Public relations has traditionally been focused on creating, building and strengthening relationships; it’s a significant part of what PR practitioners do. “Relations” – it’s right there in our name.
I’m happy to report that today’s effective PR couldn’t be further from the unfortunate stereotype of a slick publicist introducing a client to somebody at a boozy, bass-thumping party. Today, as countless media outlets, social media platforms and blogs compete for a share of the ever-changing and increasingly crowded media landscape, they’re looking for more useful content that provides something of value to their readers, viewers or listeners, which is where PR professionals can really shine.
Organizations are also embracing the opportunity. As we develop marketing strategies, we’re seeing a welcome shift away from quantity (how many people can I reach?) and toward quality (who are the right people to reach, and how can we build a legitimate, long-term relationship with them?). More and more organizations are coming to us to help them widen their circle and engage in an authentic way with decision makers who may be good advocates, influencers, prospects, partners or employees. And PR is extremely well equipped to help companies and nonprofits do exactly that, especially by creating content that provides value and connecting with people on a one-to-one basis.
Here are five tips to keep in mind for using communications to build relationships that last.
Understand and segment your audience. We are often asked to reach the C-suite, but is that really the right place to be? After researching a client or prospect’s specific objectives, we often find that we could make a lot more hay by starting conversations with the next level of management or just about anywhere else along the decision-making continuum. It may make a lot more sense to start building relationships with marketing managers or people in HR, IT or operations.
Provide something of value. Demonstrate your thought leadership by contributing to a media outlet, podcast or blog. Share your expertise — provide actionable tips and advice (like the article you’re reading now) or recap and provide insights from an industry event or trade show. And if it’s something that nobody else is able to provide, even better. While getting in Forbes or the Wall Street Journal is great, don’t only focus on the top pubs. Niche trade publications that reach a narrower but much more targeted audience may have an even bigger impact on your business. Extra bonus: Those smaller, focused outlets often accept submitted articles.
Diversify your marketing mix. When you’re looking to start engaging, don’t put all your eggs in the media relations basket. Your audience likely reads the local business journal, sure, but they also zip through LinkedIn every morning, turn to colleagues for advice and recommendations, skim newsletters and attend industry events. And don’t underestimate the power of accolades in getting people’s attention: Look at building your thought leadership platform by nominating your company for awards, especially those that come with editorial coverage.
Leverage your network. Reaching a small number of people with an extremely applicable message can have a big return. That’s why sharing an article you’ve written or are quoted in or developing content exclusively for platforms like LinkedIn can really help deepen relationships with people you already know – and connect you to others in their networks, as well. Along the way, engage with your connections’ content: Comment, like and share in an authentic way.
Be consistent. Once you get into a groove, it gets easier and easier to share thought leadership on a consistent basis. And you don’t even have to be a writer. That’s where partners like your PR agency or internal communications team can really lend a hand, especially for busy businesspeople who can’t fathom sitting in front of a blank screen. Sometimes we sit down and interview clients, other times they call us from their car and just talk — PR pros can help organize your key points and get something on paper for you to react to or edit. Often, the hardest part is just taking the step to get started.
However you do it, keep providing more actionable, valuable content without asking for anything in return. It’s that consistency and altruism that will start to build or deepen relationships – and trust – with the people you most want to engage with the most.