Getting PR Right in 2012: Know Your Opportunity Cost
With the first eight weeks of the New Year behind us, many of you are starting to see the impact of your decisions regarding your communications program, staff and agency evaluations. You’ve already considered what worked, what didn’t and are making changes to maximize your opportunities, results and operational efficiency. You may have also invested in new software tools, processes and new relationships.
How can you ensure these investments will prove to be the right ones? After all, you don’t want to see your efforts go to waste. Below are some tips from our experience to help you make lasting, meaningful improvements in your communications programs this year.
Don’t overlook how the account infrastructure can impact results
Weekly team calls, agendas and recaps, as well as internal touch-base meetings, status reports and monthly activity reports are all valuable, but how much is too much? Depending on the size and scope of your program, this may be overkill. You want your team focused on getting results, not reporting on them multiple ways. That said, we often suggest bi-monthly client calls to allocate more of your budget to outreach or result-generating activity. In terms of reports, we are finding more clients want high-level recaps for the quarter or half year to convey how the collective team has executed against its goals and key recommendations for the future.
Bottom line: Ask yourself, what’s most valuable to your decision-makers? And, how will they best digest this information? Most of the time, the Reader’s Digest version is just enough. Here is an example:
Scope the program according to your goals and know your “opportunity cost”
We want it all, but we just can’t have it all. I recently heard a high-ranking sales and marketing executive tell his management team there’s an opportunity cost associated with diverting the focus of engineering and sales to any legacy product, whose growth potential is limited. It’s best to keep everyone focused on the new, high growth markets. But, this takes tremendous discipline. The same holds true for PR. We find our most successful PR programs are those with focus. It’s okay to have a singular objective – media relations to a certain audience that matters most like the top tier IT trade press or the service provider community.
Bottom line: Unless you have an unlimited budget with a large team, you’re not going to do everything well. That’s why it’s important to prioritize. What key message or opinion do we want to be known for in the next six months; which audience segment do we need to cultivate? Which events do we need to own? The clearer and simpler the goal, the easier it is to execute. Your team can always add activity, but know your opportunity cost if you are not disciplined and you divert their focus.
Put a stake in the ground around the rallying cry
Companies and PR programs often suffer when the message is diluted with competing internal priorities. Each business unit often wants to announce every product enhancement they make and each product manager wants to have his or her own day in the spotlight. But, every product does not deserve equal attention and neither does every initiative. Another program momentum killer or what many football buffs refer to as a “drive killer” is being so focused on what competitors are doing and reacting to them that you lose sight of what you are doing. We all know not to do this in theory, but we become so passionate about these developments or in some cases so complacent with the internal struggle, we resist putting this into practice.
Bottom line: The best way to ensure your rallying cry is heard is to repeat it often and ensure everything you do directly supports it. If it doesn’t, just don’t do it. And, get your boss behind you on this. Also, ensure your spokespeople are repeating this rallying cry in every interview. To boot, given the pressures today’s journalists face, they don’t have time to connect the dots so you need to connect them for them. Thus, the next time you ask yourself if your messages resonated, if new media outlets are familiar with your company, or if the influencer relationships you’ve established are stronger; make sure your executives are taking the time upfront to restate the company’s strategy and how that particular discussion ties to it. You’ll never drive perception change if you don’t articulate the larger connection to the goal and the progress you are making against it.
Modifying your approach and re-evaluating the multiple facets of your PR program to focus on the high value activities takes tremendous self-control, but you’re your program will thank you for it, and so will your PR team and the executives you both want to influence!