Lessons in Public Relations —Sherburne
In your business, you have several “publics” that PR activities will help you address, including:
• customers/potential customers;
• employees/potential employees;
• the business community; and
• the media.
The key to public relations activities is to build awareness about your firm and what you can offer. The most-often considered tool in the PR toolbag is a press release. Perhaps you have hired a new salesperson, bought a new piece of equipment, or are launching a new product or service. Perhaps your company has been recognized by a customer as a preferred supplier, or an executive has earned an award or other public recognition.
Get the Word Out
Sending press releases to the local media, including your local business journal, is one way to get the word out. Including photos with the press release and placing follow-up calls to reporters and/or business editors will help your release stand out from the hundreds of others that hit the desks of media professionals. And identifying and building relationships with the key business reporters in your target publications is the next logical step to ensuring more coverage in the future.
But beyond press releases, there are many other ways to get your message out. You can hold face-to-face meetings, briefings and news announcement luncheons. You can work with the media to get interviews of company executives and key customers on interesting topics published. And don’t forget facility tours. Most local newspapers like to spotlight local businesses, and inviting business reporters for a facility tour may spark just such an article.
Special events, including road shows, awards ceremonies, trade shows, contests or open houses, can also be newsworthy and can gain your firm some ink in local media or trade publications.
Sir Speedy, of Naperville, IL, hosted an open house to unveil its new DI press, the first press of its type in the area. Not only was the CEO of the franchise organization there to support their efforts, but the mayor, local paper and local television station came as well. And, of course, customers and potential clients took part in the festivities, learning about new services they could take advantage of in the process.
Another mechanism is to generate a periodic printed or electronic newsletter with helpful information about preparing files for print, the role print can play as part of a multichannel campaign strategy, or the latest technologies that help customers solve real business problems. Feature customer success stories, philanthropic activities your company is involved in and other interesting information.
Corporate Press, Landover, MD, has a successful monthly newsletter called What’s Cookin’ that not only includes ways to improve marketing performance, tools for understanding paper grades, and print terms and jargon, but also includes a great recipe each month that is likely to ensure a longer life for the publication, as readers take it home to try out the new dish.
Getting involved with your local chamber of commerce, charitable organizations in your area, and professional associations to which your customers belong is another way to get your name out. Contact your local Ad Club or Creative Club—or the local chapter of the Public Relations Society of America—and offer to deliver an educational talk about how creatives can leverage digital printing technologies to differentiate themselves.
Offer to host a chapter meeting at your plant, and combine the educational event with food and drink and a plant tour. Invite the media or contact them following the event to get coverage, and don’t forget to take pictures.
Consistency is Key
Whatever approaches you choose to take, be sure to communicate a consistent message about your company. Having a clear grasp of your business priorities and market differentiators will help you in determining what those messages should be. But, more importantly, understanding how your specific products and services can further your customers’ business objectives will help you shape compelling messages that will attract the attention of both current and prospective clients.
Typically, companies think about public relations as a way to attract new customers—and it is. If your name and message are out there, it may generate calls from potential buyers or, at a minimum, make it easier for your sales force to get appointments. If you’ve had an exciting event that generated news coverage for you, make sure that coverage is featured prominently on your Website, in communications with customers and prospects, in your newsletter and in other communications you have with the outside world.
But don’t overlook the effect good PR will have on your employees. Happy workers who are proud of their organization tend to stay with a firm longer, produce better work, and contribute to greater customer satisfaction and loyalty. Make sure your employees see all of the great press coverage you are getting, and feature them in that coverage when appropriate—in pictures and in words.
Just like good PR can attract new customers, it can also attract new employees. Suttle-Straus, of Waunakee, WI, conducts plant tours for local schools to educate students and faculty about the exciting careers that are available in today’s graphic communications industry.
The firm hands out a customized version of a booklet produced by the Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation called “Careers in Graphic Communications.” The piece contains information about Suttle-Straus on the back and is also provided to local schools as a recruiting tool. And, by the way, Suttle-Straus also sponsors scholarships through the organization (www.pgsf.org), which offers yet another PR opportunity for the printer, as well as an opportunity for a deserving student to better prepare for a career in graphic communications.
Employing public relations tactics and strategies is an effective, and cost-effective, way to keep your name in the public eye. Put your creativity—and that of your team—to work and lay out a PR plan that will put your firm on the map. Don’t forget to include this “forgotten” marketing tool in your marketing bag of tricks. PI
About the Author
Cary Sherburne is a well-known journalist, author and strategic marketing consultant working primarily with the printing and publishing industry. She is a frequent speaker at industry events, a regular contributor to industry publications and has written three books, available through the National Association for Printing Leadership (www.napl.org). Sherburne can be reached at Cary@SherburneAssociates.com.