How often have you heard clients banging on the table wanting front-page news or prominent mention? What are the best ways of communicating good counsel to them?
One of the disconnects that some clients and PR counselors has to be just what public relations is. To some clients, PR is simply a cheaper way of "advertising". To these clients, they would often say things like, "can you guarantee the placement of my product launch in all the daily newspapers?" We can tell them, "yes, we can guarantee the placement of your product news in all the daily newspapers. The special projects teams of the newspapers can work with you and I, on a special advertorial that will be able to position your new product in the exact messaging that you prefer. We can help craft and edit the messaging to your preference. The budget for such advertorials will be $XYZ."
Some clients may believe ANYTHING they have to say or want to say, is newsworthy, and certainly to them, as newsworthy as national elections, major scandals, global economic slowdowns, major natural disasters, or some such news. The trouble is, public relations, implies that news has to serve the public at large, be important enough for the public at large, and serve public interest. A commercial launch of a niche product would certainly never qualify as news that serve the public at large and be important for the public at large. Being a commercial product launch with an agenda of selling the products for a profit, certainly would not be serving public interest either. Therefore, as counselors, we have to be honest with clients, and educate them on just what newsworthy stories can be, and how best to communicate commercial or niche products and their launches. There are many means to communicate products and launches, especially in the expanded communication platforms such as social media (even if some traditional mainstream communication channels are diminishing).
Other than relying on new methods of communication, such as using social media, setting up microsites and RSS feeds, and developing custom mobile and Web apps, we can also advise clients to look at the messaging itself.
For example, since a commercial product launch would not qualify as "breaking news", how do we look into the messaging of such a product launch to make it relevant to as many people as possible?
Without going into the specifics necessary to dissect specific products and how they can be launched, let us instead think of 3 succinct ways to describe how to make a commercial news useful to the media.
First, is there something thought-provoking in our messaging of the product and the launch? Are there pointed questions that we can ask upfront, to describe a pressing need, or a need that most people never thought existed?
Second, what kind of deep insights can we provide in our product messaging, whether it be analyses of global, regional or local trends, technological movements, usability studies, etc? These insights would not come easy, and demand research and statistics, but will be seen as useful by the media.
Third, how do we position the product as useful to as many people at the same time? This again demands research into the product. A product may serve the direct needs of a small group of administrators but may have great repercussions on the greater population of a corporation. Therefore, rather than simply centering on the product specifications and features, we should examine how the product would impact the people who manage or administer such products, and how the product can affect the greater communities of people within a corporation (or even beyond). In short, rather than zoom in on individual customers who may adopt the product, consider the greater impact of such products to the greater population.
Using the example of a network security product, which is traditionally seen as a niche and enterprise product, we must look beyond the obvious. Security is not just something network administrators should worry about, but has repercussions on the entire corporation and its user base, and also its interaction with its stakeholders - the corporation's customers, shareholders, partners and channels, the public population, and so on. Also, explore as many possible communication channels as possible, taking into account the mainstream media, the trade media, the social channels, and even the Web and mobile platforms. It is a rapidly evolving world and communication is evolving just as rapidly. Clients and PR counselors alike have to adapt to this new paradigm, fast.
More often than not, front-page news may not necessarily be great news. More importantly for clients, what are the products they are pitching to the public, and how can these products impact the greater population with importance and relevance. We are PR counselors have the responsibility of being honest with our clients as much as we have to do sufficient research (and demand our clients do that too) to bring the most relevant messaging to reach out to as many relevant communities as possible.