Public relations is a powerful and cost effective method of communicating and fostering relationships with
an organization’s key audiences. When done right, public relations not only builds and protects a
company’s brand, but can influence the growth and profitability of an organization.
Key Elements of a Successful Public Relations Program
1. Develop Your Story: Public relations begins with the right message for the right audience. Think
through three key messages you want to communicate to your audiences – and weave these messages
into all communications.
2. Control Your Story: Having the story down is one thing, but being comfortable in delivering it,
especially to the media, is another.
Live and breathe your key messages: Put them up on the wall in your office; share them with
your employees. The more repetition the better.
Know how to deliver your messages to the media. During an interview think: Listen, Answer,
o Listen: Make sure are paying attention to what the reporter is asking. Don’t let your mind
jump too early to the answer.
o Answer: Yes, you need to answer the reporter’s question. It can be brief – “yes,” “no,”
“that’s accurate,” etc.
o Bridge: When appropriate, bridge to one of your messages. Examples include: “What’s
important to remember, however…,” “That’s not my area of expertise, but what I can tell
you is…, “That’s an important point because…”
3. Tell Your Story: There are several time- and cost-effective ways to tell your story. Consider:
Using a wire service, www.prnewswire.com, for a news release
Leveraging your show presence to reach out to reporters
Developing a subject matter expert sheet for media
Applying for awards
Becoming involved in industry and community organizations
4. Protect Your Story: Regardless of the business or industry, crises do happen, and being prepared is
the best way to protect the reputation of your company. Take the time to create a crisis manual that
includes: core values during a crisis, steps to take when a crisis hits, potential crises to face the company
and identifying the response team and other key contacts. If a crisis hits – call an expert in crisis
management. It is money well spent.
Partnerships with PR Experts
Most businesses find a great deal of value in partnering with a public relations agency or practitioner.
He/she will provide you with an outside perspective that will help you powerfully and succinctly
communicate your story and manage the communications so you can focus on running your business.
Following are a few thoughts to keep in mind as you go through this partnership.
What You Need to Do:
Ask for measurement: Public relations is one of the hardest business operations to measure. But
there are ways to make sure your money is being well spent. Measurement can be quantitative:
an increase in media exposure or qualitative: gaining confidence in telling the business story.
When you request a proposal, ask for measurement.
Be ready to be responsive: This especially is important if you are implementing a media
campaign. Reporters are on deadline. If you send out a news release, be ready to field calls at a
Keep an open mind: PR experts will challenge you and likely move you out of your comfort zone.
Embrace this – they see your business from a different perspective and know what it takes to cut
through the clutter and get your story out.
What You Need to Understand:
Individuals and agencies bill various ways: You likely will be billed based on retainer (a
consistent monthly fee), hourly or project rates. As a small business, your best bet is the project
rate. Try to avoid the hourly rate. PR professionals bill like attorneys – so every time you pick up
the phone for a quick question you are being billed.
PR is not only about publicity: If you are looking for media exposure only, hire a publicist. These
individuals thrive on working with reporters and pitching stories. Keep in mind though that public
relations is about communicating your story to your key audiences. The media represent only one
means for reaching those constituents. Your time and money may be better spent speaking at
industry venues, serving on boards, building e-mail marketing campaigns, etc.
Success will happen, but not overnight: Yes, there are times that the gods align and there is the
perfect story with the perfect spokesperson with the perfect timing and the perfect coverage. But
it’s best to think of public relations as a process. So, embrace the small successes and
continually keep your PR partner in the know so he/she can tailor the right program for your
About Julie Conrad
Julie Conrad specializes in creating public relations roadmaps for small businesses seeking to influence
the growth and profitability of their organization. A strategic communications expert with 12 years of
experience, Julie partners with organizations to define their story, believe their story, and provide cost-
and time-effective activities to communicate and protect the story. She has delivered strategic planning
and council to organizations of all sizes, including ADP, Sanofi-Aventis, MSN, Coldwell Banker, Cintas,
and The PGA of America. Julie is an accredited member (APR) of the Public Relations Society of
Julie Conrad Communications, LLC