As we start the 2012 planning process, it’s important to remember what the goal is for the year and put programs in place that make it accomplishable. The goal can be operational (demonstrate the value of a professional services organization), geographical (show relevance of products in new markets), financial (articulate revenue growth, vertical market relevance and/or channel development), leadership (ensure the market understands how the company is impacting the industry), or any one of a dozen other legitimate goals that a company, and its marketing department, might develop.
Many times, these goals are set within a company, shared internally and never spoken of again until December rolls around and executives want to see how the company performed against these goals. It’s easy to get caught up in the next news release, trade show, conference or webinar and forget that all of these items should be vehicles to help your company achieve one or more of its objectives.
For PR, the goals could be as simple as cultivating 10 new “champions” within the press and analyst community. To us, a champion is a press or analyst that follows the company regularly and understands what it’s trying to achieve and, at some level, believes your company will be able to achieve these goals. They understand how all the pieces of your company fit together and how each part plays a role in your company’s ability to win. These are reporters and analysts that don’t just write about your company when you have announcements, but also include you in stories they create about market trends and they view your company as an influencer in the industry.
Let’s take a look at that goal and break down how it can be achieved.
· Identify 15 press/analysts that you’d like to convert from passive to active followers of your company.
· Create a matrix of their recent coverage to understand what they cover specifically and how they treat information about your type of products and/or services within their coverage.
· Invite them for a deep dive or “lunch and learn” where they get access to company executives (CEO, CTO, COO) that normally aren’t part of your briefing team.
· Create pitches that are relevant to what they are writing about, not just their beat.
· When pitching or briefing, reference recent articles to show that you’re paying attention to their work.
· Create a six month story arch that gives them unique access into how your company thinks and how it plans to win in the marketplace, and then update them as you achieve these metrics.
· Offer to become a technical resource on issues they are covering, even if this potentially means interviews conducted don’t result in immediate coverage.
· Check in with them regularly to ask what they are working on and make suggestions about topics they haven’t covered yet that apply to their beat.
When identifying the 15 prospects, you’ll need to understand which companies they are currently covering and if they have any existing biases or favorites among your competitors. If they do, go ahead and include them, but realize this is a harder objective to achieve but often much more rewarding.
At the end of 2012, review how this program went and make adjustments with certain press/analysts that you weren’t able to cultivate. If some just aren’t interested, then pick others that you can begin to work with during the following six months.
It’s important to remember that at the core of any press or analyst relationship is trust. That they trust you to give them honest, relevant information and that you’re willing to help them do their jobs more effectively and efficiently. Break that trust and you can lose these relationships forever.
No matter what category your 2012 goals lie in, developing a step-by-step plan to actually achieve them is critical. Successful PR programs require constant attention – once you’ve visualized where you want to be, remember to actively revisit and evolve the track you’ve put in place to get there and you’ll be closing a successful 2012 before you know it.