Want to secure meaningful business growth? 8 essential tips to ensure smart use of PR & communications
The last 12 months has been a huge challenge all round for obvious reasons, something the creative sector is still grappling with and which will continue to cast a shadow for some time. However, this monumental and unexpected covid-shaped ‘curveball’ has simultaneously presented a unique opportunity for a universal positive ‘reset’ across a multitude of areas – some might even say the ultimate ‘creative brief’ for the design and innovation community to step up, take centre stage and show the world just how much of a critical lynchpin their work is in leading us all into a brighter, better and optimistic future.
Everyone has their favourite quote about the irrefutable impact of PR & communications on growth and reputation, but if ever there was a moment to capitalise on sharing with your target audiences who you are as a business, what you do and why it matters, now is the time.
Since 2013, TDC has had the privilege of representing a diverse range of clients sitting at the confluence of technology, design and creative across a rich array of innovative and category-leading projects and campaigns. While every business is different and has its own unique set of communications needs, we’ve come across some common challenges that our clients and their peers often face when seeking to raise their profile – whether embarking on PR and communications for the very first time or ramping it up as a fundamental component of the business development process.
These eight pointers are designed to help steer businesses who are thinking about engaging in PR services or who want to inject new life and targeted rigour into their existing communications activity:
1) Secure leadership alignment
Your chosen PR partner will have in their armoury a wide mix of communications tools and tactics to potentially employ in order to best support your particular needs. The primary objective of your PR team will be to serve these needs in the best possible way and to demonstrate ongoing value.
However, before the blend of tactics and activity is confirmed as part of a targeted communications strategy, it is first mission critical to have internal buy in and alignment across your senior team as to the purpose, value, focus and desired outcome of any external communications outreach. If appropriate, your PR partner will be able to facilitate these discussions so a consensus can be reached.
Achieving this internal alignment right from the outset ensures the efficient use of your investment in external communications with 100% of activity from this point on focused primarily on delivery and results.
2) Set KPIs from the get-go
Another critical part of ‘set up’ is agreeing KPIs by which to track agreed activity on an ongoing basis – without them, you’re flying blind and not fully optimising your investment in PR support. Ideally these will be for the duration of any engagement or project but at the very least on a month-by-month basis.
Solid KPIs give all parties a clear and measurable framework which allows for ongoing calibration of strategy and activity.
Depending on need, common activities captured by KPIs would include a mix of press releases, thought leadership pieces, LinkedIn content, press comment inclusions, media briefings and speaking opportunities.
3) Get positioning clear from the start
One of the most common challenges is nailing down positioning. This is understandable as often the main visionaries or creative leaders of companies are so heavily involved in driving the business they don’t have the time, or headspace, to take a step back and work out how best to position what they do. The crucial challenge is underpinning a PR strategy with a clear and succinct positioning that truly reflects you and what you do.
As outsiders to your business, but astute communicators, PR professionals can be the missing part of the puzzle for companies struggling to figure out how best to talk about themselves. Often, one of the first pieces of work we often do with clients is to help them clarify what makes them unique and ensure that is communicated on their website and social media, before building a PR strategy around that. As ever, the simpler, more concise and jargon-free your positioning is, the better.
4) Connect communications and business development
Not surprisingly, the majority of businesses making smart use of communications are doing so to grow their influence and attract new business. We’ve seen time and again with our clients, how an approach to a new prospect supported by a new, relevant piece of media coverage on your company, can be a very powerful sell.
Especially in times like these, when budgets are likely under more scrutiny as a consequence of the covid pandemic, it’s absolutely essential PR and business development strategies work hand-in-hand and the respective teams support each other with leads and content. The list of target sectors, the types of clients/projects you want to win, and your positioning to new clients should mirror the messages that your PR partners are using when they talk about you to the media.
5) Let ALL your team shine and unlock the ‘shared brain’
You’ve hired your team members for a reason (if not, ask yourself why?) – let people know and celebrate it. One of the things that makes your company truly unique is the team you’ve built and the individual viewpoints and specialities they all bring to the table. Whether it’s creative, strategic, business, marketing or design acumen, insights from the whole team can play an important part in the company’s outward profile. Any company unconsciously (or consciously!) stunting the voices, profile and autonomy of key team members risks coming across as tone deaf to current times, which results in only limited successes at best.
It’s our job to get to know the key players – to help unlock great thoughts from great minds – and turn them into engaging content. Working out your team’s different areas of expertise and specialisms also allows your PR partner to be more proactive about seeking out a wide range of relevant media comment opportunities for your company. This approach helps to create a 360-degree impression of your company and helps position your core team as experts and thought leaders in their field.
6) Acquaint yourself with today's media landscape
When we first start working with new clients, their minds are often set on securing a big feature about themselves in a world-leading media title as soon as possible. We love being challenged and placing features in national/international media is an important part of our work. But, with today’s rapidly changing media landscape, there are so many other platforms and methods available for companies to tell their stories. And sometimes, depending on the story, it can be the smaller-scale media titles or the individual bloggers that end up having the most reach. Ideally, media coverage for your company should be spread across a range of platforms and publications. Asking your PR partner to help get you acquainted with the full range of opportunities and platforms is an excellent way to ensure you’re not missing any opportunities.
7) Make the right connections
A successful communications strategy is not only about carving out a niche to allow your company to stand apart from competitors. It’s also about making the right connections with third parties to build your positioning, audience, reach and authority in your sector. This could be collaborating with a non-competitive company on a self-directed project for mutual benefit; partnering with an industry event to host or participate in a panel discussion; working with an educational institution to set a student brief; hosting your own event with the support of a media partner or relevant brand; seeking opportunities to judge industry awards. The list is infinite and a crucial part of your PR partner’s work should be exploring the most relevant connections they can make in order for you to boost your business.
8) Lean on your partnership for optimum results
Finally, an important reminder to always consider your engagement with any PR & communications service as a key strategic partnership. The best way to make the most of it is to plug your chosen PR partners in as an extension of your team.
You will have chosen your PR partner for their expertise, insight, connections and perspectives so make the most of this by keeping them regularly updated on ‘big picture’ company strategy, news and any unexpected internal challenges that may arise from time to time. Beyond business-as-usual activity, an external objective perspective from a team familiar with your type of business can often prove invaluable for planning best next steps.
If the foundations of the partnership are laid down well, then there is no end to the possibilities of what strategic communications can help you achieve for your business.
About Tim Duncan
Tim is founder and managing director of TDC PR, an international communications consultancy building growth and reputation for clients at the confluence of Technology, Design & Creative.
TDC are adept in devising, developing and delivering comprehensive strategic and tactical plans for external communications in support of business development, marketing, and reputation management.
With an enthusiastic passion for both the cultural and economic significance of the creative industries Tim and his team at TDC help companies, creative agencies and individuals in a wide variety of fields including product design, innovation, brand and packaging, digital, brand experience, retail and hospitality design, transport design, creative education, architecture and interiors.
Tim is an accredited member of the DBA Experts Register.