There are many different elements to public
relations, which is probably why there is confusion about what
it is and is not. Here are a few comparisons to make life a little
simpler for those not too familiar with PR.
PR and advertising both deliver visibility but can be very different
as far as method and results. Advertising allows you to control
the message where, when and exactly how the message appears.
PR, through editorial
coverage, offers minimal control. Your story may or may not
appear; if it appears, it may be a 1-inch news brief, not the
full corporate feature you envisioned. However, PR offers maximum
credibility and advertising offers virtually no credibility. Editorial
coverage is a third-party endorsement and is viewed as factual,
while ads are often disbelieved or ignored. Advertising is often
very costly as compared to PR. For example, a one-time ad in the
Wall Street Journal can exceed the cost of a year-long PR campaign.
In contrast, a positive story in the Wall Street Journal is invaluable
you cannot buy the type of credibility your company will
receive. Bottom line: there is a place for both PR and advertising
choose wisely depending on your companys needs.
Public Relations and Investor Relations
are two complementary strategies for emerging technology companies.
Public companies must have an active investor relations program
due to SEC requirements. Private companies also should focus on
investor relations due to their ongoing need for new funding,
but their needs are much less defined than public companies and
the program can be much more low-key. Both public and private
companies that have emerging technologies should devote time and
money to both areas due to the intense competition for attention.
Whether you are a micro-cap stock, are eyeing an IPO or are hoping
to be acquired, the type of exposure generated by both PR and
IR is essential.
encompasses a wide variety of DIRECT communications with the investment
community, everyone from shareholders to fund managers and analysts.
Face-to-face meetings, conference calls, earnings reports, annual
reports all of these are under the direction of an IR program.
In contrast, a public relations program that is focused on financial
media relations INDIRECTLY reaches the very same audience. Your
PR firm will "pitch" your
companys story to Forbes or BusinessWeek, for example, which
are read by analysts, fund managers, potential and existing shareholders.
The company truly benefits when the PR and IR firms are working
well together. For example, the article placed in BusinessWeek
by the PR firm is then reprinted and used by the IR firm to make
sure that everyone who needs to know about your company is kept
well-informed. Both PR and IR can be handled in-house or by outside
for Startups vs Established Companies: Public relations strategies
are useful throughout the lifetime of a company. But the different
stages of a companys life create the need for different
types of PR. Emerging growth companies first and foremost have
the need to establish credibility. Frequently, the company is
new and the technology is new and poorly understood outside of
the company. These companies need to take advantage of editorial
opportunities that develop confidence in the companys future.
The PR effort initially is focused on developing collateral
materials that explain the company and its technology in easy-to-understand
terms. Without a clear, easy-to-navigate Web site or a press kit
that explains the technology without heavy techspeak, it is difficult
to generate the much-needed editorial
coverage, particularly in the business media. Establishing
name recognition is an important element, too. A "beat
reporter" who covers your industry for Dow Jones, for example,
may reject a story on your emerging technology 10 times in a row.
But by the time your news grabs his attention on the 11th try,
hes very familiar with who you are, has read your background
materials and is ready to help tell your story. Doing PR for established
companies is far less exhausting, as far as grabbing reporters
attention. But the need to make "noise" on the PR front in a continuing
way does not stop even for the IBMs and Microsofts of the world,
it just takes on a different tone.
- Business and Financial Media vs Trade
Media: Up until a few years ago, the earliest start-up companies
had to rely on trade press for exposure. Business media was off-limits
until revenues were earned and/or the company had earned its stripes
in one way or another. Today, its a different story. Revenues
certainly make a better story, but its not too early to
approach the business media even as a company is fine-tuning its
business model and deciding where and how to market its technology
once the time is right. Companies make news in many ways and fortunately,
business and financial publications and programs are increasingly
interested in some of these alternative news paths. The influx
of online news sites has made this even more so. The best idea
is to carefully analyze what audiences would best help your company
grow. If you are desiring more recognition in your industry and
need to boost sales, exposure in the trade press is essential.
If you are seeking strategic alliances, look for exposure in both
the trades and the business press. If it is premature for selling
products, but you need to generate more funds and/or keep shareholders
content, trying to find story
angles that can be sold to the business press is what you
need. In analyzing which media to go after, always look to the
end result to see which way to go.
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