Your tactics are keeping me awake

At 5.30am this morning I was thinking about an email I received the other day. It contained a PR action plan that went something like this:

–          Write media release

–          Develop profile document

–          Set-up interviews

I didn’t know what the company was trying to communicate, whether there was a theme or platform it was using to engage the media, or if it was part of wider marketing activity.

Besides the fact it presupposed that media relations was the only answer, at no point was there any reference to strategy or campaign development.

For me, this is like driving around Australia without a map. You’re going to get lost.

Before you consider sending out a media release or writing a blog post or running a competition, consider this. Why?

Why are you doing it? Is it to drive traffic to your website to increase sales, or is it to establish your company as an authority in order to break into a new market?

Understanding this is key to developing your strategy and helps to define your objectives. This in turn provides the guardrails for all your PR activity and means you can measure whether you’ve been successful or not.

For example, you’re an online furniture store that has just launched and you need to generate website traffic in order to make sales. You know that women aged 25-45 are your core market and that they rely on respected authorities for advice and inspiration on what to buy.

A strategy could involve encouraging word of mouth recommendation of your website by introducing your brand to influential people in interior design.

Once this is in place you can develop a campaign. The campaign provides a theme that makes all the activity hang together.

For our online furniture store, we could create a campaign around the realities of interior design, tying into the plethora of reality TV shows about home renovation.

A campaign tactic we could use is blogger outreach and would involve contacting bloggers who write about interior design. You could challenge the bloggers to choose the pieces from your store that they would use if they were taking part in Channel 9’s The Block, and encouraging them to write a series of blogs including how-to hints and tips.

This profiles your furniture and provides them with content. You’ll be able to track traffic to your website from their blogs which means you’re able to measure whether it worked.

This is obviously a condensed version of how you develop a strategy and a basic example. There is much more involved but the underlying message is simple. Just ask why.


Ps – if you do need help understanding the difference between strategy and tactics, it’s worth reading Sandra Oliver’s book Public Relations Strategy.

PR doesn’t stand for Press Release

An article in a UK newspaper last year claimed more public relations professionals (aka PRs) and fewer journalists threatens democracy.

As much as I’d love to wield that amount of power, I don’t think our profession can bring down a form of government that has been in existence for thousands of years.

The article was written by Roy Greenslade, a professor of journalism and former editor of the Daily Mirror. In it he focuses on the role of the PR to produce ‘’oven-ready’’ copy and states the 24 hour news cycle, demand for multimedia content, and fewer journalists will result in more PR driven stories.

Yet, media relations is just one aspect of PR and Greenslade’s article reveals a misunderstanding shared by many –believing the job of a PR is purely to put a spin on a story, either keeping bad news out of the media or putting a positive slant on it.

I won’t deny there is a certain truth to this, the number of ex-journalists employed by PR agencies shows there is some proof in the pudding, yet the role of a PR is much broader.

Our job is about enhancing the reputation of our employer or client to help deliver business success. This could take many forms, from sponsorship to develop community relations through to an internal communications program to motivate and engage staff.

We provide counsel to senior business leaders, encourage direct interaction with customers and, in many cases, are the driving force behind transparent communications.

For WA companies looking to hire a PR consultant, either in-house or via an agency, I urge you to consider these four things:

1. Be clear about what you want to achieve.

  • Determine your business objectives and be realistic about how PR will help achieve these.

2. Understand who you want to communicate to and what you want to say.

  • Clearly identify your target audience – general public is too broad – and have an understanding of what you would like to say to them.

3. Don’t just rely on the media to communicate with your target audience.

  • Is the media the most effective channel or could you communicate directly instead?

4. How will you measure your PR efforts?

  • A bunch of articles left in reception does not mean you were successful. Setting SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely – objectives at the outset will help determine this.

Next time you speak to your in-house PR or agency, just remember: PR doesn’t stand for Press Release.

This article was originally written by Rebecca Johnston for The West Australian.