Success in public relations requires planning, not “just a news release”

One of the most troubling questions public relations practitioners are asked goes like this: “We just need a news release. Can you do a news release for us? How much would a news release cost?”

As I cringe inside and try to avoid an obvious eye-roll, I attempt to keep my composure as I respond: “Well, there are some things to think about first: What is your objective, how will you measure success, who is your target audience, what is the messaging that will motivate them, what is your call to action, and for gosh sakes, what is your NEWS, who should care and why?”

Often, I hear only silence. The fact is, if you have to ask that question, you really don’t need a news release. You will be wasting your money if you find someone to write one and then “send it out.”

Ah, but here’s a thought: You might actually need an objective-based communications campaign plan. And, if you are talking to a seasoned public relations professional (and we actually have a few here at Clearview Communications and Public Relations Inc.), a news release will absolutely not be part of that plan.

However, your plan may include various appropriate communications initiatives, and several well-crafted and well-thought-out news releases might be part of the plan. Might not. If so, they will be supported by appropriate social media initiatives, audience engagement events, speaking gigs, perhaps videos, radio and television appearances (only after mandatory media interview skills training), op-ed submissions and journalist/blogger deskside interviews or coffees, along with other tactics.

Now, we are getting somewhere. Your plan must include these very basic components:

  • Objective: A simple description of what you want to accomplish with your communications campaign, all quantified in measureable metrics. What do you want your target audience to do or think? And, who is your target audience? (Remember, there is no such thing as the general public anymore).
  • Strategy: Describe the overall approach and process you will use to reach your objective. Will the campaign leverage traditional or social media, rely on permission-givers or thought leaders to move the audience, require event management, and, will it focus on a broad or specifically targeted audience? (Are you assertive in a positive, proactive situation, or in reactionary mode, as in damage control?)
  • Tactics: Identify the specific action items in your arsenal of tools you will apply to support the strategy. Here, we may actually be able to determine IF a regularly timed cascade of appropriate, well-written news releases, optimized for the search engines, are part of that arsenal. We call this tactic organic SEO, and when we do it at Clearview, the process beats the heck out of Google Ad Words in driving traffic).
  • Timeline: What will be the duration of the communications campaign in order to execute the strategy with supporting tactics to achieve the objective?
  • Budget: What have we calculated will be the financial requirement to staff up to execute the tactics? Will the budget be allocated by monthly retainer, hourly or project fee? What could ROI look like, and was that question answered in the objective-setting process?

So, considering all of the above, we now have an organized, structured program for a communications campaign that will motivate your target audiences to take specific action or to change behaviors, is measureable, will provide a return on your investment that is acceptable to you and your agency, and enhance your brand’s positive visibility.

The alternative, that single news release, would have gone deep into the darkness of that black hole where all single news releases go to die, with everyone wondering why nothing happened.


Business owners considering sale can increase book value with branding campaign

At a member mixer for the Tampa  Chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth, I became troubled in conversation with a couple of startup entrepreneurs. They were concerned they were not achieving the outside funding/investments they needed to grow. When I asked how they were marketing themselves to potential investors and funding partners, they responded that, well, they were “doing a lot of word of mouth.”

Not a good answer. So, I was reminded of some research I’d done last year about the dollar and brand value of visibility versus invisibility. Although my research was examining the value of market visibility before a merger or sale, the information I gathered is valuable for startups seeking funding as well. I’ll share it here:

“If this business were split up, I would give you the land and bricks and mortar, and I would take the brands and trademarks, and I would fare better than you.”

–John Stewart, Chairman of Quaker, about 1900

Owners considering sale or merger should be doing all they can to improve company book value – and increase profit. One established method of doing both is to plan and launch a well-crafted external communications campaign that drives positive visibility to multiply brand value. Here is some research that supports taking that action:

  • Brand value can be used to negotiate a price when licensing the brand, transferring the brand to another firm, or valuing a firm for mergers and acquisitions (Justin Anderson, Cal State).
  • A study by Interbrand and JP Morgan concluded that on average, brands, that is, positive market visibility, account for 30% of shareholder value. The converse? No brand recognition may deprive you and your firm of 30% of its market value.
  • For major brands, the shareholder value of the highly visible brand is much higher. For Coca-Cola, the brand name alone is estimated at 60% of market cap. For Microsoft, 65%; IBM, 51%; GE, 41%; Disney, 29%; Mercedes-Benz, 21%. McDonalds? An astonishing 71%. Visibility is indeed valuable, while invisibility is worthless.
  • In general, name brands command 30% more margin than generics (common, standard, non-specific). Which one are you? Brand or generic?
  • There is a global trend in corporate accounting to treat the brand value as an asset on the balance sheet that in some cases has more genuine shareholder value than factories and employees.
  • Brand value can be calculated as the net present value of future price premiums that a branded product will command over an unbranded or generic equivalent.
  • People will pay more for a branded product than a generic one, and more for a favored brand than the alternatives. (Brand research firm Millward Brown).
  • Brand equity has been defined as the financial value that a firm derives from customer response to the marketing of a brand.
  • Investors will and should pay more for a firm that owns brands with favorable brand imagery associations and strong loyalty than a similar firm with less appealing brands (Madden et all 2006).
  • The firm that owns the brand derives economic rent, which is earned revenue to the firm; the firm benefits from the favorable associations created by the firm’s marketing policies for the brand.
  • Brand image resides in the consumers’ minds, but brand equity is a dollar value to the firm. It is the profit that a firm makes from owning the brand.