Driving Forward through Public Relations

By Paula Kibbe

As you may know, public relations (PR) is a function under the marketing umbrella, alongside advertising. While there are similarities between the two and they can (and often should) complement each other, the biggest difference between them is how your company is perceived. Target audiences know that advertising includes messages that you or your company paid to create in order to influence their buying decisions. PR, on the other hand, is generally viewed as more "credible" because it involves third parties- such as customers, editors of newspapers and magazines, reporters, bloggers - who interview you or follow your company and content is filtered through them and perceived to be more objective. Identifying target audiences and beginning the process of connecting with people in those segments can help capture mindshare and gain credibility for your organization. You will be able to position your organization as the leader it is or is becoming. You can also engage employees and work with customers, who may be more loyal to you as you've included them in opportunities to get media coverage. Since we know our Paradigm clients are working to create leaders, drive sales, engage employees and establish loyal customers PR is a great way to complement the work your doing in these areas.

Below are two quick tips for you can implement to help generate awareness and begin to build relationships with key influencers and target audiences. Remember, PR is about relationship building. It requires patience and time, but the payoff can be well worth the investment when you begin to see leads coming in from people who've read about you or have seen you lead a presentation.

1. Establish relationships with newspaper and magazine editors.

If you're an accountant, for example, and you want to generate more revenue for your company you could research who the appropriate contacts are at the local town and regional newspapers where you live and/or work. Introduce yourself via email (usually reporter and editors' preferred method of contact) and let them know if they're looking for an expert on subject matter such as (fill in the blank), you'd be happy to serve as a resource. More importantly, they often want to speak to your customers or end users of your service/product who can talk about how much you've helped them. This may seem to you like you're losing time in the limelight; however, in the long run having a "free" customer testimonial in your marketplace will be more likely to resonate with prospective customers and it helps get you that "objective" positive press (of course, you have to make sure you enlist customers who are pleased with your services ). There is a little more to it than this, but it's a great start to connect with influencers in your area as a start. Stay in touch on a regular basis, also. Read the content, comment to the reporters or editors about what they've written. If you already write articles for your own blog or newsletter, offer to give them a copy to run before you post it (often, smaller publication or association newsletters are happy to receive contributed content).

2. Seek opportunities to speak to an audience.

If you have expertise or lessons learned that you can present as a case study, seek out an opportunity to speak at a Chamber of Commerce event, a Lion's Club or at an association meeting. For example, the American Accounting Association's Annual Meeting is taking place in August; there is a call for submissions out until March 30, 2012. Review the calls for submissions at conferences and tradeshows at which you'd like to speak and create and submit an abstract. When selected as a speaker you will be viewed as a topic expert and often times will receive warm leads as a result of your presentation (especially if you're able to ask participants to fill out a program critique and you can collect their contact information and determine their interest in learning more).

These are two quick ways you can begin to promote yourself and your business while building relationships and credibility. Good luck!