This past August, Precision – a PR division of Matter dedicated to growing brands with highly focused needs – turned nine. We were floored, to be honest; time flies when you’re having fun, and it provided us with a fascinating look back on everything we’ve experienced in our near-decade of wins, losses, challenges, joys and continuous growth year after year.
It turns out, we’ve picked up a few things over the years! In our nine years, we’ve learned more about focused scopes, emerging businesses, the rapid evolution of PR, and yes – how to keep moving when global crises start rolling in from every direction. Here are some our favorites:
- 1. Fundamental PR principles never change.
The days of typewriters and snail mail have been relegated to history books and period-piece movies. Heck, even phone calls feel antiquated. Much has changed technologically, but no matter how you connect with your audiences, or which people are doing the outreach, great PR work will always, always rely on four things: research, relationship building, patience and perseverance.
- 2. Focus is critical.
You have to walk before you run. Launching into your market with a collection of differing messages, mediums and objectives – the “spaghetti on the wall” approach – will accomplish nothing but wasted time, energy and money, which you can’t afford. Focus on the 2-3 initiatives that will truly drive the business to the next level. Favorable publicity will come when you’ve earned it.
- 3. Starting “small” is about building sustainability, not playing it safe.
Choosing a single vertical, region or message strikes some companies as too limiting while they work toward their goals of market domination, massive valuation or total ubiquity. No matter who you are or what you sell, achieving traction in one area makes the most efficient use of your resources — and gives you the credibility to expand to another.
- 4. You have to prove your concept before you can tell everyone how great you are.
Remember how I mentioned traction? Journalists aren’t interested in fluffy predictions or brand aspirations – they want the facts, regardless of your size or maturity. How many customers have you served? How many are willing to praise you publicly? What research defined your brand position? Which trends will inform your next steps? If you can’t answer these questions on the record, you aren’t ready for public relations.
- 5. You have to be fast and flexible.
The news cycle isn’t just 24/7 anymore – it’s 1,440/7. Newsroom employment across the country shrank 26% between 2008 and 2020, and the remaining journalists are receiving upwards of a hundred pitches a day. There’s no more time for desksides, hour-long demos or week-long turnarounds on contributed commentary. Your outreach has to be quick (minutes or hours), to-the-point (200 words or less) and in the journalist’s preferred format (e.g. email Q&A instead of a phone interview).
- 6. Journalists are more willing than ever to call BS on a pitch.
Imagine being a writer at TechCrunch who gets 80 pitches a day from brands that think they’re onto something that’s never, ever been done before – except it has. Or how they’re far faster than the competition – but they can’t tell you why. Or how their customers believe they’re superior – but you can’t know their names. Sounds aggravating, doesn’t it? Journalists agree, and they’re happy to say so.
- 7. Coverage took longer in 2021, and may take even longer in 2022.
Fewer journalists + more beats + multiple global crises = longer wait times to see your name in print. The journalist you’re working with may be 100% interested in your story, but that doesn’t mean they magically have more hours in the day, or that there aren’t other breaking topics they’re required to cover first. It might take a while. It might take several tries. What’s most important is you’ve made a positive connection that will serve you both in the long run.
- 8. Corporate citizenship is paramount.
The events of 2020 and the rise in social media and public scrutiny has brought increased exposure to corporate missteps. Making a product or providing a service isn’t enough anymore – your brand is expected to acknowledge its responsibilities to the world around it. How you communicate to internal and external stakeholders is critical to everything, from protecting or augmenting reputations, to attracting and retaining talent, to aligning with partner organizations, to driving growth.
- 9. Mental and emotional health are essential to good PR work.
For decades, the PR industry has unofficially championed the same hustle culture that has swept through many other industries, like entrepreneurship. You’re not a real PR pro if you don’t work 14-hour days and have “coffee addict” in your Twitter bio – right? RIGHT? While it’s true that PR work never truly sleeps, the right agencies and team leaders recognized long ago that happy pros with solid work/life balances don’t just get the job done right, they stick around longer. The global pandemic brought this into even sharper relief, revealing a great deal about the balances and boundaries we all need to be happy, productive people. Remember: it’s hard to empathize and communicate with your audiences hour after hour, day after day, when you can’t remember the last time you weren’t staring at a screen.
Much more than simple musings, these nine lessons feel like an evolved set of rules – guidelines we’ll carry with us as we enter our 10th exciting year of providing services and insights to brands that want to set a firm foothold before they leap. We, for one, can’t wait to see what’s coming next.
Ready to work with a team that knows how to get your messages in front of the audiences that matter? Reach out below and we’ll be in touch!