Giving your PR a work out; exercising your PR in tough times

I received three emails on the back of my post last week "When the going gets tough, the tough get communicating - or why the tough need muscles". I guess getting emails rather than comments underlines the more private nature of such discussions. The post finished by promising to come back with "ways to get your marketing communications to the gym", and that's the subject here.

If you have a good personal trainer, what do they do for you? They bring discipline. They set targets and encourage you to meet them. They don't waste your time with activity that doesn't contribute to hitting those targets. They keep track of progress and get to know your strengths and weaknesses, literally, and often better than you.

In many ways, this is analogous to your public relations consultancy. As I said in my last post, your marketing communications is muscle and not fat. If you work with a great consultancy, this muscle will be toned and responsive to current market conditions and challenges (if it’s not, change it today).

I asked our Managing Director (and CIPR President Elect 2009), Jay O’Connor, to summarise the characteristics of a well toned PR campaign in four bullet points…

Your consultancy’s approach will have the following characteristics.  This may seem obvious stuff, but it is surprising how little rigour there can be in the PR process:

  • PR campaign plans are mapped to the business – and reviewed regularly to ensure it is always in line. Plans include the following cascades: 1. Business objectives to PR objectives; 2. Objectives to PR strategy; 3. PR strategy to tactics; 4. Measures to objectives
  • The plan includes tightly focused measurables (business impact measures not just ‘PR stuff’)
  • The approach encompasses all points of influence, including media any other groups that are key to the business and based on a crystal clear understanding of the market and key stakeholders (avoiding any default to one audience group over another)
  • Progress against plan is transparent, to the point and reviewed regularly

Thanks Jay.

Without such a plan cascade, neither you nor your PR team can be certain that every day, every hour, every minute of effort is ‘value-adding’ as opposed to ‘non-value adding’, as defined in last week’s post. Good practitioners recognise the difference between these two. First class practitioners recognise that any one activity may be categorised either way depending on the campaign in question.

If your PR team exhibits the characteristics above, your muscles are ready to be flexed, ready to engage in these difficult times, but as any athlete will tell you (and I’m not an athlete by the way!), performance is as much mental as physical. So that brings me to the cerebral stuff to complete the picture here.

Delivering effective marketing communications at any point in time demands the following mental attributes:

  • The facility to understand all relevant perceptions and relationships in your marketplace adroitly
  • The breadth and depth of understanding of the wider context of the marketplace, particularly identifying the issues you can latch onto advantageously or those that could become problematic in the longer-term if left unaddressed (foresight in other words)
  • Relentless focus on exploiting the opportunities and addressing the challenges
  • Constructing and maintaining a mental mind-map of how influence is exerted in your market, the conversations you need to be tuned into, and those in which you need to grow voice.

There’s a saying that troubled times present the opportunity for the cream to rise to the top. Maybe it’s something to do with the milk churning round, or maybe the metaphor isn’t that deep and I should recognise that I’m not an expert in all things dairy and give up on it.

Either way, if you consider yourself to be the cream, if you aspire to rise to the top of your market, if you simply want to do your organisation justice, you should make sure your PR capability is as good, as fit, as mentally capable as your organisation is at its core competence, and do so sooner than later.