5 Pillars Of PR Success

What separates the good from the truly great when it comes to the success of a public relations program? Beyond native talent and strong skills, there are lessons on execution and optimization that simply come with experience.

Success in PR is earned

PR plays the long game

Great PR rarely exists in a vacuum. In the same way, earned media coverage may seem spontaneous, but it’s typically the result of a long-term plan. The PR quarterback has to see the whole field while keeping his head on a swivel. Every move is made to get closer to the goal line – in this case, a set of business objectives, like creating prospects or building a specific reputation. There are few sadder outcomes than working to generate coverage that turns out to conflict with goals, or that doesn’t move the needle, so the “invisible” work of planning and messaging is critical. And when it comes to execution, it takes a sustained PR effort to build real brand attachment, rather than a single media hit or initiative. Short-term thinking and quick fixes are characteristics of inexperienced PR pros.

PR pros know business

Once upon a time, the PR department could fax out press releases all day with little understanding of the company’s business strategy. Since the digital revolution has multiplied the breadth and number of communications channels, the role of PR teams expanded. With every business maneuver magnified, reputation now carries measurable, concrete value. In today’s era of globalized connectivity, the chief communications officer has evolved into a trusted advisor to the CEO, expected to offer counsel on corporate moves. Additionally, the PR team’s efforts must align with marketing, advertising, and sales departments, all under a unifying set of business aims.

It’s about telling, not selling

Much of PR and marketing is less about delivering messaging and more about delivering entertaining, educational, and useful content. While some PR activities can surely generate impressions, leads, and conversions, PR is not necessarily a reliable demand-generator. Rather, it builds brand awareness and reputation over time. A good PR team will often need to shape and tell how a company was started or to explain the founder’s game-changing point-of-view. They work to open up channels of communication through speaking engagements, panel discussions, and expert commentary placements. All require the ability to tell a compelling story with a consistent voice across a variety of channels.

The best PR leverages every nugget of news

A media placement is not just a media placement. Every piece of content should do double duty, be recycled, and leveraged for all it’s worth. Sure, it’s a tactical detail, but repurposing can magnify outcomes beyond your expectations. A company founder’s conference keynote can be a series of blog posts, or a podcast, or possibly distilled into a trade media pitch. Company milestones like an award or an acquisition can be amplified through earned and owned media, with an occasional paid post or initiative mixed in. But PR multi-purposing does not exist solely to squeeze all the juice from the lemon. It is a product of a comprehensive PR plan where the full marketing and communications orchestra plays in harmony.

Great PR carries a creative license

As we noted in last week’s post, the creative PR pro is a powerful PR pro. Creative thinking is the edge that helps rise above the rest. So-called “creative agencies” were once the domain of advertising and marketing, but inventive content and fresh tactics are fundamental to great PR campaign development and execution. Success is contingent on bringing fresh angles to established narratives, new ways to present stories, and original approaches to pitching stories. It translates abstract concepts into compelling language – language that also aligns with business strategies.
In many ways, these pillars make up a certain mindset that fuels achievement. The good news is all five keys to success can be learned. If you have this mindset and are looking to break into the profession — great! Check out this earlier post on how to nail a PR dream job.

Stories The PR World Can Be Thankful For

Sometimes it can seem like much of what we do in the PR agency business involves managing information and its potentially negative implications. The media love a “bad news” story, and crisis management is a multi-million dollar industry. That’s why it’s refreshing when you come across stories that just make you grateful. (And it’s scientifically proven that being thankful is good for your health!) So with Thanksgiving right around the corner, we’re taking the opportunity to give thanks for the stuff happening out there that has earned some well-deserved good PR, all on its own.

History in the making. The nomination of Loretta Lynch for US Attorney General was a historic moment in a historic administration. Regardless of where you might fall on the political spectrum, it’s something to be thankful for when we cross milestones that not too long ago seemed just about impossible.

#Beawesometosomebody. This is the hashtag claimed by the hairstylist-to-celebrities who decided to start cutting the hair of homeless people on the streets of New York, for free. Thanks to a buddy taking photos and posting them online, the story went viral, and generated the kind of inspiring stories in top tier media most PR people only dream of. We had the opportunity recently to work with the pair, who is connected to one of our clients, and can attest that they’re the real deal, and the good PR was well deserved.

Laughs that LIVE ON. Could anyone not break a smile when the famous Car Talk brothers are on? The news that one of the brothers — known for his raucous laugh — died earlier this month reminds us that there’s always a place for laughter, levity, and stories about people (even under the guise of being about cars). And since archived versions of the shows continue to be syndicated nationwide every week, the laughter will never really die.

#AlexfromTarget. The phenomenon of the 15-year-old Target worker who became a Twitter celebrity overnight warrants a good deal of head scratching, and the story, unfortunately, has its darker side. But Alex’s family, which is getting outside help, has said it wants to find a way to do something good with the teenager’s sudden and unplanned fame. With so many instances of instant celebs using their fame for more selfish reasons, the family’s response is something to admire.

Volunteers who risk their lives. While alarming headlines about the Ebola outbreak loomed like dark clouds for a while, one aspect of the story highlighted a praiseworthy angle deserving (more) good PR: the doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who risk their lives to care for the sick. Doctors Without Borders remains an unsung hero of the crisis, and stories chronicling their work inspire gratitude in all of us.