Throughout my career I have seen the discipline of public relations mature and evolve.
When starting out PR was a fairly predictable discipline. Standard strategies like press tours, tradeshows, press releases and launch events drove the bulk of a company’s brand story.
Then like many other industries rapid innovation and technology disruptions changed the way stories were created, told and shared.
Throughout it all one constant remained unchanged. At its core, the art and essence of PR comes down to one thing: storytelling.
Every brand, technology, product, and person has a story to tell. Whether you are a business of five people or a Fortune 50 company, you need to know how tell your story the right way, at the right time, to the right people.
How do you do it? Here are three PR principles I apply at Porch, a home improvement network, where I serve as VP of brand communications.
1. The story comes first.
PR practitioners need to be storytellers that understand every nuance of the business. There are both internal and external communications benefits when they are engrained from the start. What is the company’s vision? How do the products people create bring that vision to life? What is the business positioned to do that nobody else can do? How will you make the life of your customers and partners better? What is the mission everyone will make possible? Every one of these questions must be addressed as a company works to builds its brand and its culture.
How do you do this? You literally need to take the time to write the stories you want tell. What do you want people to feel when they read or hear about your brand? Sitting down and writing the story will help you identify gaps and weaknesses. Be brutally honest. If you don’t have all the pieces to tell a great story, then you should not be telling the story yet.
2. The three crucial levels to pull
PR is more than just media relations. That is still an important element, but there are now at least three major levers every company needs to consider when it comes to telling their story: traditional, syndicated and owned.
How do you do this?
Traditional: You still need to develop relationships with key press figures that follow your industry. Whether it is The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New York Times or a trade publication, you need to cultivate and maintain press relationships so you can help them tell the stories and report the news to their readers.
Syndicated: Syndication occurs when companies have relationships with online properties to produce tailored or specific content for their reader. Every day thousands of brands syndicate as the world of 24/7 online media requires fresh and interesting content. The best way to do this is to understand what you have to offer that a media entity would find valuable. Data, surveys, customer insights and other assets you have might be perfect for others to leverage.
Owned: The future of PR will be owned content. Assets you create that bring your story to life in a way that creates some type of emotional connection with your customers. Whether it is a blog post, a podcast or video content, this trend will continue as more companies look to have a direct conversation with their customers.
3. PR is a profit center, not a cost center.
The ROI on PR is off the charts. When you think about all the places your story goes and the impact it has, you simply can’t afford to not invest in the discipline. Because it’s not something that can be hacked and requires tremendous patience to see the payoff, some companies tend to look at PR as an overhead expense. In reality PR should be seen as a profit center. From recruitment to SEO growth and business development, PR can serve as a catalyst that gets your brand in front of the right people as you scale your business.
How do you do this?
Like any other part of the business success comes down to one asset: the people. At Porch we are a very small team (me and three others) and we don’t use an agency. At the end of the day your story is your intellectual property. Through the ups and downs of a business the one thing that never fades is your story, and that is not something you should put in external hands and it is not something you under invest in.