Editor’s note: Shawn Ramsey-Kroboth and Kristi Lee are owners of SRK Communications, an RTP-based public relations firm that helps companies build public relations and corporate communications programs. This column is the latest in a series for LTW from the membership of the Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED).
_______________________________________________________________________________________Obviously it’s easy for us to tell you that building a solid public relations (PR) program is one of the best investments that your company can make; that a successful public relations program can enable you to cost-effectively communicate with a number of key audiences including prospects, customers, employees, partners, media, analysts, investors and others; and that it can help you meet strategic corporate objectives such as lead generation, revenue growth, fund-raising, industry visibility, industry validation, and much more.

But don’t just take our word for it. Take a look around you at the local successes in the Triangle and beyond. Chances are that public relations played a key role. These companies invested in building a solid PR foundation and are now reaping the rewards. Books like “The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR” by Al Ries and Laura Ries talk about how Wal-Mart, Starbucks, and others have built their brand with PR. But, what exactly is PR and where should you start?

Understanding the Basics

In order to build a successful public relations program you must start by understanding some basic business and marketing principles. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your company’s goals and objectives (market awareness, revenue growth, merger & acquisition, fundraising, IPO, etc.)?

  • Who is your target audience?

  • What are the key messages you want to communicate?
  • With that understanding in hand, you can develop a public relations strategy that supports your overall corporate strategy and objectives.

    Targeting the Right People

    Each public relations program is unique, but a good place to start is with a solid target media list with your target audience in mind. For example, are you targeting specific vertical industries, titles, consumer demographics or geographical regions? Do your homework. Identify the publications that influence the people you are trying to reach. Identify the editors that cover your products or services. Follow their work and take the time to understand what is of interest to them, and how they prefer to receive news from providers like you.

    Building a Drumbeat

    Okay. Now that you know who your media targets are, how can you reach them? You can start by building a public relations pipeline (a calendar of potential announcements and/or news stories from your company), using press releases and ongoing outreach to educate those targets about you and your company. These announcements can provide ideal opportunities to make introductions to new media targets or solidify existing relationships. Each release should focus on newsworthy developments at your company, or the unique role your company plays in larger trends in the marketplace.

    Keep in mind that news releases alone may not result in the in-depth coverage you desire, but they do provide the opportunity to demonstrate continuing company momentum (i.e. success, growth, etc.) and create vehicles for media outreach. As with any other relationship, developing these media relationships will take time and effort. Eventually, they will start to view your company as a thought leader and will come to you as a resource when they cover your space.

    As part of your pipeline, think about how to leverage or “repackage” other marketing programs or deliverables (such as white papers, campaigns, promotions, etc.) for PR purposes. Not only will this effort ensure that all communications are consistent, but it will also help you allocate company resources (dollars and manpower) more efficiently and cost-effectively.

    With this solid foundation in place, you can add customer case studies, speaking opportunities, award opportunities, and bylined articles to your public relations strategy at some point in the future. Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to PR success. Who knows, maybe your story will be featured in “The Rise of PR, Part II.”

    Shawn Ramsey-Kroboth and Kristi Lee are the owners of SRK Communications Inc. (www.srkcommunications.com ), an RTP-based public relations firm dedicated to helping companies build successful public relations and corporate communications programs. The SRK Communications team has more than three decades of combined corporate communications experience, including in-house and agency leadership roles. They have experience building strategic PR programs with companies like TogetherSoft Corporation (acquired by Borland Software for $210 million in 2003), OpenSite Technologies (acquired by Siebel Systems for $542 million in 2001); and leading public relations firms including Brodeur Worldwide and Ruder Finn.