Public Relations Q & A

I was over ten years into my career before I understood the purpose and real value of PR. I always thought of it as only needed when there was a problem. I never thought of it as the single most important promotional tool within the promotional arsenal–until I launched Netscape Navigator. When I saw the sheer volume of buzz that could be generated, with relatively little cost, I learned that PR had the greatest ROI of any of my campaigns–I couldn’t afford to pay for enough ads to get the same number of positive impressions I could with the press.

As explained in the PR ROI section, it wasn’t until I was a VP of Marketing at Goldmine, that I was finally able to calculate the monetary value of our PR. Goldmine had won PC Magazine’s Editor’s Choice for over 8 consecutive years. Since the company produced the best contact manager and used it internally, they would track everything–including the source for all inbound leads. When I ran the analysis reports I could calculate the inbound calls we received from ad campaigns, versus those we obtained when we got positive press. I was surprised to see that the press hits generated more leads than any of our ads. I could finally quantify it and I’ve been a die-hard fan of promotional press ever since.

If you’ve gone through this section you will have seen the process of identifying the targets, finding their editorial schedules, preparing for any crisis, preparing your internal teams to talk with the press, getting your messaging down, and finally how to track and measure your PR effectiveness.

Following are some basic questions and answers regarding PR:

  • How do you hire a good PR person?
    • I usually call the editors of my target publications and ask them who they like to work with and why. This is how I found Katy, who helped with the Netscape launch. The editor I spoke with said, “She is one of only two people who have my private line and can call me directly anytime.” Now that’s a referral. I also find a good PR person that I respect and ask for referrals. During the interview I know I’ve got the right person if they bring a big book of press hits.  Good promotional PR folks love to “count scalps,” and will love to show off the results they achieved. BTW, the second person he mentioned was Brenda–my PR Director at Goldmine (who worked with two of the best in the industry).
  • How do you hire a good PR firm and when should you?
    • I typically hire the PR firm after I have first hired someone internally to manage them. I usually try to do 70% of the work internally (this is true with any outsourcing). This way the internal folks are always busy, even when it is slow. I then outsource any overflow work to an outside agency. An outside agency is especially valuable during a new product launch when you have to book appointments for the new release and the press tour. I have used them to help accelerate our strategy, and to help with event tactics.
      I also use an outside agency to augment the PR contacts of my internal person. For example, my internal person may have years of experience with our specific trade publications, but little exposure to the national pubs or to TV and Radio.  I will use an agency that has the additional needed contacts.
  • How and why should I work with industry analysts?
    • The industry analysts are experts in their specific markets. As such, they need to stay in the know about the various vendors and technologies. They are interested in your product and company and how it compares. They use this information to generate reports and seminars that are circulated to their paying accounts. They also consult with their accounts and are referenced by the press as they categorize products and make product and technology recommendations. If they are aware of your product and it’s positioning, and it meets one of their client’s needs, you will get a third-person recommendation (either one on one (i.e., consulting), or within their reports). They are also critical allies to validate your market positioning to the press and key accounts. This valuable “referencing” is critical to move your product from the early adopter stage to the early market stage within the technology adoption cycle.

There are additional questions and responses regarding PR within the Chanimal Blog.

In addition, for additional information and for a pragmatic guide showing how real PR is done, download the Guide to Managing Media and Public_Relations (PDF). It is older, but it is still one of the most comprehensive, practical guides to all promotional PR that I have ever found (all in one PDF (prints to 48 pages)). This document has been submitted to the Linux reservoir and as such is open source (so long as it is left intact). As such, I won’t quote from it (since it would make parts of this site a derivative work (it helps that I understood the GNU license while over strategy at a corporation).

Check out The Peters Group

I have used several large (Cunningham (Apple’s PR firm)) and a few small (Katy Dunn) PR firms.  Having gone both directions, I prefer the smaller firms–the larger ones send the VP’s to make an impression and close the deal, but you end up working with a junior PR person.

I also want a group that helps me set the strategic direction, can execute to plan, within budget, and help obtain the needed ROI for the campaign.  While I  was the Sr. VP of Marketing at Metrowerks (pre-Motorola acquisition) I discovered The PetersGroup.  They are a mid-sized firm, with small firm attention.  I used them again at Motorola, and again while with GE.  I wholeheartedly recommend The PetersGroup for both small and large PR projects.

Shout out to Spread The News

A specific PR person I have worked with for mass pitching to the press is Todd Brabender at Spread The News Public Relations. I know of nobody better in the entire industry to run a proactive pitch campaign when you have a new product or service. Read the blog I wrote about him, “How to Pitch to the Press.” I HIGHLY recommend his services.

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