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Martin Wales

[August 5, 2002]

Customer Catcherâ„¢

By Martin Wales

Profiting With PR Power, Part I:
Public Relations For Your Technology Marketing

Why is public relations critical to your business success? How can you get your company in the media spotlight? How can you get them there more often? What are the advantages and disadvantages? These questions and others have inspired this series of columns on public relations (PR).

Let's begin with why PR is critical to your marketing strategy. Later, we'll discuss developing your strategic PR plan, PR vs. advertising, press releases, and promotional events. Finally, we'll look at the pros and cons of hiring a PR firm compared with taking the economical  DIY path.

PR Power Means Profit
Many tech companies commonly acknowledge the power of public relations, yet it remains underutilized, or ineffectively applied, as a powerful marketing tool.

Media coverage gives you access to prospective buyers, investors, additional media coverage, and centers of influence. It is a subtle introduction rather than an aggressive promotional or sales pitch. PR also contributes to your existing client's confidence with their original decision to work with you, while keeping you at the front of their minds for referral business.

Increase Your Lead Generation
PR is strategic communication with your market place to increase awareness about your company, your product and services, or your industry in various media. Print media includes magazines, newsletters, and newspapers while broadcast media is via television or radio. The Internet is a hybrid of both the print and broadcast media and offers great advantages, especially to smaller, growth organizations.

PR is primarily used for publicity in brand building, in the promotion and launch of new products, and for public announcements, related to investor relations or attracting investment capital. In addition, PR is used for the undesirable task of damage control, such as a response to a publicly filed lawsuit. These are all worthy reasons, but the greatest reason behind them all really should be to get people calling you to buy your product.

How PR Fits Into Your Marketing
You must recognize that PR is one tool in your marketing toolbox. However, it can be the most powerful when applied properly, especially when it is interlaced with other marketing efforts, like your Web site, advertising, direct mail, conferences, and trade shows.

A properly developed PR strategy is cost-effective when compared to the cost of advertising. That's not to say it should replace advertising or be your only public communication channel. In fact, if integrated correctly, PR increases the effectiveness of all your marketing efforts. For example, when you launch a Web site, you publish a press release to increase your site traffic. A new Web site may not be news unto itself, but you can focus on your innovative, interactive services for education or other user benefits... now, it's news.

Get Results With Your PR
PR must be implemented with clear objectives. Without them, confusing messages or negative perceptions may result. Concise, powerful statements lead to greater control of your message. One challenge with using the media is that your message can be distorted and twisted, or taken out of context.

The best messages are clear and simple and deliver measurable results. Money is wasted if you merely count media "hits." Larger corporations are able to afford media campaigns merely to maintain brand awareness. Small and medium enterprises must be more concerned about immediate and direct reaction to their PR efforts.

These objectives cannot be emphasized enough: Your primary PR objective should be to increase contact or inquiries into your business to engage new prospects in your sales process and to upsell, or cross-sell, your existing clients. Secondary objectives include gaining additional media coverage and positioning your company as a leader within your industry.

Gain Credibility
Being chosen as a subject for media coverage gives the impression that you're credible. The media machine is perceived to have filters in place to select professional and credible experts to comment on industry trends or events. If you've dealt with the media, you may have already experienced being pre-screened or interviewed by an assistant or executive producer, editor, or journalist prior to being chosen for a TV or radio interview or for a published column.

Why would leading television networks or newspapers pick you over the hundreds or thousands of other specialists or business leaders? They have professional reputations to protect around the quality of their content and its accuracy. By positioning yourself in the media, you gain this media credibility by association.

Enjoy Third Party Promotion
This is a positive side effect of the credibility factor. The fact that you emerged from the media selection process as a credible expert for your opinion, or as a news story focus, automatically gives you the benefit of some third party promotion.

Since the media is generally accepted as an objective source, there is an accompanying sense of recommendation. Haven't you yourself investigated a product after reading a positive review in a magazine or on the Web?

Is Any Publicity Good Publicity?
Recently several companies have successfully made front-page news -- for the wrong reasons. Major tech companies have been dominating the financial and business news for mail, wire, and securities fraud. WorldCom and Adelphia former executives have been photographed being led away in handcuffs by FBI agents. Obviously, this is not the way anyone wants to be in the news, and it is certainly the exact opposite of the media coverage you desire.

However, this example does show two things. First, your company can become well known in a short period of time given a lot of media coverage. Second, it is indicative of a trend in the mainstream media that you should be aware of, but also take advantage of, when approaching them. Media outlets tend to give front pages and more space to "negative" stories than to positive ones. So, play on this angle. For example, your press release could state how your latest software is a solution for the "struggling companies in the telecom sector, as world markets increase pressure for better financial performance."

In Summary
Public relations works within any budget and can yield massive results. PR builds credibility and third party recommendations for your sales team. You need a comprehensive strategy and clear, concise messages. PR is a subtle marketing approach you can use to build sales. Use it to introduce and raise awareness, not just for a hard sell -- it is an opportunity to educate rather than demonstrate.

PR is an immediately applicable marketing tactic. It's a priority in all successful tech marketing. Get out there and make some headlines!

Martin Wales, The Customer Catcherâ„¢, "helps you get customers 'til you beg him to stop." Using your company's existing resources, he creates maximum results with minimum risk. E-mail [email protected] with "Referrals" in the subject line for info on the latest audio program, "How to Grow Your Business Profits by Increasing Client Referrals." Your questions and comments are always welcome too.

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