Building a Local Public Relations Campaign Requires Using the Right Tool for the Right Job

Press Briefing

My dad was an engineer for the U.S. Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia; he was part of a team that designed aircraft carriers.

As such, his brain worked in a very methodical, precise way, even at home. When he would embark on a home improvement or car repair, a go-to mantra to his sons was: “The right tool for the right job.”

That advice stuck with me, both personally and professionally.

My family has endured the drywall implications of hanging a picture and driving that initial nail with a ball-peen hammer instead of a tack hammer.

I’ve also recognized the wisdom of proper tool usage in public relations and corporate communications. Knowing when to use what saves time, effort, money and a whole lot of frustration.

This column has already reviewed the press release, its appropriateness and value. But what else is in the toolbox? What other implements can generate an amicable relationship with the local media and burnish your brand?

Media relations can include less-formal, more-focused touches than a press release.

Sending a journalist a fact sheet, for example, is an excellent opening for a brand expansion or other corporate shift.

A fact is a whitepaper-ish communication that gives a broad explanation of an overall initiative. It is often nestled into a press release distribution (or that of an entire press kit). But it can stand alone.

Common content includes corporate/product history, vision, mission, purpose, and future.

A press tour is another worthy strategy.

It’s one thing to talk about a process reengineering that’s saving your company time, money and effort; it’s wholly another to show a journalist exactly what’s going on. Onsite, he or she gathers information that is then interpreted for readers or viewers: What changes were made and why? What are the upsides for customers? What initiatives are next? How is success being measured?

Advertorials are also effective.

These essays are written by communicators within a company or organization. The accent — again, with audience in mind — is helpful information, with a sprinkle of marketing on top.

Before embarking on this strategy, know this: The ad part of advertorial means that yes, there is an outlay of funds needed for placement. Plan with your media outlet and budget accordingly.

A customer newsletter provides a 1:1 conduit of information between brands and their buyers. Online capabilities make these communications convenient, inexpensive and relatively effortless in delivery.

The key to maintaining interest is to ensure that the content tells a story more than it sells a product. Too much marketing information — “Here’s how we’re better than competitors!” “Here’s a high-profile celebrity who loves our stuff!” “Let’s talk about our latest tweak!” — is going to generate a heap of unsubscribes.

Speaking engagements are an excellent tool for public relations. They represent a high-profile forum for industry leadership in front of an engaged audience.

But there’s a lot to consider before unleashing your internal subject-matter experts.

Public speaking isn’t for everyone. If your VP of Marketing is uncomfortable at a podium, find someone who is. Or shepherd him or her through a rigorous public-speaking course.

In the public-speaking arena, it’s best to start small. Successfully addressing a local chamber of commerce is better than shooting for the stars at a major industry conference and having things go sideways.

A press conference ups the public-speaking ante even more. Yes, remarks can be prepared in advance. But one off-the-cuff questions — and an awkward answer — can undercut an entire presentation. Press conferences should be led only by your major-league communicators.

Be sure to include community relations in your public-facing interactions. Those food drives, volunteer events and fundraisers speak volumes. Every outreach shows the public that you’re about more than just selling gizmos.

It’s also a chance to hear your customers: What they think of your product/service. How it may be improved. How it stacks up against competitors’.

Social media is solidly now one of communicators’ most effective tools. Just make sure you’re strategic about it. Keep your content personal (less about products; more about users), eye-catching (excellent photography, even apart from Instagram), and engaging.

Building a proper external communications strategy requires thoughtful consideration of all the available methods of reaching an audience. It also needs plenty of planning, including a fair amount of flexibility to shift gears when needed. Or pick up the pace when a crisis hits.

The tools above are only a few of the many in the box. Being facile with them all means a communicator can grab each one on the fly and use it to its best advantage.

The result? A proactive, healthy and compelling stream of branded content, issued through a variety of streams, all helping the bottom line.

Or at least a few less holes in the wall in need of spackle, tape, and paint.