This may lead you to start looking at options like PR and you may well be met with promises of instant results, tons of press coverage and lots more business… but is it too good to be true?
I have lost count of the amount of times I’ve had clients come to me and say things like, I want to try PR for a month and gauge the results to see if I’m getting the right ROI on it, or I’ve not got the budget but the money I’ll get from speaker gigs generated by the PR you do for me will more than cover the costs of the publicity…so when their ROI figures don’t stack up after just four weeks or they haven’t bagged a 3k speaking gig in the first three months…is it really because the PR isn’t working or the supplier isn’t up to scratch?
I find that the problem tends to be that people view these strategies as having a direct link to sales when they don’t. Promotional strategies like PR are investments which are designed to raise profile, build credibility and encourage people to choose you as their supplier. Very rarely are they a quick fix or produce instant results.
I am fully aware that most PRs will hark on about ‘time’ and say that you need to give a campaign time to build momentum to have maximum effect. Sadly, it is a few of the less reputable PRs that have meant this is now seen as merely an excuse to eke out yet more money from a poor unsuspecting client.
Unfortunately, the time issue is a valid one.
Now I’m quite an upfront person and often I’m probably too honest for my own good. If a client or prospect asks me directly ‘how long will it take me to really see traction from this campaign and for people to see me as an expert’ you’ll probably be surprised at the answer I give? One year. At the very least.
Now that sounds scary doesn’t it? And before you ask, no that doesn’t mean I try and make all my clients commit to working with me for that period or more. What I am saying is to truly start to be seen as credible and reputable by the media and by consumers you need to be consistently working that space for at least a year. The media see hundreds of people like you each day, so what makes you different and what is going to make them think you are anything more than these fly-by-nights who are here one minute claiming to be the UK’s leading xyz and then disappear into existence the next? The media are after REAL, long-standing, credible experts to turn to for comments, not just someone claiming to be an expert. You can’t buy expertise and credibility with PR, advertising, rebranding, and a new website, you have to earn it…and earn it by delivering your message consistently time and time again.
I know this because I’ve seen it time and time again. I’ve seen media who are tentatively watching a new client during the first 9 months of a campaign, interested but not committing, then suddenly they’ll just decide that person is credible and the enquiries start flooding in.
Ask Leadership and Reputation expert Judith Germain about her experiences, she’ll be the first to tell you this is true. She’s been working on building her media profile for over two years now and this year not only is she being invited to speak at key industry events in the HR space but rival media outlets are actually fighting to have her as their expert columnist. Could this have been achieved in the first 3 months of her emerging onto the scene? No it could not. Yes she did the coverage, the articles almost from the onset, in fact her first PR quote appeared in a quality national newspaper but the actual deep set credibility and reputation across the industry took much longer to achieve.
THE WIDER PICTURE
Any PR professional worth their salt cannot and will not promise that a specific story will get coverage in xyz, They also cannot promise that you will get xxx number of clients through your door – not because they
don’t have the skills to deliver, but because there are so many external factors that will influence the success of any PR campaign…
Key external factors include…
– Competitor offerings: SO many times I’ve been told that a certain product/service is an industry first only to find that it’s actually not and so neither journalists nor consumers are particularly blown away by it.
– Demand: It is so important to have done your research to see if your product/service actually serves a real need in the marketplace. I can get your message out there but if ultimately people don’t want or need what you are offering, no amount of PR will help change this.
– Breaking News: No matter how good your story/angle is, if something bigger comes in then your story will always move down the line.
– Recent similar stories: You might have a truly excellent product/service that does a specific job in a sector, but if your target media have had a recent feature on it, or perhaps you were featured in it recently, they won’t cover the story editorially until a set amount of time has passed. Period.
– YOUR ability to deliver: I can line up an opportunity for you but whether you can deliver the goods is critical – be it in terms of written copy or spoken word. Don’t purport to be an expert in something if you can’t deliver the goods.
If you are thinking about PR, take some time to really think about why you want the publicity, what it is that you are offering the marketplace, what commitment can you give to the campaign and how it is going to form part of your overall business strategy.
DON’T just view PR as an outsourced operation with someone who will just ‘get on with it.’ It needs your input to succeed. PRs can get your message out there but YOU need to help ensure those messages have your golden touch of expertise/insight. As I say to my clients, I’m an expert in what I do, I’m not an expert in what you do so you have to give me that insight so I can sell it on your behalf.
Remember, your PR will only be as good as you make it (providing you also have the right PR person of course!)