Every business wants to maintain a favorable look with the general public, but that image does not happen automatically. Your customers may be fickle, loving your business one moment and hating it the next, as outside forces shape the opinion of your enterprise. You cannot always control what others say about your business, but you can respond intelligently and shape those sentiments to your favor.
An effective public relations campaign can do that provided that your PR plan is always a sound one.
Consider how your company was perceived by the public and media over the past several months to a year. Likely, you can pinpoint certain times when the buzz was most noticeable.
Perhaps it was a tweet on Twitter. Or, it could have been a Yelp review. Maybe it was the comment of a user on his blog. Look at all comments made — positive and negative — and assess what was said and that impact on your business. If you had an especially bumpy product release, then that event may have pulled your company down. Compare how your business did with its competitors.
Just as you look back to see where your business was at, you need to begin to plan for the future. What you reviewed will have a bearing on that plan. In the example of the product release stumble, you may want to consider a relaunch of that product, perhaps a new marketing campaign. Make no reference to your past stumbles or shortcomings, instead project a positive image moving forward.
Make Some News
Businesses need to make news otherwise news will be made about them. And not all news that is made about your company is good news.
Plan to release news periodically throughout the year. This means adhering to a news release calendar, timing your releases to generate news when you need it. Also consider your media outreach and the journalists that are most likely to talk about your company. Review your reporter contacts and make fresh contact again. If you are hosting an important event, invite your media contacts.
Generating More News
We must harp on “news” as this is a significant way for companies to shape their PR efforts. Your media exposure should be planned and include coverage beyond the press releases such as article contributions to select media sources, white papers and video reports. Know that many media outlets have deadlines that are planned months in advance. This means getting your contributions in before the closing date.
You should also work with your media contacts as the “go to” source for your industry. This means whenever a story comes up related to your industry, reporters will know to contact you for feedback. This can also mean appearing on television to offer your comments, consenting to a media interview or representing your company as part of a panel discussion.
Social Media Considerations
No longer can any company downplay the influence social networks and social media has on a business. The rise of Facebook and Twitter has taken care of that. LinkedIn and Google+ are also formidable contributors to the realm.
Yes, you need to identify those bloggers with influence in your industry. To ignore these individuals means doing so to your peril. Bloggers are not always as eloquent as traditional journalists, but can quite easily be more influential. This means monitoring the blogosphere and social media sites to follow what people are saying. Reach out to such influencers directly — show respect to them and never patronize bloggers.
You have reviewed where your PR efforts were in the past and are beginning to make some news. You are generating more news by working directly with reporters and have reached out to the social networking world to make even more noise. There is one more step to take in your public relations plan, perhaps it is the most important step that you can take: crisis management planning.
Quite frankly, it is impossible to monitor everything that is said about you and have a response in place ahead of time. What you can have in place is your response to a crisis and that means assembling a team of individuals that will spearhead your efforts. This means considering every possible negative story that might arise and the responses for each one. Your team will need to practice how they will respond, including identifying the person who alone will speak on behalf of your company.
Your crafted public relations plan will help your business achieve its goals and thwart possible problems that can arise. It will also help your business stay in contact with media and other influencers, to help shape perceptions and provide solutions to possible problems. A PR plan is not set in stone either — be prepared to make changes on the fly, working with senior management to fine tune what you already have in place.
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Mark Montoya has been working in personal branding for more than a decade for hundreds of online and offline companies, small businesses and individual service professionals. His focus has been toward improving the way jobseekers find employment on the Internet. He has synthesized his expertise by helping job seekers obtain their ideal choice of employment over the Internet on his sites MyOnlineCareerSpace.com and MyOnlineCareerCoach.com, and through his books 101 Tips Every Job Seeker Should Know and The Ultimate Online Job Search eBook.
“It is the responsibility of the individual to reject the prospect of mediocrity and to strive for the betterment of society as a whole” ~ Mark Montoya