Put PR first, not last

March 11, 2014

Reputation Ink InkSights: Put PR first, not last

The prospective client described her company’s upcoming event with great enthusiasm. Everything was all set: The venue was booked, the speakers and entertainment were on board and the guests had been invited. All she needed us to do was get media coverage of the event, which was happening the following week.

Since managing client expectations is a big part of the public relations process, I explained to her as gently as possible that, based on her description of the planned event, it would be very difficult at that point to secure any meaningful media coverage. In addition to the fact that the event was only days away -- and the media that typically would have covered it had a much longer lead time -- there were a host of other issues that would make it all but impossible to gain the media’s interest. As I ticked them off one by one, her bright smile slowly faded and her initial enthusiasm deflated before my eyes.

One of the biggest mistakes a company can make is to view public relations as an afterthought -- the final step to be tacked on after a project, event or initiative is all but completed. In reality, the exact opposite is true: To achieve the best possible results, public relations counsel should have a seat at the table from the earliest planning stages. While PR professionals certainly shouldn’t “wag the dog” or dictate project elements that are beyond their purview, they can offer valuable insights and suggestions into the best way to frame or present an initiative to the public before key details are set in stone.

Specifically, PR pros can assist with:

Timing: PR professionals have a good handle on how much lead time various media outlets need to cover a story. They can therefore advise clients as to how far in advance certain project details need to be confirmed in order to gain optimal media coverage.

Once those details have been confirmed, there’s very little even the best PR person can do to salvage a poorly planned project. In the example above, the company had already booked a venue, sent out invitations and paid to fly in a guest performer for an event happening on a day and time when neither its target audience nor the media could attend. Had a PR person been involved from the start, that wouldn’t have happened.

Logistics: PR pros can provide valuable assistance in planning a project’s launch or public roll-out. For example, they can develop and execute a plan for managing on-site media, advise on the venue’s layout and coordinate the speaking program, determining the best order of speakers as well as when to incorporate audio visual presentations into the agenda.

Communication: Ultimately, public relations is about communication. Often times, those who are in charge of a project are too close to the topic to recognize the components that will be most appealing to the media and the general public. PR professionals are adept at assessing an initiative, identifying those PR-worthy elements, and developing the messages to communicate them to the correct target audience.

By involving PR counsel from the start, companies can capitalize on their consultants’ experience and advice to boost media visibility and enhance their credibility.

To learn more about the best way to incorporate PR into your early project planning, contact michelle@rep-ink.com.

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