Don’t even think of appointing a PR firm unless you’ve asked yourself these things first

Written by the Editorial Team

by Paul MacKenzie-Cummins, Editor of Recruiter imPRint and MD of Clearly PR & Marketing Communications

It’s something that most PR’s will experience: you’re at a business event and talking to various people in the room and the question of What do you do? is an inevitability – usually within the first thirty seconds of meeting someone.

Of course, I respond with I work in PR. But what surprises me is the number of people who reply with We used to do PR, but we didn’t really get much out of it. And I think I know why that is.

Many business owners or marketers charged with the responsibilty of manage their company’s internal and external communications strategy, don’t really know why they need PR?

So before you set aside your PR budget for the year ahead, there are two critical things you must do first to help you address the why you need PR question:

First: Be clear about what you are measuring

Choosing the appropriate tools and metrics for measurement is a critical element to achieving success with any public relations activity. It is important to understand that measurement is determined by three key elements:

  1. Input – what you want to do
  2. Output – what you actually do
  3. Outcome – what impact 1 + 2 have

Second: Set your objectives

Manage your expectations (and those of your PR agency) by being very clear about what you hope to get out of your PR activity. PR is about communication – two-way communication. So you need to ensure that whatever strategy you put in place is in alignment with the overarching aims of your organisation.

For instance:

  • Are you looking to raise brand awareness?
  • Are you seeking to position yourself as a thought-leader?
  • Are you aiming to enhance your reputation?
  • Are you seeking to raise perception of your organisation as a leading player in your field?
  • Do you wish to increase customer retention and increase sales via referrals?
  • Are you looking to increase customer engagement and satisfaction?

Once you have a handle on your expectations, you then need to set about formally encapsulating them in a single objective statement. Here are a few examples of objective statements that we have developed for our clients:

  • ‘To build awareness of our newly launched contingency workforce app within the UK and Irish recruitment markets’
  • ‘To remind the market and our customers of who we are and reposition the business as the go-to executive search firm within the FinTech space’
  • To raise awareness of a pioneering embryo-imaging technique and increase the number of childless couples opting to trial this new procedure by 25-30% over the next 12 months
  • To position the company as a leading advocate in raising ethical standards across the entire online gambling industry and to successfully lobby the Government to pass the proposed ‘Fair Bet’ legislation
  • To position our organisation as an employer of choice for graduates and increase applications to our graduate scheme by 30% in the next 12 months’
  • To grow our customer base in China by 10%, Eastern Europe by 30% and the Middle East by 45% within 12 months
  • To increase the number of overseas delegates attending our annual conference by 35%
  • To encourage more UK households to join our energy saving scheme, with the aim of increasing homeowner take-up by 50% in the next 12 months’

With your expectations set, objectives identified, and your objective statement agreed you then need to consider who you need to talk to:

  • Who do you want to communicate with? Which stakeholders are most important to you in terms of being instrumental or influential in helping you reach your goals?
  • What budget do you have available, will this be sufficient to address your goals? If not, you need to prioritorise your goals.
  • What will success look like, what will you stakeholders want to get out of this public relations campaign?

The old adage of failing to plan is planning to fail is so true. PR is only successful if you know what you want from it and plan for it accordingly. Be clear about your objectives, communicate them to your stakeholders, and apply the right tools and techniques to measure the success of your PR.