brands. As I write this, Instagram is the social media darling of lifestyle, travel, and consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands. Subject to change pending finicky social media trends. In the meantime, I’d like to bring a fresh perspective to another social channel you probably AREN’T using because it’s coming up more and more these days.
Media Relations on Twitter
But if you’re wishing you had more media or are working with an agency like us, to garner earned media or free press, this tip is a great relationship builder with media outlets and journalists. Mostly when we look at the taskmaster that is social media, we consider the consumer’s journey. You probably even consider where the “hot” or most relevant influencers are spending their time. I bet when you think about influencers, you think of those magical unicorns appearing in so much news these days. But guess who is often more influential, both online AND in person than these folks?
Before I answer that question, please allow me to reacquaint you with a social platform you hear about every day, but probably don’t use much yourself these days: Twitter.
Today’s Twitter is a different than only a few years ago. The average person isn’t using Twitter much these days. But who ISN’T average? ACTUAL Influencers: journalists. Media relations on Twitter is different than approaching an influencer, but the platform has numerous opportunities for engaging journalists.
Moreover, Twitter users are above average in many ways. Further, the active Twitter user is hyper-engaged on Twitter.
According to the Pew Research Center (April 2019):
- Twitter users are much younger than the average U.S adult.
- Twitter users and are more likely than the average U.S. adult to have a college degree.
- “The most prolific tweeters – those in the top 10% by number of tweets – are responsible for 80% of all tweets created by U.S. adults.” And guess what else?
- The average Twitter user is younger than the average American, “Twitter users are nearly three times as likely to be younger than 50 (73%) as to be 50 or older (27%).”
- And for those of you courting females: The most prolific tweeters among U.S. adults are especially likely to be women. Among the most prolific tweeters – again, those in the top 10% by number of tweets – 65% are women. Women account for 48% of less prolific users.
- 60% of Twitter users reported that they definitely voted in 2018, compared with 55% of all U.S. adults.
WHY THIS MATTERS MOST IN MEDIA RELATIONS
When you look at the above statistics, who do you see?
I know who I see: journalists and freelance writers. Journalists are more trusted than influencers like Kim Kardashian, more connected than the average American, and open to new experiences. In short: journalists are more important than influencers.
According to News Media Alliance, Twitter is “now it is considered almost a requirement that writers and journalists have Twitter accounts and that they actively participate in conversations happening on the platform,”
Here at Avaans, we help bridge that gap between journalists and businesses and we’re here to say: if you’re interested in media coverage, you need to be on Twitter. There’s a reason PR firms call it “earned media” as opposed to “free press,” and that’s because media coverage isn’t free and relationships matter.
Look at journalists and the media as the people MAKING the news and this group of influencers is very active on Twitter as a group.
Journalists and writers are using Twitter to source stories, see if a brand is worthy of coverage and yes, talk amongst themselves. Twitter is useful in finding out about a journalist’s point of view, recent stories and personal interests all of which can be helpful when framing a conversation or suggesting a story idea.
3 WAYS TWITTER IS DIFFERENT FOR BRANDS
You can (and should) use Twitter differently than you use your other profiles, but do use Twitter for media relations. Consider it an opportunity to present your story and products to a group of highly engaged and influential community.
- Share news, branded content and yes, content from journalists and media outlets.
- Don’t worry too much about measuring engagement, because the average Twitter user is reading more than posting, liking or sharing, “The median user tweets just twice each month,” (Pew), but do be aware that the most engaged user is using Twitter A LOT.
- You may wish to share news and updates more than once and you may wish to stand out with others by actually engaging.
And if that’s not enough for you, keep in mind that the Twitter user skews younger than the average U.S. resident, younger than Facebook and open to new experiences, overall, sounds like the average cannabis user.
Fundamentally, our advice about social media is to pick the channels you can do well-and do them well. In the case of Twitter, it doesn’t take much to do it well and can be an outstanding place for your brand to be seen by real influencers.
Is the press release dead? For years now, that question has been hanging over the public relations/journalism world. And the question is a fair one – when millions of press releases are issued daily, often without consideration of the journalists receiving them, do press releases work anymore? And issuing a press release through a credible wire service costs $1,000 or more depending on variables like length, number of images or videos, and frequency.
Given their expense, is a press release worth it?
What we’re talking about here is legitimate company news that is appropriate for a wire service, but isn’t a securities and exchange or public shareholders requirement. So this legitimate news could be based on research, a new hire, a new product, it can even be a statement based on industry news, issued over a wire service like PR Newswire, Business Wire, Globe Newswire or similar.
A press release is but one tactic in the media relations tool kit. It’s extremely unusual that your news, even your most exciting news, (“We launched..! We bought…! We secured…!”), applies to every single national outlet, without customization about why it applies to the reader or journalist’s beat. There are plenty of occasions when direct outreach to the press will generate better quality and more tailored coverage. Plus, journalists aren’t really all that jazzed to receive the same (untailored) information as hundreds of thousands of other journalists; at that point, they view it as a status update instead of news. But then why do these services charge so much?
Well, most quality wire services reach thousands of outlets at once and most will get reprints of your press release in at least a few national online outlets. But that press release syndication can come in handy on the web.
The press release isn’t dead, it’s just viewed differently by both journalists and public relations professionals today. So when SHOULD you go through the expense, sometimes over $1,000 per release, of using a wire service? Here are 5 times issuing a press release over a wire service can serve your strategic interests.
It’s Still Got Social Proof:
When you search on a business name and the release appears under “news,” tell me that doesn’t impress you a little? Of course. That’s why earned media is so valuable. Vendors, customers, investors, they all like seeing that too. It shows you’re committed to your brand, your growth, and your reputation. If you’re positioning for acquisition, IPO, or investors, having a consistent history of press releases provides credibility and social proof.
Consistent (but not overwhelming) press releases are also a good way to stay in front of news outlets. When your brand is top of mind at the moment editors are assigning stories or looking for ideas, it allows your public relations budget to go even further. Press releases also offer background information for journalists writing today’s story; they serve as a good historical marker to your company’s achievements, which can get buried on a website.
You’ve Got Video on a Major News Item:
If you or your company has a unique point of view on a breaking news item, especially if it’s video, TV stations are always looking for high-quality video for of-the-moment topics, that’s a great opportunity to send out a well-timed press release. Make sure your video has a distinctive point of view and that it’s relevant to your key messaging. Make sure your video is high quality enough for TV and name your video using relevant and keyword researched words.
Help producers and journalists by using your press release to give context to your quote and be sure to show the speaker’s name clearly in the content.
You’re ABSOLUTELY Clear On Your Audience:
Most of the time your audience is the press, after all, those are the subscribers to wire services – to pretend there is any other primary audience is misleading. But given that most journalists aren’t responsive to press releases, there may be an opportunity to be a bit disruptive. There may be an occasion in which your release speaks directly to the consumer as opposed to the journalist with a jazzier (note: not promotional) lingo, maybe direct to consumer quotes, and direct to consumer ideas or recommendations that could also interest slow-news-day fodder. Note: we’re not really dealing with many slow news days these days.
Sometimes those press release reprints can give you enough legs to support other content initiatives and social proof initiatives.
Let me be clear: do not treat a press release like a blog post, they are complementary, not interchangeable. But, addressing to the consumer’s issues within the context of a newsworthy release may be a useful, if non-traditional, tactic occasionally.
You’ve Done Keyword Research:
If your website is new, or if you’re trying to build traffic, these consistent high-value links can contribute nicely to your SEO. Let’s be clear sending out press releases alone isn’t enough to radically change your SEO, but it can be part of your off-page tool kit that supports your overall SEO strategy.
Keep in mind, a press release jacked up with keywords isn’t effective AT ALL. Google’s got your number and generally, a press release written only for search engines is ineffective; it’s also considered spammy by journalists, so used wrong, it can discredit your company in the eyes of the press.
What you want to do is keyword research on ACTUAL news so you maximize the opportunity. Wire releases DO create high-value inbound links. Plus, wire service releases generally present well in search results, so it’s a double-win if you or your PR team have done their keyword research.
The Moment is Momentus
Using a press release to document a historic moment in your company’s history presents a timeline and momentum to your company and adds social proof. Also, going back to the keywords, press releases live in “news” for much, much longer than even an earned media story.
Press releases using this strategy also serve as a way to get press on track to watch for future announcements, clarify your business positioning, or get stakeholders on the same page.
Do we believe press releases are dead? No, we do not. We also don’t believe every announcement needs to come in the form of a press release. Use press releases strategically, and to compliment your media relations, and they will serve you well.