Using Public Relations to Build Brand Credibility
For the majority of new businesses and professionals, one of the key assets they lack is credibility and authority in the marketplace. Most new businesses are (at best) a very small blip on the giant radar that is our world. As an entrepreneur, you are faced with the challenge of not only getting your brand out there in front of the eyes of the world, but also convincing your target audience to trust you, even when you may lack the capital, resources or influence of an established organization. As the CEO of a public relations firm, I am often tasked with the challenge of doing the same for my clients who are startup and early-stage companies. The good news is that it can be done– and I have done it successfully for dozens of clients. The even better news is that thanks to new technology, social media and the fast-paced information-driven world we now live in, it can now be done faster and more inexpensively than ever before. The goal of positioning a brand as an authority in your industry is within the grasp of any business of any size– the playing field has been leveled. But it starts with organizing a solid plan for doing so. So, I am going to share with you a few of the elements we use at my public relations firm, Fifth Avenue Brands, to craft a high-impact branding and media outreach strategy for our clients.
Tactics to Jumpstart Your Public Relations Strategy
1. Find your target. Before implementing anything, you absolutely must figure out what exactly your goal is for building your brand. If you do not know where you’re going, you will never get there. When we are developing a PR plan for a client, we call this our PR objective. It doesn’t need to be more than a sentence or two. But you need to have a very clear vision for what your brand will be in the eyes of your market. For example, a real estate brokerage in Chicago may set an objective to become the leading authority on condo sales in a specific area of the city of Chicago. The more specifically you can describe who your brand is, the easier it will be to convey this to your market.
2. Who is your audience? Next you want to identify who the audience is that you are targeting. In the eyes of whom are you trying to build credibility? The answer to this question may be different than you think. Most new clients when asked this question will tell us: “customers”, or “users” or whoever will be purchasing and using their products or services. But actually, the audience you want to reach to build credibility should be thought about differently. You want to reach an influential audience, who could in turn, persuade even larger numbers of potential customers to purchase your products. This audience is the media. As a startup or early-stage company, the media can persuade potential customers to trust you more than you can. So we want to identify which segments of the media will be most relevant for your brand. Examples could be industry journals, consumer interest magazines (depending on what your business sells), niche bloggers—thanks to online media, there are countless media outlets in existence today to reach any demographic or market you can think of. Write down each segment of the media you need to reach.
3. What are you telling them? Now it is time to craft the key message or messages that will tell your brand’s story to the world and move you towards achieving your objective. This is the heart of your plan. You can have a respectable objective, reach the right audiences and execute your strategy perfectly. But if you convey the wrong message, your brand isn’t any better off than before you started this plan. So what exactly is a key message? It’s a concept that can be summarized in 1-2 sentences that tells your audience why your brand is important—why you are an authority. For example, maybe your mouse trap has more features than any other one on the market. Or maybe you have discovered a new technology that revolutionizes the entire concept of a mouse trap all together. Your message has to communicate why you are unique and why you should command the interest of your market.
4. Now put it all together into a strategy. At this stage, we take your target audience and your key message and we combine them with a strategy that will convey your message to your audience. Media outreach strategies can take a variety of shapes and sizes. Your strategy may be submitting targeted press releases. Your strategy may be contacting the media outlets we identified as your target audience and asking them to do a story about your brand (this is a media pitch). Your strategy may be becoming a contributor on a blog, news website or other media outlet that is relevant to what business you are in. Your strategy may even be using social media to contact journalists and media outlets to attract interest in doing a profile story on your brand. Describing your strategy need not be complicated. In fact, the simpler it is, the easier it will be to executive. For instance, one of your strategies may be described as “Leveraging interviews and profiles in industry blogs to position our brand as an authority in our space”. With just this sentence, you now have a much clearer idea of how you will reach your objective. But it still seems broad. How exactly do we implement a strategy like this?
5. Mapping it out. This is the final step where we break our strategy down into specific action steps (tactics) that will be implemented, which accumulated over time, will execute your strategy and achieve your objective. To illustrate this, we will use the example strategy from above: Leveraging interviews and profiles in industry blogs to position our brand as an authority in our space”. So how do we break this down into small action steps in order to full realize our strategy? Here are some examples:
• Identify the popular, leading authority blogs in your niche
• Create a list of these blogs and contact information for the writer/editor/owner
• Create a story angle that could not only benefit your business with publicity but also appeal to the audience that each blog writes for
• Contact each blogger and pitch them your story idea
• Arrange an interview with the blogger
I have now outlined a 5-step process that will allow you to develop a clear and effective plan for using public relations to build credibility for your brand. By answering each of the five sections above, you can be sure that your PR plan will answer the correct questions to put you on a well-defined path to seeing your business appear in the media. The next step is to take those action steps and take action o
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