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The PR Agency With No News

by Zachary McVicker
Mustang Project Manager

Two common images used to illustrate taking care of someone else over one’s self are the starving baker and the cobbler’s kids not having any shoes. They are good metaphors and can be applied to a variety of scenarios.

I have seen it argued by public relations professionals that just because they don’t do public relations for themselves, that doesn’t mean they’re not good at what they do. They just don’t have the time because they are so swallowed in client work. In other words, the starving baker still makes great bread even though he doesn’t eat any of it.

I don’t think anyone working in the public relations world should try to justify that argument.

Public relations agencies and professionals should be evaluated by their ability to create news for themselves. This means trying to get coverage, publicity and new business through the same channels they spend so much time working with for clients.

If I were a company looking to hire an agency or someone for my communications department, I would take a hard look at the interest they are generating for themselves. If they can’t create a buzz for themselves (despite having a great grasp of their own company or career), how are they going to get positive placement or run a solid campaign for me? In a business environment that is always going to scrutinize public relations returns and overall effectiveness, this is not an uncommon approach to selecting a public relations team.

The problem, especially for smaller firms or independent consultants, is that there often doesn’t seem to be much time or resources to devote to doing public relations for themselves. Client work can become very time consuming. I am not at all advocating putting off client work, as it is obviously the lifeblood for public relations professionals.

But a future with clients isn’t always guaranteed. Maybe the budget gets slashed. Maybe they move out of state and want to go with someone closer. Maybe there’s a change to the marketing team and the new team wants to go with “their guy.” If an agency does not prepare for these possibilities by having solid visibility with industry and consumer publics, the results can be devastating.

I’m advocating making time for a public relations campaign of your own. Maybe that means working a few extra hours or reprioritizing some jobs, but at the very least it’s a worthy contingency plan. A public relations campaign is key for branding, generating new leads and reinforcing with your clients that you are a trailblazer. You can’t lead a client where you have not been before.

With that in mind, here are a few tips for honing your own public relations activity:

1. Write, Write and Write Some More

Writing will always be the backbone of PR, and demonstrating you are published frequently lends credibility to potential clients and casual observers. It also keeps your skills sharp and forces you to research PR tactics and attentive media contacts that can benefit clients, too.

Write on current trends in the industry, a recent PR nightmare or shining moment, or something in the news in your field of specialization. If you can secure op-ed placement in a local newspaper, a trade publication, business journal or website, do it. If you can’t, throw it on your blog.

And if don’t have a blog, get one. Everybody has one for a reason. They’re a great place to put content and showcase your writing, as well as increasing visibility and search engine optimization.

2. Use the Same Tools and Tactics for Yourself

Public relations companies can leverage press releases, publicity stunts, viral videos and contests, too. Something as simple as a new hire can be used for a release. What about doing a contest where you pick a nonprofit in the area and do some pro-bono work for them? Do you have standard pitches and media kits for your company? Use the same creative approach you use to brainstorm for your clients when thinking about how to market yourself.

When you utilize tools for your own purposes, it makes people take notice. They realize you have the capabilities and start asking for your help. If they see you utilizing social media well, they’ll come to you and ask you to handle it. If they see you write a column on legal issues in public relations, they will ask you for consulting help before they launch their next campaign.

3. Develop a Social Media Strategy

I’m not talking about just creating a Facebook page, LinkedIn profile and Twitter handle. The question is, what you are doing to do with them? You say the same thing to your clients, right? Well, it doesn’t carry that much weight when you aren’t doing it yourself.

Write a complete plan that has measurable tasks, goals and assigns people certain with maintenance. Use your Facebook beyond posting status updates that you’re awesome. You can now login as your company page, and you can use this to interact with other pages and followers. Make sure your LinkedIn company profile is as detailed as possible, and use the site to research new leads. Make your e-blasts interactive, inviting potential and current clients to get in touch with you.

If these sound simple, they are, because you know how to run a public relations campaign. The problem is you might not be doing any of it for yourself. These are just a reminder to make time for self-serving PR. Do it and watch your business, new and old, start to grow.

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