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With 20 years of PR experience, I’ve gotten good at spotting common mistakes in well-intentioned clients looking for broader exposure. Executives come to PR firms looking for a magic bullet to get them noticed. Little do they know that without these critical steps, not even the most seasoned PR professional will be able to get their strategy off the ground.
What is the most common mistake you might ask? Misled customers didn’t take the time to create clear messages for their offers. It’s as simple as that. They also lack clear narratives for internal stakeholders like founders and C-suite executives.
While it’s the PR team’s job to fine-tune the messages and share them with the masses, ultimately it’s the client’s job to have clear direction. They need to articulate why they are worthy of press attention. Clients should have a sense of what gap they are filling in their respective industry and what they really want to achieve with a PR team.
If you’re thinking about developing a PR strategy but are struggling to identify those building blocks, here are three simple steps that will save you time and money.
Also see: 4 guiding principles for building and executing a great PR strategy
Step 1: Set up your polar star
Every endeavor must have a clear North Star. It’s the first question any PR firm worth their salt will ask when you try to hire them. As you pen this North Star, be realistic about your goals. Ending world hunger is a noble endeavor, but one that will ring untrue to journalists. What characteristics does your company have that make it well-equipped to solve the global macro problem? List them carefully and think about the qualities that you possess that no one else has. This can include operations in a specific region, doing something with fewer resources, or merging two disciplines. After establishing these unique qualities, align your goals with them. Match your North Star with the traits that only you can offer in the marketplace.
Step 2: Establish narrative tracks for stakeholders with media contact
Every organization has a story to tell, but not everyone in that organization is best equipped to tell it. After you’ve established your larger goals, you need to identify who within the organization is best equipped to speak up about them. Your chief marketing officer may get animated when talking about creative activities within the company, but he may lose his audience when talking about numbers. And your vice president of marketing might love to dive into the nitty gritty details of advertising strategies, but he can get bogged down in the minutiae and jump into disjointed tangents mid-conversation. Identify each person within the organization who you would like to have a say in the press. After writing down these names, create a storyline for each that will help them represent your business. By providing stakeholders with opportunities to speak to areas they are passionate about, interviews become more authentic and effective. It will make them authorities in their field and will make journalists proactively turn to them for their expertise.
See also: 4 tips to launch your first effective PR campaign
Step 3: Create a branded “Bible”
Journalists typically write for a variety of media. Nonetheless, each outlet remains consistent as they issue a style guide for freelancers and contributors to refer to. The style guide contains easy-to-understand dos and don’ts. This proven method can work for your brand or business, too. Creating a branded Bible doesn’t have to be complex. Jot down any key messages you want external stakeholders to take away from your interactions. Think about how you want your brand or business to be referred to, and then make note of those things as well. Think about paths you never want to encounter and write them down. Voila, you’ve just created your first branded Bible. This document can be referenced at any time during any campaign by both internal executives and external PR stakeholders. This also serves as a map of where to go and where your employers and PR team can turn to if they have basic questions about your brand.
These three simple steps will help a PR team and ultimately your business tremendously in more ways than one. Following the above guidelines ensures that you and the hired PR team are on the same page and share a unified vision of how you want your company, product or story to be portrayed in the media. Additionally, by establishing a cohesive brand identity and defining a consistent voice, your chosen PR firm will be able to better understand the firm’s target demographic and take significant steps to help you achieve long-term goals. A clear sense of direction not only helps PR teams find the most relevant connections, outlets and publications for your business, but is also beneficial when tackling large-scale campaigns aimed at customer growth, reaching the most ideal press leads and representing your business the best possible way.