Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
With 20 years of PR experience under my belt, I’ve gotten good at spotting common mistakes among well-intentioned clients looking for broader publicity. Executives come to PR firms looking for a magic bullet that will land them exposure. Little do they know that without these crucial steps, not even the most seasoned PR vet will be able to kickstart their strategy.
What’s the common mistake you may ask? Misled clients haven’t taken the time to establish clear messaging for their offerings. Simple as that. They also lack clear narrative lanes for internal stakeholders like founders and c-suite executives.
While it’s the PR team’s job to fine-tune messaging and share it with the masses, it’s ultimately the client’s job to have a clear sense of direction. They need to articulate why they are worth press attention. Clients should have a sense of what gap they’re filling in their respective industries and what they really want to achieve with a PR team.
If you are thinking about embarking on a PR strategy but struggle to identify those building blocks, here are three simple steps that will save you time and money.
Related: 4 Guiding Principles for Building and Deploying a Great PR Strategy
Step 1: Establish your north star
Every endeavor needs to have a clear north star. It’s the first question any PR firm worth their salt will be asking you to articulate when you try to engage them. When committing this north star to paper, be realistic with your goals. Stopping world hunger is a noble pursuit but one that will ring untrue to journalists. What attributes does your company have that make it well-equipped to chip away at the global macro problem? List them out carefully and think about the attributes you possess that nobody else has. These can include operations in a certain region, doing something with fewer resources or marrying two disciplines. After you’ve established those unique attributes, align your goals to them. Map back to your north star using the traits that only you can offer the marketplace.
Step 2: Establish narrative lanes for media-facing stakeholders
Every organization has a story to tell, but not everyone in that organization is best equipped to tell it. After you’ve established what your larger goals are, you need to figure out who within the organization is best equipped to talk about them. Your chief marketing officer may become animated when talking about creative pursuits within the business, but they may lose their audience when talking about numbers. And your vice president of marketing may love to dive into the nitty-gritty details of advertising strategies, but they may get caught up in the minutiae and embark on unrelated tangents mid-conversation. Identify every person within the organization that you would like to have a voice in the press. After those names are jotted down, establish a narrative lane for each that will help to guide them while representing your company. Putting stakeholders up for opportunities that allow them to speak to areas that excite them will make interviews more authentic and effective. It will make them authorities in their space and will have journalists proactively reach out to them seeking their expertise.
Related: 4 Tips to Launch Your First Effective PR Campaign
Step 3: Create a brand “bible”
Journalists typically write for a wide variety of outlets. Nevertheless, each outlet stays consistent because they put out a style guide for freelancers and contributors to reference. The style guide includes easy-to-understand dos and don’ts. This tried-and-true method can also work for your brand or company. Creating a brand bible doesn’t have to be complex. Jot down all key messages that you want outside stakeholders to take away from your interactions. Think about the ways you want your brand or company referenced, then jot those things down too. Think about ways you never want to come across, and write them down. Voila, you’ve just created your first brand bible. This document can be referenced at any point, during any campaign, by both inside executives and external PR stakeholders. This will also serve as a map to where you’re going and what your employers and PR team can turn to when they have foundational questions about your brand.
These three easy steps will immensely help a PR team and, ultimately, your business in several ways. Following the above guidelines will guarantee that you and the hired PR team are on the same page and share a unified vision for how your company, product or story desires to be portrayed in the media. Additionally, through establishing a coherent brand identity and defining a consistent voice, your chosen PR firm will be able to better understand the business’s target demographic and will be able to take significant strides to help you achieve long-term goals. A clear sense of direction not only helps PR teams to find the most relevant connections, outlets and publications for your business but will also be beneficial in approaching large-scale campaigns geared towards client growth, attaining the most ideal press contacts and representing your company in the best way possible.