With the recent unveiling of Peter Capaldi as The Next Doctor, for those of us who love Dr Who, the spotlight has also fallen on his other TV persona – Malcolm Tucker, the caustic spin doctor in the BBC series ‘The Thick of It’. Unfortunately his character gives PR a bad name and delights those that see it as a way to cover up bad news and spin a web of lies around a hapless audience. Happily it’s nothing like that and we should reclaim ‘the spin doctor’ for all that is positive about good PR.
Put simply, PR, or public relations, is about managing the relationships that a business, or even a celebrity, might have with anyone that crosses their path. The sphere of influence that is your audience doesn’t stop at customers and prospective customers – the world is a big place and anyone could have an opinion on you, your business or products. It should extend to your employees and potential employees, local and international communities, and beyond to potential funders. It’s not just about who you might want to sell to.
Here are some thoughts on what PR should be about and hopefully it might encourage you to release your inner spin doctor for positive gain.
Be true to yourself
Good PR is about raising profile, managing the perceptions that different audiences might have, and getting the right messages out there. It’s not about hiding unsavoury facts or pulling the wool over people’s eyes, as some might have it. Apart from anything else, assuming you have a good product, why would you even consider doing that?
Businesses that go down that road always get found out in the end and then they become too busy managing the crisis to manage the business.
It’s much easier, and so much more fun, to get the business right in the first place. When you do that you can use your energy to spin the stories that celebrate your success. Be true to yourself and use PR to share positive news and ideas with your audiences.
The power of endorsement
PR is also about using the ‘third party recommendation’ to create the buzz – getting someone else to shout about how great you are. When it comes from somewhere else it’s easier to believe and that’s just one reason why it can be more powerful than advertising. Those endorsements are a crucial part of PR and, in an age where it’s so easy for us to talk to everyone everywhere, it is important not to broadcast but to engage, and be engaged, across traditional and social media.
Use testimonials from customers and employees to tell your stories and put them everywhere. We all like to hear from ‘people like us’ who have tried and tested the very thing we are looking for. If your services helped to make someone’s wedding day the best day of their lives get them to shout about it for you. Also, if you are a business looking for staff, you want the best to want to work for you and one way to attract them is by letting them hear from the happy souls who already work for you. Think about what the About Us section of your website says about your business and how you might back it up with stories from your staff.
Whatever you do make sure that the messages you put out there are the right messages, that they are consistent, and that you put them where they will be seen by the right people.
Make the most of trusted voices
When you read an article or hear a bit of news about a business it leaves you with an impression – good or bad – and the more you trust the carrier of the news the bigger the impact and the longer lasting the effect of what you’ve heard. Similarly if you hear someone who you trust, as an expert, speak at a conference you are more likely to take note of the message. If they recommend a book, event or product, you might even consider trying it because you trust the recommendation. Get to know those trusted voices and tell them your story.
Be a trusted voice
Blog, speak, or publish in some other medium, where you can be the expert. You may run a wine bar so why not start a blog on the latest in food and wine matches, organise wine tastings – get in a local wine expert and blog about that. Become the place people come to because they know they will leave with a great bottle and good advice on enjoying it. As the blog gets more followers you may find that it’s not just the locals that are taking notice – next thing you know you could be that speaker or writing that book…
If you have the confidence, speaking at key events is a great way to raise the profile and to get the attention of journalists in your field. If you’re not then, don’t worry, there are plenty of other ways in which PR can get you and your business out there.
It’s not just about the press release
PR can be much more fun than just sending out press releases to every media contact you ever had, and then chasing relentlessly to get the coverage. You could organise events around your expertise or business and get the press interested in something a bit more substantial, or approach the media with ideas for writing a regular column that’s a bit different. Or why not write an article or guest blog.
Social media has made it so much easier for small businesses to be seen and it is probably the most powerful PR tool. It gives us the chance to increase our sphere of influence and we can reach out to the whole world to spin our stories if we want to. However when we do, we must make sure that we are also listening so that we can respond, engage and be part of the conversation.
Share you thoughts in the comments below!