For small businesses, nonprofit organizations, associations and just about any enterprise looking to establish itself in the marketplace, attitude drives altitude. What you're thinking and how you approach achieving your objectives can make the difference between gaining traction and spinning your wheels.
Here are six effective ways to boost your PR profile, and move closer to where you'd like to be:
1. Stand out in unexpected places. Be the politician on the sports page, rather than the news page. Be the car dealer in the food section, rather than merely dominating the automotive section. Don't limit yourself to being only where everyone else is. On occasion dip your toe into different waters and be where you will stand out. In doing so, you will convey a common interest with the audience you're seeking, while leaving a lasting impression. It will add an extra dimension to your more traditional marketing and PR program, and resonate beyond the moment.
2. Understand their needs better than yours. Look at business from the outside in, not the inside out. What drives the audiences you're trying to reach? What are they trying to achieve? What do they need, or want, or care about? Take the time to do the research and gain a true understanding.
Whether you're looking for traction with bloggers or funders, clients or customers, standing in their shoes will get you further than chasing after them in yours. Build your messaging accordingly — and have the depth to back it up. Perception is reality, and seeing is believing. But be ready to be tested.
3. Read everything. Whether online or in print, don't miss an opportunity to stay up-to-date with what's happening, not only in your industry but in many others. Be on the lookout for ways to connect what you do — your business — to something else that's happening in the marketplace.
Connect the dots in interesting and innovative ways that will ring true, and make your presence felt. The more you know, the more you know. That's step one in using the knowledge you've acquired to good effect. You may discover possibilities that would not have occurred to you if your focus had been too narrowly centered.
4. Every number tells a story. Every story has numbers. Personal stories are compelling, but data (outcomes) drive customers, clients and supporters, too. Mix and match.
Tell effective stories grounded in solid stats. Sprinkle numbers generously, without drowning a great story. Identify genuine stories from among the people you're already working with that will resonate with potential customers.
Help prospective clients hold a mirror to the actual accounts you share, and offer a concrete set of facts and figures that reinforce the narrative and reassure the unconvinced.
5. Partnerships with a purpose. Broaden your base. Extend your reach. Create new opportunities. Everything is connected — it's up to you to figure out how, with whom and when.
Select partnerships based on common or complementary objectives. Share lists, extend tweets, contribute resources. Be efficient and effective in identifying allies and establishing relationships. There is strength in numbers, and partnerships have a number of strengths, whether formal or informal. Keep a keen eye out for ways to build alliances that will help achieve goals — yours and theirs.
6. If it's not the same tune, it should at least be from the same album. You don't necessarily need to be inflexibly repetitive in your public relations messaging, but it is best not to be wholly inconsistent either. Customers accustomed to looking to you for the best baked goods in town will likely think twice before believing you can produce or deliver a top-of-the-line sofa. Be constant in your approach, the underpinnings of what you do and why, and expand your direction incrementally, not exponentially. Consistency does not preclude growth. And growth does not preclude consistency.
Navigating the nuances and identifying the best balance on which to build a public-relations program will provide degrees of both challenge and opportunity. Where you land on that spectrum is determined by more than effective messaging, but is less steady and less certain in its absence.
Bernard L. Kavaler is founding principal of Express Strategies, a Hartford-based public affairs and public policy consulting firm. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.