While working on the internal communications team of a Fortune-500 technology distributor, I was tasked with several initiatives – many of which I was solely responsible for, and for the others I was part of a team.
These included, in no particular order of importance: communicating organizational initiatives to internal staff, arranging events for internal town hall events as well as customer gatherings, creating presentations for a variety of sales- and corporate-focused meetings, and participating in an endless number of meetings that, well, I’m still not sure what the outcomes were.
One key element of the communications process that was missing was external communications of critical organizational objectives and missions on a regular basis.
Sure, we had plenty of product launches that were well-planned. And sometimes, they even generated the occasional article in a trade publication; but our understaffed team never made it a priority to proactively engage with the media – trade, business, or consumer – on a regular cadence to push an ongoing dialogue that would’ve shaped a leadership position in the industry.
Mind you, the kick in the gut we collectively experienced came from watching competitor after competitor repeatedly grab the spotlight in the press with a steady stream of stories. This left us constantly on the defensive with both senior management and sales teams who all saw competitors in the foreground of industry news.
It’s not that we weren’t capable, but that our internal team was regularly faced with prioritizing everything else on our plate, and external media always took a back seat.
Today I have different optics. I’m now leading a team of well-trained professionals who are tasked with helping our corporate clients obtain this publicity. We’re able to serve as an extension of the PR team for corporations and mid-level enterprise organizations who see great value in retaining the services of a PR agency that can handle and execute a number of critical communications initiatives:
Strategic Planning – The right PR and Marketing agency can sprint out of the gate and not only understand an organization’s message, but also add the right value to enhance the message and shape the narrative.
Audience Identification – Today, well qualified PR agencies have access to databases of millions of journalists. However, these marketers can now go beyond the databases to curate the right journalist at the right outlet for specific stories and initiatives.
Press Relations – This is one that’s truly critical. Many organizations, even some of today’s largest multinational companies, have a difficult time building relationships with the press because, like my prior company, they have too much on their plate. The right PR agency is focused on building and maintaining these relationships every day.
Storytelling – Even though we’re all communicators, internal comms teams tend to tell their own message in a way that comes off as promotional. The right PR agency doesn’t have this internal filter. They’re strictly focused on developing and sharing a story that will resonate with the needs of a journalist and their audience. The additional benefit is that they’re also adding data and research to the message.
Lead-Gen: PR agencies have traditionally been guided by an awareness-gen strategy. But today, qualified agencies with an integrated reach can build programs that combine awareness-gen strategies with lead-gen, so that the communications effort can contribute to the sales funnel.
Measurement – Our agency does not rely on an out-of-the-box measurement platform for communications results. We’ve built our own platform, which allows us to fully customize measurement to the unique needs of every client. Besides publicity results, it also has the scalability to include additional components such as lead-gen and marketing campaigns. As a result of this platform, we’ve been able to track a quantifiable PR return on investment (ROI) level of 11X for client expenditures. This means the average value of PR our clients receive is $11 for every $1 they invest with us. This metric is significantly important in helping our client PR teams report success up to the C-Level.
Considering whether it’s time to hire a PR and Marketing agency is never an easy task. It will always be a budget-based decision no matter how large the organization. However, the intangibles that come from knowing your brand has ripple effects that last for years. Plus, they impact every facet of an organization, from sales and overall employee morale, to analyst calls that give executives bragging rights on brand exposure. Knowing this, can you really afford NOT to hire the right PR agency?
About The Author: John Sternal is a partner with Merit Mile, a full-service, integrated marketing communications firm that specializes in PR and social media, lead-gen and marketing campaigns, interactive development, and market research.
Do you have additional questions on the topic? Click here to email Merit Mile and schedule a short consultative session with our team to discuss how we can help your brand get more results.