Gini Dietrich

Three Ways a PR Firm Can Help You

By: Gini Dietrich | April 29, 2013 | 
44

Three Ways a PR Firm Can Help YouJust a little more than a year ago, the Public Relations Society of America set out to redefine public relations.

You see, it’d been 30 years since the last definition and, with all the turmoil the industry has seen since 2008, the organization thought it was time.

The definition they settled on is, “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

Sure, it’s new and most certainly better than what we had in 1982, but it still doesn’t describe what we do as communications professionals. The problem being, of course, most have the perception we’re publicists and our only task is to get our companies or client’s companies in the news.

As it turns out, though, it’s much, much more than that. Today it encompasses reputation management, customer service via the social networks, crisis communications, issues management, events, content and email marketing, lead generation, blogging, social media…and yes, media and blogger relations.

But the problem still lies, not just in the new definition, but in how communications professionals position themselves.

If you’re working with a PR firm or soloproneur or if you have a communications team in-house, there are some questions you should be asking to be certain they’re executing on business strategies that lead to real results (such as revenue or bigger grants or more fundraising dollars).

Content Marketing

The 2013 “it” term for communications is content marketing. Everyone is talking about it and, if you don’t have it, you feel lost in the sea of conversation. Ask your PR professionals what they’re doing with content…and I don’t mean they’re slapping up a blog post a couple of times a week.

Are they using white papers and webinars to secure email addresses from prospects that can then be turned over to the sales team for qualification and nurturing?

Are they using a blog to build community and create thought leadership?

Are they using an eBook to send to prospects to determine his or her level of interest before you or your sales team spend time determining if it’s a good fit?

Do they know how to creatively use calls-to-action to motivate people to want to buy from you?

Content is, single-handedly, one of the most effective ways to generate and nurture leads. It must be educational, valuable, and not self-serving for it to work. Is that what your team is doing?

Hyper-Targeted Media and Blogger Relations

When I started my career, there were these big green books from Bacons that listed all of the journalists and producers at every newspaper, magazine, television, and radio outlet in the country. We would take turns with the books, sometimes copying pages from it so the next person could use them.

Then the books were bought by Cision and everything moved online, making a PR professional’s job easier because he or she could now create a media list with a touch of a button. And then Vocus came along and introduced a way for you to email all of your contacts at once, leaving time for things that really mattered, like making phone calls and inviting journalists out for coffee.

Of course, the system was gamed and, instead of using that extra time to build the in-person relationships, some professionals just sent emails and checked it off their lists.

In today’s world, though, with email spam and doing more with less, that approach doesn’t work.

Is your PR team spending time getting to know the journalist or blogger, by reading what they’ve already written and pitching a story hyper-targeted to them?

Do they send mass emails and never get a response?

Are they counseling you on what constitutes news and what does not?

Are bloggers fed up with the way they approach them and writing about their horrid media relations skills (it happens; do a Google search).

The idea behind blogger and media relations has never changed: It’s all about relationships. If you manage the relationships correctly, stories and blog posts will abound. If you mass distribute a news release that isn’t targeted very specifically, you’ll hear crickets.

Issues and Crisis Management

It used to be you’d write a crisis communications plan and it would be shoved into a drawer until you reviewed it with your team a year later.

Now, because of social media and every customer having a megaphone, issues and crises can happen to even the most ethical and dedicated organization.

The difference between an issue and a crisis is you rarely hear about the former. In examples such as Susan G. Komen, Penn State, and Carnival Cruise Lines, they all had someone inside the organization who did something wrong, if not downright illegal. Those are issues. But, because the executives at these organizations either ignored or failed to act swiftly and decisively, the issues became crises.

Are you bringing your PR team in when an issue arises?

Do they know how to counsel you to go public with the issue so it doesn’t become a crisis?

Do they know how to monitor the web for red flags that might indicate an issue is brewing?

Can they minimize collateral damage when someone with a megaphone starts a grassroots effort against you?

Do you trust them to speak on your behalf on the social networks?

PR Firm Help

Of course, these are just three areas where communications professionals can help you and your organization. They’re not necessarily the three most important, but they’re in the top five.

Depending on what it is your organization does, social media or email marketing or product sampling may be more important, but the point is to get your team thinking about more than just building mutually beneficial relationships with your constituents.

If they can answer the question, “How are you going to help me reach my business goals?” and actually do it, you have the right team in place. If, however, all they’re doing is getting you stories that are great for your ego, but don’t help you reach your goals, it’s time to look somewhere else.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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44 Comments on "Three Ways a PR Firm Can Help You"

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jasonkonopinski
3 years 2 months ago

Yes. Yes. Yes. #thatisall

ginidietrich
3 years 2 months ago

jasonkonopinski I’m reminded of When Harry Met Sally when I read this comment.

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
3 years 2 months ago

ginidietrich jasonkonopinski I’ll have what she is having. 😉

jasonkonopinski
3 years 2 months ago

ginidietrich “I’ll have what she’s having.” 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZluzt3H6tk

ginidietrich
3 years 2 months ago

jasonkonopinski Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes BOOM!

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
3 years 2 months ago

Hi Gini,
I like how you laid things out here. One of the big challenges I see is one that has been around forever and that is the person who focuses solely upon their experience and isn’t open to alternative ideas.
They take a “if it isn’t broke it doesn’t need fixing” approach without really being open to exploring changes or opportunity. Sometimes they can be part of your team or a decision maker on the client side, that makes life a bit more interesting.

ginidietrich
3 years 2 months ago

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes It’s as if you’re in my brain! I just wrote a blog post (to run in a couple of weeks) that talks about how to hire PR professionals. One of the tips is exactly this – make sure they’re open to change, ready to experiment, and willing to take some risk.

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
3 years 2 months ago

ginidietrich Ah, we could put the second clip of the day up, Dinner With Schmucks- Brain Control. 😉 Really bad movie, but some funny moments.

RobBiesenbach
3 years 2 months ago
I followed PRSA’s definition process with some amusement — and bemusement (which is actually a different thing). I understand an institution’s need to create a definition for what its people do, but ultimately we’ll be defined by the actions we take, and the conclusions others draw about us based on those actions, not by the words we use to describe ourselves.  Having said all that, I followed the link to the 1982 definition, and what we have now is certainly a vast improvement over this: “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.” Sounds like… Read more »
ginidietrich
3 years 2 months ago

RobBiesenbach All I can think of right now is The Princess Bride and mawwwaiage!

susancellura
susancellura
3 years 2 months ago

This is so nicely put, Gini. I’m finding it interesting that people on the marketing team express that they had never thought of these things before when mentioned in a meeting. I don’t know if it’s age or experience, but when someone tells my boss, “I never thought of it that way before. It opened my eyes”, I’m both thrilled and scared.

ginidietrich
3 years 2 months ago

susancellura LOL! I think I would have the very same emotions!

DiamondPRnet
DiamondPRnet
3 years 2 months ago
I really don’t know…. I used the Bacon’s “telephone slash high chair” media books circa 1997 when I was learning what PR  was – for me – at the time. Regardless of all the trends since 1982 and all of those to come – I just enjoy and do PR/Media Relations the old fashioned way – tell a great story to the right media and supply them with everything they need on a silver platter – the end. People used to pitch using a stamp – now people “Twitch” (pitch on twitter, I might have just made that up).  Regardless,… Read more »
ginidietrich
3 years 2 months ago

DiamondPRnet LOL! I *think* you did just make up Twitch! But I kind of love it!

bdorman264
3 years 2 months ago

Wow, that sounds like a lot of work to me…I think I need reputation management; how much does that cost? 
In our heyday, 05-07 we had big aspirations and were going regional; we were locked and loaded. Then the bottom fell out and guess what position was the first to go in our agency; PR. Might have been short-sighted on our part, but that’s the way it went down. 
I’m a firm believer if you have the right team they can do wonders for you. What you have outlined certainly looks like a winning team to me.

ginidietrich
3 years 2 months ago

bdorman264 PR is always the first to go. Why do you think I nearly had to close the doors?!

TaraGeissinger
3 years 2 months ago

ginidietrich bdorman264 The role of PR is often undervalued — especially when a company is struggling. It can be hard to quantify the results and easy to ‘assume’ they can be duplicated with less effort and less staff. For a while the momentum might be enough, but eventually the lack of PR will hurt.

bdorman264
3 years 2 months ago

TaraGeissinger ginidietrich I agree, it’s probably when you need them the most….

TaraGeissinger
3 years 2 months ago

OMGosh — those big Bacon’s books. I had forgotten about those. 🙂 You really hit everything spot on here. The key to success is building relationships, with members of the media AND with your customers. Consistently publishing quality content is helpful in the long-term, but it really needs to be combined with an outreach campaign.

ginidietrich
3 years 2 months ago

TaraGeissinger How could you forget about them!? They ruled my life for ages!

TaraGeissinger
3 years 2 months ago

ginidietrich TaraGeissinger I think, possibly, I blocked them from memory? LOL

belllindsay
3 years 2 months ago

I wonder how many people are looking at this list and saying “R’uh roh!” 😉

ginidietrich
3 years 2 months ago

belllindsay I hope not many! I hope everyone is doing it. Is hope a strategy?

belllindsay
3 years 2 months ago

ginidietrich Hope is a strategy in my book Gini! LOL

Cision NA
3 years 2 months ago
Hi Gini & community! Believe it or not, we officially retired the Bacon’s books this year. People love those big books & it’s still hard for some to part with the print version for an online database, but that could be a whole ‘nother discussion 🙂 One small correction, Bacon’s was our former brand name. We rebranded as Cision in 2007 to better fit where we were moving as a company: an innovative, tech-driven solution for PR & Marketers. But now on to the more important discussion! I was nodding in agreement to every question you asked, and every PR/marketing company should… Read more »
ginidietrich
3 years 2 months ago

Cision NA LOL! Lisa, you crack me up! I shall edit it to read, “BOOM!” at the end.

Howie Goldfarb
3 years 2 months ago

ginidietrich Cision NA I bought the last 3500 copies of the book. Now that I have the market cornered I am going to up the price to $12 million dollars each. 8)

Cision NA
3 years 2 months ago

Howie Goldfarb ginidietrich HAHA! Forget a 401K, you’ve got a more profitable retirement plan! 🙂

TaraGeissinger
3 years 2 months ago

Cision NA Lisa ROCKS. 🙂

Cision NA
3 years 2 months ago

TaraGeissinger Aw, thank you Tara! That made my day. And you ROCK too 🙂

Howie Goldfarb
3 years 2 months ago
Cision NA ginidietrich the one caveat I have is about Content marketing. A friend and I were discussing this. He said the problem most social media ‘stars’ and agencies have is they know content marketing but not marketing outside of that. So they can’t hold their own in a board room. Most of them focus on blogging. They don’t know systems just tactics. So when the top level strategy is being discussed that for any big company involves everything from TV to Billboards to how their store fronts are designed….they get lost. If they get told ‘we have to reach 50… Read more »
belllindsay
3 years 2 months ago

Howie Goldfarb Cision NA ginidietrich Boner AND solopreneur…? **my eyes**

ClayMorgan
3 years 2 months ago

Hyper targeted. LOVE it!

ginidietrich
3 years 2 months ago

ClayMorgan Why thank you!

EdenSpodek
3 years 2 months ago

So maybe I am in PR after all?  😉 Are most PR firms and soloproneurs offering the above-mentioned services to their clients? I’m not convinced they are and as a result, they’re losing a lot of ground as alternative agencies and service providers step in to fill the gaps. Even several of the agencies I speak with that claim to do these above-mentioned communications but often let them go by the wayside when they’re asked by clients to conduct more traditional media relations on a client’s behalf.

ginidietrich
3 years 2 months ago

EdenSpodek I don’t know that they are, either. I’m giving a keynote tomorrow, which will give me a better feel for whether or not they are. I just saw in the NY TImes, Fleishman-Hillard is offering more of these types of services, so perhaps it’s going that way.

EdenSpodek
3 years 2 months ago

ginidietrich I’m looking forward to hearing more after your talk tomorrow. I can’t speak for all of company but when I was part of the F-H family, they seemed headed in the right direction several years ago. In Canada, several of the early adopters at the larger PR agencies were swooped up by the ad agencies with larger budgets, in-house creative teams and content producers.

ginidietrich
3 years 2 months ago

EdenSpodek When I worked there, they were ahead of the times, for sure. I remember when they made the decision to bring web creative and development in house. It was a big deal.

Howie Goldfarb
3 years 2 months ago
Funny how often the most helpful of your posts often get the fewest comments.   hmm…soloproneur that sounds way to kinky for this blog Gini!  My comment if related to the definition of PR. I mock my adland peers who are always trying to redict ‘The agency of the future’. My friend cbaccus actually left ATT to join an Agency that says they are such a thing for PR (Golin Harris). We often try to pigeon hole and label complex things because so many folks need this for their mental state to stay calm. I bring up Myers Briggs a lot.… Read more »
ginidietrich
3 years 2 months ago

Howie Goldfarb I am doing a keynote tomorrow on the future of PR. But what the message really is … the future is now.

Howie Goldfarb
3 years 2 months ago

ginidietrich don’t forget to bring up cars that drive themselves!

Tinu
3 years 1 month ago

Love the distinction between an issue and a crisis.

ginidietrich
3 years 1 month ago

Tinu Not many people realize it…unless it’s something illegal, an issue can typically be managed.

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