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Good vs. great: How does your PR program stack up?

Our clients often ask us how their programs compare to other clients. They are looking for a performance review on what they are doing well, and what they could improve upon. I love this question as it shows our clients are truly passionate about the work we’re doing together. At the same time, we struggle to compare disparate situations and campaigns.

After careful evaluation, we’ve identified the top attributes that set great PR programs apart from the good. Clients don’t need to be proficient in understanding the ins and outs of public relations to have a great program – it’s more about leadership, commitment and the quality of the agency-client relationship.

Strong leadership

We often notice that the strength of leadership coming from clients is closely aligned with the success and outcome of PR campaigns. This holds true even when comparing campaigns with other PR professionals. We find that the strongest leaders provide great direction and they know when and who to delegate to, leveraging the strengths of their entire team. They are almost always genuinely positive, even in the face of adversity or missteps and they are willing to share their challenges allowing the team to navigate appropriately alongside them. They also remain adaptable and open to a variety of ideas and working styles. They make everyone on their team (internal and external) want to bend over backwards to make sure the program is a success. Strong leadership, we’ve determined is perhaps the most important differentiator between good vs. great.

Documented plan

We all know that the fastest way to kill any marketing program is to not put it in writing, but it’s worth repeating. I know that 100% of our best PR programs have included a well thought out and documented plan. This includes not only identifying the company’s opportunity and value proposition but also identifying the company’s point of view and outlining their position. And, do I even need to mention the importance of documenting the program’s desired outcomes? In our minds, strong leadership and a documented plan go hand-in-hand in order to get teams working in unison.

Focus

Admittedly, this is a “strong leadership” trait, but we thought it was worthy of calling out separately. While distractions are inevitable, teams (on both sides) that are able to minimize them, get the best results. And it makes sense, they are able to channel their time and energy on what really matters.

This focus also extends into their commitment to the plan. With most programs, there comes a point where putting the framework into place, sourcing subject matter experts and finalizing content may seem like the program has reached its climax. The reality is, the real work is just beginning. With a commitment and emphasis on executing against the desired outcomes documented in the PR plan, we’ve seen results skyrocket beyond what the team was anticipating. As an example, this type of focus in 2014 enabled Stratasys Direct Manufacturing (formerly, RedEye) to experience a 45% increase in leads generated through press coverage year-over-year. Additionally, there was a 58% increase in Minnesota sales, a key goal for the PR campaign.

Collaboration and trust

Last but not least, you’ll be hard pressed to pull out even a good PR campaign, much less a great one, without a solid level of trust among the team. Again, this could be classified as a “strong leadership trait” but clients who have a clear understanding, and who are willing to articulate the strengths that each of their agencies or individuals brings to the table help team members understand their value and where they should focus their contributions. At the same time, these insights minimize the duplication of efforts and foster integration; both of which lead to powerful results.

As you look to make your 2016 PR program great, it may be worth asking questions that go beyond program details. Questions such as, “If I could make changes to how I managed last year’s program, what would that look like?”, “how would the agencies that I worked with respond to this same question?” and “how can we best utilize each team member and agency to help achieve our goals?”

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