I take a lot of pride in the publicity that I generate on behalf of my company. And, yes, I still get giddy when we hit a public relations home run, because I know exactly how the publicity that I generate benefits my company. I know my role. But too many public relations professionals are unaware of just how they fit into their company’s business strategy. And effective and efficient public relations becomes impossible when employees feel undervalued and are unlikely to give their best performance each time out.
When I first joined my company, we published investment newsletters and were working on launching a data and analytics product. My bosses and I decided then that my primary public relations role would be to generate “quotable opportunities” for our newsletter analysts and editors. We felt this third-party media exposure would establish credibility with potential customers for our newsletter products, which are aimed at retail investors, and for our data and analytics product, which is aimed at institutional investors.
Since the latter product was not out on the market yet, and we’d be bringing it to market with no brand identity among our potential clients, we felt it was important to prove ahead of time that our overall business was a credible source of information for investors of any class. We needed the media’s help to do this.
Credibility was and still is important to us because we’re in a competitive space that does not have a great reputation. Investment newsletters come and go, and many of the people behind them are nothing more than stock promoters. My public relations goal was to establish our analysts and editors as knowledgeable and reliable media sources, differentiating ourselves from the competition while promoting our products.
Our newsletter analysts and editors were quoted everywhere from BBC Radio to the Wall Street Journal. Each time we received some media exposure an influx of trial subscribers followed. After that it was up to all of us within the organization to convert those trial subscribers into paying subscribers by ensuring that our product remained top-notch. Today, we can trace a large percentage of our recurring revenue directly back to trial subscribers whose leads were generated by the quotes and media exposure we received.
Recently, I’ve concentrated my public relations efforts on our data and analytics product. My main goal here has been to get us the kind of media exposure that reaches our prospective clients, those busy institutional investors. All I am trying to do is to generate additional credibility and sales leads.
My primary responsibility at my current job has never been public relations, but my PR skills were one reason I was hired. My bosses made that known when I signed my employment contract. At that time, I asked them what they expected of me. “Generate sales leads and foster credibility.”
It was important to me that my role was defined by my bosses ahead of time. I needed to know what kind of publicity they wanted me to generate and how they felt public relations could help the company. It would have been a waste of time for me to aim for feature stories and trade magazines if the media exposure was not directed at our potential clients. The financial press is where my bosses wanted me to concentrate, and that’s what I’ve done. That doesn’t mean that I have not branched out when necessary.
Last year, my bosses came to me and said they wanted a feature story in the local newspaper. I asked why and they said that we were expanding the business and we wanted to hire additional staff. Their theory was that there a lot of people in Princeton, New Jersey who commute to work on Wall Street. If we could find some of these people without advertising or paying a recruiter — get them excited about our company and the possibility of working without the commute — we could keep our human resources costs lower. My bosses were thinking smart.
After the feature story, we received an influx of inquiries from locals who work on Wall Street. One of my bosses was specifically quoted as saying that we were expanding and hiring, so some of the readers asked about jobs. We ended up hiring two people who may have otherwise never heard of our business. Other readers, locals working on Wall Street who don’t seem to mind the commute, were interested in hearing about our product. These turned into sales leads, some of whom have turned into clients.
The most important thing about the publicity that I generate is that it portrays our company properly. We want to project an image of knowledgeable professionals who provide a service to professional investors. By working with the media to help explain what’s going on in the area that we cover, I think we are accomplishing this.
Public relations plays many roles inside a company. Some organizations use PR to build brand equity and awareness, while others use it purely for defensive reasons. There are companies that use public relations to promote their products, services, and stocks, and some that use PR to boost the ego of their executives. Whatever the reason, if the role of the public relations department and the individuals working in it is clearly defined, the process will be smoother. More important, the publicity that is generated will pay dividends.
This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.