Slow Summer? 7 Ways To Create PR Opportunities

In the PR agency business, summer isn’t always slow. It’s actually a favorite time for prospective clients gearing up for fall campaigns to seek out agencies and create RFPs. For other companies, however, the late summer weeks can drag. But even when your business has no new product to introduce or partnership to promote, there are stealthy ways to generate buzz. Sometimes, it just takes some extra creative thinking or research. Please see below for some ways that thoughtful, strategic PR can create and seize some media opportunities.

Look to the zeitgeist! Are you scouring the news for trend stories, events and other ways to leverage a fit for your company or brand? Has a news report on “green living” sparked an idea for your eco-friendly service?  Is there a celebrity birthday (even of a deceased personality) that could present a newsworthy opportunity for a company in the gifting space? Do the retail experts at your firm have a position on a “back-to-school” study or other selling season? Check it out.

Take advantage of timely travel. Don’t let a company exec travel out of town without trying to score some background interview interest. There may often be a good reason why a Buffalo paper may want to interview a Baltimore CEO, or why a new product category is particularly relevant to a fast-growing city like Atlanta. Find that link, and you’ve generated some unexpected, yet welcome coverage for your company.

Create a robust bylined article campaign. Now is a good time to review “evergreen” editorial opportunities for your senior management to share wisdom and insight. On the B2B front, research the outlets that are most applicable to the industry you’re working in and match some thought-provoking topics on which your CEO or other leader can wax brilliantly. For brand PR programs, summer is a good time to check in with customer advocates or bloggers to plan new program.

Walk the halls.  Literally or figuratively, check in with various different departments like HR, Sales and Product Development to see what compelling projects they are working on that could lend themselves to media interest. There are under-reported stories everywhere!

Similarly, get out of the office! Insights from partners and stakeholders – like field sales reps, distributors, and others – can inform future programs.

Calling all contacts. Or sending a quick note to members of your media contact network and see where your company spokespeople can act as expert source and authority for stories in the works. A small gesture can strengthen media relationships and offer future opportunities for inclusion in upcoming coverage, or establish internal experts as background sources for category features.

Review your content. Now is a good time to dream up new ways to repurpose portions of that year-old white paper, or plan a fresh editorial schedule for the fall.
If all else fails, take a break! You’ll be relaxed and recharged when things get busy.

PR Pros: Why You Should Think Like A Pre-Schooler

A recent study found that pre-schoolers actually beat college students when it comes to figuring out how certain gadgets work. This is no surprise to anyone who has seen a young child play with a smartphone, but the type of thinking behind it can help PR practitioners problem-solve differently and perhaps more effectively.

It seems that when a group of four-and-five-year-olds were asked how to get a gizmo to go, they tried a variety of ways. This is evidence of what the researchers term “flexible, fluid thinking” which comes naturally to young children who haven’t been conditioned to think one way or the other.  The adults, on the other hand, knew enough to think they had the answer, and they were overly focused on a single solution, which they stuck with even after it failed. Their actions, of course, showed inflexible, narrow thinking. The upshot is that the children are better at solving problems because, in a way, they don’t know any better than the rest of us!

Here are some examples of common PR conundrums and some ways that fluid thinking might be applied.

The client PR budget has been slashed

Inflexible thinking, like that shown in the study, might move a PR team to stick with the current concepts in the plan, just scaled back. Do half as many bylines, or cut the executive travel to local-market media meetings. By contrast, flexible-thinking individuals might take a bigger-picture look at what’s driving the budget cuts and ask if the current plan is still relevant. If you throw out everything and start from scratch – at least as an exercise – the client may appreciate the fresh approach and the result may be a better, tighter program.

The PR account team is stagnating

Conventional wisdom would say “don’t rock the boat” with the team, particularly if they get on well with the client and no one wants to fix what isn’t broken. But to wait until something’s broken means you’ve waited too long to address creative issues.  The flexible, fluid thinker will embrace the idea of change and swap out a new member or two as a shot in the arm for all parties.

A negative client story looms

The first instinct of many PR pros is to do everything possible to bury that story. Much energy and resources are often brought to stamping out negative stories, but they’re often a distraction from proactive work, and they often backfire. We recently had a client choose to embrace the negative story and tackle the questions it raised head-on to correct inaccuracies and move past a negative situation. This approach, while risky to some, proved the benefits of choosing the unexpected solution – the result being a balanced follow-up piece.

The”big idea” was nixed by the CMO

All agency professionals have experienced a seemingly sudden thumbs-down on a solid creative campaign idea. This is often for a baffling reason – because a higher-up had a negative experience with a similar campaign, or sometimes for no apparent reason at all. Some ideas are worth fighting for, but, where pushback isn’t advisable, flexible thinking can help. There are many ideas whose essential ingredients can survive if repackaged with a fresh name, new context, or different delivery vehicle. And if all else fails, that “flexible and fluid” mindset can help set the stage for a new creative session – this time, with a few four-year-olds!

How Strategic PR Makes A Milestone Work Harder

This month our client Edible Arrangements, the originator and category leader of artfully designed fresh fruit bouquets, celebrates its 15th birthday. From humble beginnings – one store in New Haven, opened by founder Tariq Farid, a Pakistani immigrant – to over 1,200 stores worldwide, the operation has grown phenomenally, achieving $500 million in sales in 2013.

Having such a strong story certainly helps, but knowing how to package your story to target media is the key to having it “bear fruit.” Here are some pointers to make your next mediaworthy company milestone work even harder.

Fresh content means great stories. Work with your team to find the stories behind the story. Who contributed to the milestone in an unsung way? What are the company’s next steps following up on this achievement? Find as many angles as you can.

The past informs the present. Conduct a thorough search for reporters who have covered the company and industry favorably in the past. Give them an opportunity to get an updated story. If they covered less than favorably and you have vetted, pitch them for a chance to get a “new view.”

Offer “first looks” to top journalists. We gave the “first look” to Forbes in print and Fox Business in broadcast and strategically carved up the rest of the media universe after those stories broke. Research on your part will help determine where your “first looks” would work best.

Press release or pitch? If you have hard news along with your anniversary or other milestone – financials, new product offerings, hiring data – craft a release. If your story is lighter, find the nuggets of news and call those out for relevant reporters.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”   Benjamin Franklin said this, and it falls to the PR firm to make sure you have identified who can speak with the press.  If spokesperson/s need training, provide it well in advance of media activity. Don’t leave this to the last minute.

Merchandise the occasion internally. No company reaches a milestone without the heavy lifting of employees and partners. Stakeholders deserve to get the news in a special and very personalized way, and they should be included in the celebration of external PR around the occasion.