Tips, Techniques, Taboos

To Hire or Outsource? That is the PR Question.

Now that you’ve decided to embrace PR as part of your marketing communications mix, how do you know when to keep PR work in-house or outsource it? Here are some pros and cons of both:

In-house

  • An employee will devote every ounce of effort solely to your company.
  • Intellectual capital is preserved for later use.
  • One-man department limits professional expertise.
  • An onsite employee eliminates employee-to-contractor communication.
  • Internal resource provides greater budget control.
  • Creativity limited to accepted company thinking.

Outsourcing

  • Onboarding talent is easy with a contract that helps you avoid long-term risk of hiring an employee.
  • An agency that covers the full breadth of needs can help smooth out internal workload peaks and valleys.
  • A PR firm has broad experience with clients in many industries that can help determine what would work for your company.
  • Outsider perspective provides objectivity about products, fresh creative ideas, and new approaches that challenge, “This is the way we’ve always done it.”
  • Established media relationships make firms attractive sources for reporters working on stories and thus bonus opportunities for covering your company’s products and people.
  • Even when working with a large agency’s junior team members, you have access to their experienced superiors.
  • Boutique firms solely offering experienced talent are more agile than their larger counterparts and able to deliver projects more quickly.

Situation matters

Here are some additional factors to be considered in determining the viability of hiring, outsourcing, or blending the two:

  • Scope of your challenge –If you’re a small in-house team tasked with creating huge change, you probably need the experience and bandwidth of a PR firm.
  • Your culture –An agency’s ability to be an effective can be limited by a hyper-secretive culture. However, a non-disclosure agreement opens the door to share essential information for plotting communications. If your culture is exceptionally unique, dedicated in-house resources may make sense.
  • Your budget –Outsourcing gives you access to someone/team with more experience/depth than hiring someone for the same amount. A popular compromise is hiring a relatively junior in-house PR person and backing them up with a more experienced agency.

Best of both

There are many moving parts to a PR initiative – strategy development, media relations, social media, events, awards, content creation, product review programs, etc. The company person overseeing PR and the budget should determine which parts make sense to outsource and which should be handled in house. Some projects may merit employee ownership while others may be better off with external management. Even within a particular project, a small part may best be handled externally while the rest is managed internally.

A blend of internal and external resources is also desirable for delivering the control, convenience and continuity you may be looking for in your PR function.

Still up in the air about your decision? We’re happy to help you find clarity.

Are You Ready for PR?

You’re probably convinced that there are plenty of good reasons to add public relations to your marketing communications mix if you’re reading this. However, are you prepared for making PR a successful, long-term initiative that contributes significant results to marketing and sales? Get your head in the game with these tips:

Know all the ways PR works today. PR is much more than media relations (pitching stories on your behalf). You need to understand how media relations and PR related content (news releases, byline articles) integrate into your larger marketing/communications effort, i.e., prospect emails that include links to stories about your products, LinkedIn posts that link to stories.

Share your business and marketing goals. Have agencies and professionals sign a non-disclosure agreement, so you can feel comfortable sharing your goals in initial meetings. Any prospective provider of PR counsel will need access to your business plan, goals, communications assets, database, and metrics in order to develop a plan for you.

Align realistic expectations to your marketing goals in order to determine success. While you will spend money on your PR effort, you should expect a return on your investment. If leads and inquiries for sales is the only reason you’re investing in PR, stop. Your PR resource will provide perspective on the many ways to assess the value of PR results. But in the interest of establishing expectations right from the start, it is critical that you determine those metrics upfront to set expectations.

Be willing to invest time. PR will require your involvement or someone else’s on your team who is in the know. If you can’t commit to update your PR resource on a regular basis, you probably aren’t ready to hire a firm or an employee. What’s going on in your company is the grist that feeds the PR mill. You will also need to commit resources to talk with the media. No one knows your business as well as you, which is why journalists and influencers may want to talk with you. Your PR firm will create opportunities for those conversations, so be willing to participate.

Understand the risks/rewards. There are no guarantees that the content PR disseminates to position your brand/products in a favorable light will result in favorable coverage. PR is not based on guarantees. It opens up opportunities but unlike advertising, doesn’t provide control. A media pitch results in an interview, yet the client may not appear in the story. Editorial schedules may change, and stories may get bumped due to space.

Embrace new thinking. Challenging the status quo can be uncomfortable. But a fresh perspective can rejuvenate your marketing communications program. The media are especially interested in provocative content that disrupt conventional thinking. Your PR firm should provide story ideas that attract coverage.

Be patient. It won’t happen overnight. It may not even happen in 90 days, especially if you’ve never had a PR initiative. There are some foundational tactics that need to be done before actually starting media outreach. While your PR effort may need six months to take flight and deliver a return, start tracking metrics that will show whether or not you’re on the right path. 

Be responsive. Although last on this list, I can’t overemphasize this enough. Every story idea, pitch, press release or byline article requires your feedback. It’s important that you actually review ideas and drafts to make sure they are on the right track. Send a sample of your product to a publication or conduct a demo for a publication that asks for either. Make sure your spokesperson will grant an interview when a reporter asks for one as a follow up to a story pitch or news release. You’re paying for PR to open up opportunities, so make sure you take advantage of each one.

PR can power brand awareness and positive image building. Now that you’re well versed in the ups and downs and ins and outs of PR, you’re ready to check out options for getting started. A good place to begin is to visit our website www.schwegmancommunications.com.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA: Beware of Diluting Your Brand, One Post at a Time

Obsession with Selfies is just one example of a heightened awareness today around personal branding. It’s a force for guardians of company and product reputations to reckon with, including employers, marketing departments and public relations firms.

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10 Questions to Ask When Considering a Website Refresh or Overhaul

Businesses are constantly changing and adapting, so it stands to reason that their websites need to reflect the dynamics with new messaging and content. But sometimes it’s easy to fall in the trap of “keeping up with the Joneses” instead of thoughtfully deciding to redesign a site or simply adding pages and updating content. In either case, before spending a dime, here is a list of questions worth considering during the planning process:

1. What are the goals of the site? Are they any different than the current site?

  • Are we trying to close sales?
  • Are we telling a story?
  • Are we earning permission to follow up?
  • Are we hoping that people will watch or learn?
  • Do we want people to call us?

2. Who are we trying to reach? Everyone? Our customers? A certain kind of prospect?

3. What sites do we like? Which ones are easy to navigate?

4. How do people find the site?

  • Do we need people to spread the word using various social media tools?
  • Do people find the site via word of mouth? Are they looking to answer a specific question?

5. Are we building a tribe of people who will use the site to connect with each other?

6. Should ongoing news and updates be presented to visitors?

7. Is the site part of a larger suite of places online where people can find out about us, or is this our one signpost?

8. How many times a month would we like people to visit? For how long/how many pages? How will we get them to return?

9. How much money do we have to spend? How much time?

  • Who needs to update this site? How often?
  • How often can we afford to overhaul this site?
  • How many people on your team will need to be involved? How many from other departments? At what level?

10. Will the site need to be universally accessible (language and format issues)?

  • Is that information high in bandwidth or just little bits of data?

Answering these questions ahead of starting a website project will help keep it from spiraling out of control. I’ve overlooked, so please share your ideas and experiences.

How to Work with Internal and External Marcom/PR Professionals

Is Your Marketing Communications/PR an Innie or Outie?
Many a marcom/PR exec has asked the age-old question of whether tis better to retain this function totally inside or work with one or more outside partners. The argument can be made for both sides, but the answer is likely to depend on budgets and goals.

While in-house employees know their companies inside and out, their focus on one company can be both an advantage and disadvantage. Working with a variety of companies, especially those in the same industry, can provide a broader knowledge base and experience with a variety of communications strategies and disciplines.

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Headline Humbug: Creating Engaging Headlines

Maybe it’s an excessive dose of tryptophan, but I am really tired (mostly bored) with headline hoopla.

Out with the Old
Heading “100 overused headline ideas” is the use of numbers. I’m ready to take 10 running steps and jump off of a 15-story building! I’d take good old-fashioned cognitive dissonance over numerical figures any day. Instead of five things to avoid or 15 ways to…, how about “little known facts that can kill you.”

Another overused headline tactic is superlatives. Talk about crying wolf. Cut the hype, and be real. PT Barnum has left the building. Our widget has saved users millions of dollars. The truth can be powerful in its own right.

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Silence is NOT Golden

When companies tell me they haven’t had good luck with PR in the past, the first question I ask is: How often did you reach out to the media? Who was assigned to own media outreach?

Typically, they don’t know the answer to either question, which in itself is quite telling. Building relationships with media is a nurturing process that requires a steady, planned approach. Issuing news releases and reaching out intermittently, sporadically, or haphazardly doesn’t work. It’s kind of like when a friend calls only when they want something. How does that make you feel?

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Securing a Feature Article

Do reporters know your company name but nothing about your organization? Are you tired of only being mentioned in articles when your competition is being quoted and getting all of the ink?  Here are six tips to help transform your company from one that gets mentioned to one with top billing in a full feature spread.

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Measuring & Evaluating Public Relations

I love PR and our clients love it even more. It’s effective and inexpensive. However, it also can become an economic drain and a sinkhole for unmet expectations if you don’t do it right. So make sure you determine how your organization is going to assess the value of your PR program’s results.

 

There are a number of ways to measure whether your PR efforts and expectations are in alignment but know that even the experts disagree on how much time and money are should be involved and how results should be measured. Measuring is one thing, evaluation is quite another. But neither can be done without first establishing expectations.

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Create Streaming Hot Press Kits

What’s the deal? Even fresh-faced PR folks know that If you’re sincere about developing relationships with media folks, a press kit is among the essentials, if not the top one. Given its importance, I’m shocked to find so many so bland. Content as well as design should make it easy and fun if you want to pull the journalist in.


Flamboyant Fact Sheet

Who says backgrounders or fact sheets can’t be creative as well as educational? Our digital world opens up endless possibilities. Consider conveying the company’s personality with a controversial story/framework. Add graphics where appropriate. You might even think about a video background piece that may include some humor. You have more creative license in a video to add some obvious puffery. If you go the video route, make sure there’s a text version available as well. The point is do something to make your fact sheet different than others in your space. It will pay off when a reporter needs a resource and immediately recalls yours.

More to the Mix

In addition to the profile that summarizes your company—primary business, history, market needs and products/services that fulfill them, distribution, locations, management—include the most recent news release, capabilities brochure, customer testimonials/references, and a case study or two. It goes without saying (but you’d be shocked at the schlock out there), all pieces should be well written (releases and fact sheet in AP style).

Share your creativity in making your company’s profile a standout.