There’s an interesting article this week in VentureBeat, entitled Why PR is your best marketing weapon — and how to use it. It’s worth a read.
It outlines what happened to a 1990s tech startup called Seer Technologies when it took an overly cautious approach to PR. Here are some key points from the article, which highlight some very common misperceptions about PR.
- We assumed that business success would automatically translate into recognition. And we were overly cautious about what we said in public—so that we were “known for the right things”.
- We turned down many interview requests, and carefully scripted our answers to the ones we did accept.
- The result was predictable: Over a period of six years, our company was featured in 20 to 30 articles in total. And these were mostly in small trade publications or the local press.
Let’s consider what happens when a company takes the opposite approach. The author then compares this cautious approach to what happened when he made the strategic decision when promoting his 1997 start-up, Relativity Technologies, to embrace PR. He would “talk about whatever the media was interested in,” rather than just the company’s own product.
Here’s what happened.
- We would have a policy of being accessible to and totally open with the media, customers, and investors.
- We decided that Relativity’s best buzz generator would be our staff of Russian programmers, who had formerly performed top-secret coding for the Russian military and intelligence.
- We began selling ourselves as an exciting company with a James Bond edge.
As you might imagine, the results were outstanding – top tier business press, appearances on major TV networks, a flood of enquiries from potential customers, employees, and so on. This underscores the value of good PR, and is shows what’s possible when management really “gets” it.
So, as PR practitioners, it may be important to focus on the mechanics of a PR program, i.e. goal setting, metrics, milestones, announcements, etc. However, it should also be our responsibility to educate clients on some of the intangible qualities of PR, and what we need from them to make a program work. Although we – as PR practitioners – may instinctively know what’s going to “work” with the media, our clients do not necessarily have that experience and knowledge base, and we shouldn’t assume that they do.
This VentureBeat article provides a great comparison of how a willingness to prioritize PR from a strategic level, be creative, take risks and join the broader business conversation will pay dividends over the long run. Taking a more narrow approach will be far less valuable, and will translate into fewer meaningful results.
Do you (or your clients) really “get” PR, or are you just going through the motions?