PR: Proactive Relations, Not Public Relations
on November 16, 2021
By Mandi Joyner, Director of Marketing and Communications, VGM & Associates
A good public relations strategy should not just complement your marketing efforts but should be an integral part of them. As I write that sentence, I will admit, I am at fault for doing this—letting public relations get lost in the shuffle of marketing plans and efforts, even though it should be at the top of the list. Marketing focuses on selling and promoting, while public relations is not only a way for your company to educate on new offerings, but also a way to protect your brand and image.
While development and execution of a marketing strategy is an entire article on its own, I want to focus on how to incorporate public relations, and how to do it well.
Pull out your current marketing plan and identify where you have public relations. If you are thinking about this and looking at your plan and there isn’t any, don’t panic. Yes, I do believe a marketing plan should include PR, but if you are completely unsure how to do that, then keep reading. And even if you have a few areas of PR listed, there is always room for improvement. Some of the following steps will overlap in how you create your marketing plan, but I will try my best to stay focused on PR.
As you look at your plan for the year, you have key services, products, programs, or initiatives that are going to be the focus of your company. My guess is you have some great tactics, including social media, advertising, blogs, podcasts, and maybe a press release. I am going to argue that most of your initiatives are important enough that they should also have a full public relations campaign around them. Maybe not all of them, but most. Our team takes the following steps to building out a PR plan for key initiatives.
Step 1: Identify Key Publications
If you have been in your industry for a while, this is probably an easy step for you. You’ve likely seen a few magazines floating around or had plenty of pop-up ads in your social feeds. However, if you are new to your profession and aren’t exactly sure which publications would be best, here are a few key things to look for:
Finding Publications for Your PR Efforts:
- Reader demographics. This is top of the list for obvious reasons. If the demographics don’t match your target audience, this publication is not for you.
- Circulation. Knowing circulation is good information to have so you know how much potential impact your article could have on the industry. This can also help you prioritize your publications if you have a large list to work with.
- Monthly or quarterly distribution. Publication rate is here to help with your planning and doesn’t impact whether this publication should be on your list of targets.
- Past articles and experts featured. This is another important element in identifying your target publications. Look back at the last three to four issues and see what topics are being picked up. This will help you when you go to write pitches, or even pick out topics to pitch to the editorial team. Looking at the topics will also help you determine if this is a right fit. If the topics don’t make sense for any of your products, services, or solutions, or if you don’t recognize any of the experts, you will need to pass on this publication. On the other hand, if everything resonates 100% with you and the experts are influential in your industry, move this to the top of your key publications list.
Step 2: Know the Editorial Staff
You must know who you are talking to. And it isn’t enough to just know the editorial staff—you are going to want to build a relationship with them. You want them to call you when they are looking for an expert in the industry. You want them to recommend your company when others look to them for suggestions. While you are pulling the content calendars, you can also find a list of the publications’ editorial team. You will also likely read a few articles and pick up some of the writer’s names as well.
In a previous life when I was in broadcast, I loved getting emails, calls, goodies, whatever from organizations in the community. It helped me do my job better. I am not saying you must send everyone cookies, but you do need to reach out to them. Email them and introduce yourself. Even better, call them! Tell them who you are and the types of information you’ll be contacting them with in the future. Keep a list of their names, numbers, emails, and any other notes that will be helpful, such as topics they cover, birthday, favorite treats, and writing style.
Step 3: Pull Editorial Calendars and Plug In Your Key Services, Solutions, or Products From Your Marketing Plan
This is not a difficult step, but it will take some time. Now that you have your key publications, you can easily find their editorial calendars on their websites. They will list out the months of the publications and what the focus is for each issue. There will likely be a section for editorial focus and advertising focus, as well as special distribution, such as a tradeshow.
Our team pulls the calendars and drops them into an Excel file so we can do the second part of this step. After everything is in an Excel file, go through and identify where your key products or services in your marketing plan align with the editorial calendar.
For example, one month might focus on sleep, so our organization would promote our respiratory and sleep program that month. You might not have something that works every month, but you should be able to find something for most issues. If not, you will want to revisit that publication to make sure it really is the publication for you to be targeting.
Step 4: Identify the PR Tactics to Use
There are a couple of different PR tactics: Press releases, media alerts, press conferences, special events, personal emails, or good old-fashioned phone calls all work in different situations. The importance of the information you are promoting will determine the tactic you use. You could use a combination of tactics, too.
Generally speaking, press releases are used for less important initiatives while press conferences or special events are used for very important initiatives. I am not going to walk through how to execute each of these tactics—again, that is an article or several articles on their own. However, I do want to make sure to cover the pitch.
This article was originally featured in the VGM Playbook: Optimizing Sales and Marketing in the DMEPOS Space. To read the full article and more like this, download your copy of the playbook today!