“Public relations” is a multi-headed beast and something that often means different things to different people. Is it code for media relations? Spin? Event and speaking programs? The iterations, combinations and needs are endless.
But one thing it almost always means is an investment. A public relations program, like most other things in life, is not free, and requires an investment in both time and resources. And if you’re going to put in your time and money, you need to make sure you’re getting a return on your investment, right?
It seems obvious, but people don’t always take a step back to think about their PR programs at a higher level. As an industry, we collectively get stuck in the day to day and don’t always pause to think, “does this help me get closer to my business goals?” It doesn’t have to be this way! Here are three questions you should ask yourself to ensure your PR program is more strategic.
Q: Why are we here?
It sounds obvious, but it pays to ask yourself what, exactly, you’re trying to accomplish with a PR program. It’s not unusual for someone to hire a PR firm because someone told them they should have one. Or they hire a firm because they want “media coverage.” That might sound like a good goal, but coverage in the media is really the means to an end, not the end in and of itself. Let’s take it higher. What are your business goals? Do you need to find more net new customers or to nurture leads through the funnel? More employees? Are you fundraising and need VCs to see you as a desirable company? Perhaps you are seeking to be acquired? A solid PR program should support your business goals. Answer every one of those questions and then craft a PR program.
Q: Who are we trying to reach?
Media coverage is just one tool in the strategic communications toolbox, but it’s a valuable illustration here. Not all media coverage is created equal, and while it can be fun to be in the New York Times, it doesn’t do you much good if you’re trying to get tweens to use your new app. If your goal is hiring among engineers, you need to focus on publications like TechCrunch, or telling stories about your company culture. When you are clear on who you need to reach, it’s easier to assess the kinds of publications those people read, the conferences they go to, and social media platforms they inhabit.
Q: What does success look like?
The straightest path forward to ensuring you’re getting the right ROI on your PR program is to make sure you’re completely clear on what that return is in the first place. At InkHouse, we always set quarterly goals for each of our programs to keep ourselves accountable. Try to come up with goals that are actually meaningful to your business. Yes, your CEO might be thrilled with that Q&A in Esquire, but if your customer segment is millennial women, you can consider that a wasted effort.
These might seem like obvious questions, but it’s surprisingly common for PR programs to be well underway without having them ever answered. Answering them will give focus to your program - and make sure it’s well worth the budget.