Why PR? Start by Asking “What,” “Who” and “How”

Flamboyant and often abrasive, Dallas Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban was in the news earlier this year for warning start-ups away from hiring public relations professionals. Cuban has long been able to leverage PR on his own to attract attention.

But how many business owners have Cuban's natural instinct for self-promotion? The rest of us should determine if there is an advantage to investing in a PR professional.

Here are some questions businesses can ask themselves:

What are our goals? To raise our profile with investors? To support a brand launch? To guard against competitive threats? To salvage our reputation? To leverage a current event into more business? Short- or long-term, goals keep the team on track as it engages target audiences with key messages.

Who are the intended audiences? Locating them, understanding their interests and needs, and identifying media outlets they frequent are the lynchpins of all aspects of a PR program--from building a media list to making connections with influencers to investing in broadcast distribution services.

How newsworthy are our stories?  Telling a story that reverberates with the media depends on a number of factors:

  • Is the story compelling? Relevant? Timely?
  • Who is involved? Are they well-known? What have they accomplished in the past?
  • Do we have news that is novel? Breakthrough? Unprecedented? One-of-a kind? Problem-solving?
  • Who does this story most affect?
  • Is this an industry that is widely covered or highly specialized and niche?
  • How big is the relevant trade media market?
  • What are the running national, state and local narratives?

How does PR fit into our promotional strategy and our marketing and advertising plans? Paid and earned media should work together as if in a dance.

How will we mesh PR with social media? With our website? SEM? SEO? Integration is key.

How will we ensure internal "buy-in"? Successful PR programs are partnerships with open communication and mutual support.

How is success defined? Steer clear of pronouncements, as PR is never, ever guaranteed. Establish baseline metrics; track impressions and click-throughs; and generate mechanisms to gather feedback from your audiences.