20/01/2011

By Debby Penton, Wildfire PR

It’s the beginning of another year and, for many of us, time to get fit for the months ahead. While gyms can expect to see an influx of well-intentioned new joiners, many SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) also take advantage of the start of a new year to get their businesses in shape.

When it comes to PR, especially for fast-growing companies, the onus is often on your internal PR team or even the PR agency or to come up with plans for the year. But to get the most out of your spend, you should also look internally and consider how to get your business in peak condition to make the most of your PR investment.

SMEs often have to compete with the deep pockets of large global organisations when it comes to building a brand and generating leads; they can rarely afford big events, sponsorship and advertising campaigns. But PR and social media really give a business the opportunity to punch above its weight. And by being smarter in the way you work with your agency, as well as putting the right internal structures in place to maximise PR opportunities, you could really increase your impact with your target audiences.

Here are five tips to help you get your organisation PR fit for 2011:

1 - Promote PR internally - Wake your organisation up to the value of PR and the part everyone can play in its success. Ask your agency to come in and do introductory sessions. Share your plans and give people access to the agency. Demonstrate commitment by allocating sufficient resources to be responsive to your agency’s request for time, information and approvals. Most importantly, share coverage results and demonstrate the positive impact of PR, to generate buy-in across the business.

2 - Know your audience — Understanding your target customer or audience should be the starting point of any PR campaign. Whether it’s through focus groups, customer surveys or through a process of internal knowledge gathering, it’s time to find out for sure what makes your audience tick, what keeps them up at night, how they consume media and how they make decisions about what to buy. Without this knowledge, how can you measure the success of your PR?

3 - Content is kingPR is about so much more than sending out company and customer news announcements. These tactics alone are never going to ensure your media profile positions you as a market leader. Foster thought leadership by stimulating brainstorms and opinion sharing. Capture this and feed it back to your marketing and PR teams to hone and build into campaign planning. Empower your employees and adopt intranets, wikis and other collaborative tools to facilitate the content generation process.

4 - Maximise your customer assets — Third party endorsement is the real muscle in any PR campaign, so don’t just leave it to your PR agency to chase around a list of customers who’ve not been warmed up to PR. Include PR in customer contracts, incentivise your sales team, reward customers for their support and then allow your agency to polish and maximise the reach of the stories.

5 - Get social — Don’t completely outsource your social media. Customers want to speak to you, not your PR agency. Embrace social media internally; build it into your culture; and incentivise your teams to join the online conversation. Then use your agency for strategy, ideas, training and background support to keep up the momentum as your organisation gets up to speed.

To wrap up the fitness analogy, you can have the best personal trainer in the world, but if you really want to see amazing results then the commitment has to come from within.

Debby Penton is MD of Wildfire PR - www.wildfirepr.co.uk


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