If you took a poll and asked people to explain what exactly Public Relations is, you’d most likely hear “press releases” repeated time and again. But obviously there’s a lot more to it than that. PR is the business of persuasion where it is their job to convince an audience – both inside and outside your usual circle of influence – to promote, support, purchase from, and recognize your business, product or brand.
Public relations is a very strategic process of communication where you are attempting to build mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and their audience. This means you must know what your end goal is at the start, and build upon that to enhance and grow your reputation through channels such as the press, social media, television and radio by way of tools like blogging, speaking gigs, outreach events and yes, press releases.
Nikki Lamb Tudico shares her experience and knowledge of the PR industry to help us with strategies that can fit any size business, because PR isn’t just for the big, national brands.
Rich: Nikki Lamb Tudico is President of the award-winning marketing and PR agency, Lamb Creative Group. She’s also a photographer, speaker, and youth mentor. She recently launched Black Sheep Academy, an online business that offers resources to creative executives transitioning from the 9-5 grind to designing a life and business they love.
She’s appeared in Huffington Post, Yahoo! News, Metro News, The Globe and Mail, and CFRB 1010. Over the past 15 years, Nikki has worked with brands that include Fisherman’s Friend, Smithsonian Channel, Global TV, E!, Showcase, Cottage Life, Travel+Escape and Yves Veggie Cuisine. Her team’s work puts them in unique settings that include Drake’s Views album release party, Snoop Dogg’s Private NBA All-Star party, and a recording session with The Barenaked Ladies. Nikki, welcome to the show.
Nikki: Thank you, I’m so excited to be here.
Rich: Now did you get to attend Snoop Dogg’s Private NBA All-Star Party?
Nikki: Oh you bet I did. I was front row, I had my good camera, and I was front row center listening to the beats he was dropping. It was awesome.
Rich: Alright, well listen, I’m kind of curious. What actually drew you to PR?
Nikki: It’s funny, originally I went to school for radio and television, I took a PR course within and loved it, but I kind of always pictured myself behind the camera. So I actually started down a path of doing directing and producing and stuff.
It was just kind of a fluke, I was going to Global TV to get a summer internship and they happen to have their PR department restarting and they were looking for fresh bodies to teach and learn, and I was just there at the right place at the right time and it really fit with my view of what I wanted to do moving forward incorporating all those entertainment/TV/production skills that I had.
Rich: Now we live in a digital world so not everybody is familiar growing up in a world where PR was such a mainstay of marketing and promotion. How do you define PR, and has it changed over the years?
Nikki: PR is really a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and audiences. And I don’t think that PR has changed a lot in terms of the mechanics and the process of it. What’s changed is all the different ways that people are able to connect to those audiences. And so I find that marketing – for instance – and PR used to be very separate departments, and now we’re finding more and more organizations where the lines between marketing and PR are blurring. And so a lot more companies are embracing a unified department or a unified approach as opposed to very separate strategies.
Rich: And so if we’re a small business – I know a lot of people listening are either running or work in a small business – how do we describe the difference between marketing – whether digital, online, or offline – and PR? It almost feels like one’s not an umbrella term for the other, it’s more like this is a Venn diagram and there’s growing overlap between these. What to you falls strictly under PR, or are those lines so blurred you can’t even answer that?
Nikki: They are getting more and more blurred. A fundamental part of PR that might be a little bit different than your traditional marketing and digital approach is that PR is really strongly rooted in relationships, and so it’s really about building strong relationships and being able to leverage those whether it’s through media, whether it’s through influencers, but really trying to leverage and create strong relationships that help propel your brand forward.
Rich: Ok, that makes a little bit of sense here. Now PR has always been an Achilles heel of mine – and I know that PR is more than just press releases – but I so often assign those tasks together. And for me and my business flyte new media and Agents of Change, we almost never send out press releases. I think I was telling you the last time we chatted that I did actually send out my first press release in years when flyte turned 20 years old.
So I don’t always know what I’m doing and maybe I don’t know what I’m missing by not giving more attention to PR. So I guess my question is, why in an age of Facebook and Twitter should I be paying attention to PR at all?
Nikki: Well getting press for your business is a lot more than just the social media aspect. It obviously could be being featured on TV, or getting to speak on a radio show, getting featured in a print publication or online. There are so many other things that I think social doesn’t always guarantee you, and it’s also being able to tap into various niche audiences that perhaps your own social feeds are not touching or the people aren’t aware of.
And I think it’s just also being able to broaden the awareness of a brand in cross channels that have larger audiences as well. So I think PR is really important. You touched on press releases which used to be the mainstay of PR, and it’s very interesting that as technology has advanced press releases are one of those things that are still there and they’re still important, but they’re not the cornerstone of an entire PR strategy. Where they used to be a little more important, now they’re reserved for very important information you’re trying to disseminate. And I think to your point there’s opportunities to leverage social that you don’t’ really need a press release for.
And also, a press release really needs to be news, and I think there’s a big disconnect sometimes where people think they need a press release written to send to their sales team to send to clients. But a press release should really be written for press. But things get so busy and you’re talking about media contacts and they have so much coming at them that I feel sometimes a press release it too much information. Sometimes if you’re able to tweet at a contact, or you’re sending a Facebook message, or something on LinkedIn, or you’re Snapchatting with somebody, sometimes that actually holds more weight than sending a very formal press release.
Rich: Ok. So if I’m just getting started and I’m listening to you and I’m saying, “Ok, I see that PR has been a missing arrow in my quiver.” What do I do to get started with PR, whether I’m just starting my business or whether I’ve been doing my business for a while and I just realized that maybe I’m going to do better if I invest more heavily in PR? Where do I start?
Nikki: Well I mean the first thing to think about is, is this something you want to do on your own or do you want to hire somebody? If you want to do this on your own and get started you need to first set a goal. And you need to have your first goal be your business goal, so whether that’s to drive more sales or trying to get more leads, what is the business goal that PR needs to support?
Once you determine what that is then you can figure what your PR objective is. So how are we going to use PR to support that goal, how are we going to drive sales? So if you’re just starting out I would keep it simple.
So if it’s flyte new media, you might be thinking about what kinds of customers are we trying to go after? Maybe we’re trying to bring in maybe 3 new clients this year, so what are the industries or the type of client we are perfect for and where are they looking for their needs. So maybe there’s a local business channel that you know that they’re listening to all the time, or maybe there’s an online news source that they’re tapping into, maybe it’s an e-newsletter that gets sent out that you know a lot of them are subscribing to.
It’s just really figuring out how you’re going to tap into that audience and that becomes part of your strategy, where are those people and how can I reach them. Keeping things simple. Now obviously to get our strategy there’s many different facets that you can tap into, which means the actual physical getting press, but then there’s other things that are still aspects of PR that support those initiatives.
So it can be speaking opportunities and events where your audience will be listening, or sponsorship opportunities that are maybe tied into speaking or some sort of activation that will get them interested. It could be an event or stunt that will get some sort of press coverage or to maybe help build a relationship. If you’ve got product it may include product or sampling to influencers, and the list goes on.
I think if you’re keeping it simple look at targeting press that are very key to your business. What do you read to keep yourself on top of mind, and go from there.
Rich: Ok. So some of this sounds like old school shoe leather kind of work, and other seems like I could be leveraging some of the stuff that we’re already doing in social, and I definitely love to present so that makes a lot of sense, too.
You’ve talked about building a media list. What is a media list and how do I build it?
Nikki: So a media list is an email list that you can use to send out information. It can be a group list depending on what you’re using for your email provider. Generally, most email systems you can build a list within of grouping similar contacts.
So for instance you might already have separate client lists – different categories – you’d build a press list much the same. So you might have a “trade” press list, you might have a “consumer” press list, and depending what your area of business is your “consumer” page might have different facts. So you might decide to build a “local TV” list, a “local radio” list, and a “local print” or “online” list. I think it’s really important when you’re building lists to consider the traditional stuff in addition to digital as well, because they still have lasting power and I think they’re still an important part of the mix that sometimes gets overlooked in the digital space.
Rich: I completely agree because anybody can get on Facebook, anybody can get on Twitter and you can preach your news on almost every single platform. But there seems to be a certain level of curation that goes on with old school news whether it’s print or radio or TV. So if you get that level of attention that suddenly gives you a much bigger platform to speak from, and certainly it looks like you’ve had to jump through some hoops to get there. I think that certainly raises your profile more than just buying some Facebook ads.
Nikki: Absolutely, I think you touched on a very important point. There’s a level of authenticity with a more prestigious, long running TV show or radio show, and it just adds that little level of credibility to the mix when you’re listening, as opposed to something that maybe your listener feels is a smaller outlet or maybe it doesn’t hold the same weight.
And I can tell you that a lot of our clients have specifically said when they’ve gone digital only in the past, they didn’t receive the same amount of results that they did when they took a more traditional approach as part of the digital. We still want to include digital aspects to our campaign, but if you’re going only on that it may not be the best strategy. But it depends on your business, I mean obviously if you work in tech maybe there’s an aspect that you might want to wait on things more on that, but you always want to include the traditional ways as well.
Rich: It seems like reporters and journalists much get so many press releases and outreaches every single day that they can’t even possibly keep up. Are there any tips that you have in terms of how we can really develop a relationship with certain journalists in our hometown that can benefit us long term? And I don’t want to come across as being manipulative, but at the same time should I have 4-5 reporters on a short list and how do I develop a relationship?
Nikki: Yeah. I think that a good place to start is by reading their content and seeing what kind of things they’re writing about and the topics that are important to them, what are the beats they cover. In this day and age a lot of the regular newsroom people are gone and the writers are freelancers that cover multiple beats.
So it’s just getting to know who they are through actually experiencing their work, and then following them on social media is so important. If it’s somebody you had a warm introduction to, maybe it’’s through somebody where you feel comfortable sending them a Facebook invite, I highly recommend Facebook. I know I’ve talked to other people in the industry that feel like Facebook is their personal space, but Facebook is a really great place to learn more about them as a person. In the PR space it’s been really helpful to our team because sometimes you might have a writer who writes about social issues or tech topics but then they also post a lot of content about parenting. And if you’re a company where you have a parenting product, you might want to pitch that personas an influencer because you know that they have a huge audience and they actually talk a lot about this thing that’s really important to them.
So getting to know them as a person, they’re all humans that have love and hate for different things and then you can use that to reach out and build your relationship. So for instance if you find out that they love the same band as you, those are things that you can use when you reach out.
Nikki: And one things that’s important too as you’re building your list, so if you’re reading and researching your people, oftentimes their email address or their social media handle will be embedded within the article. If it’s not you can always check out the contact links within the website and try and add that on.
And make sure that you’re adding it to your media list as you’re discovering these people, because to go back and do all that work can be very time consuming. So as you discover new people, for me sometimes I discover new people through social media. It could be through Twitter if someone’s retweeted a contact and then I click on them and find that would be an awesome contact for a media list, and then add them immediately.
Rich: Alright, that makes sense. Earlier you talked a little bit about goals and goal setting. How do I set up goals when I’m developing my PR plan and how do I know if they’re reasonable? I’ve heard stories of people who wanted to write into PR contracts that they would get an article on the homepage of the New York Times. That seems like a stretch for me. What kind of goals do you recommend people set for themselves, and then how do you tie that all together?
Nikki: Goals should really be tied to things that are realistic and achievable. So like you said being able to write into a contract they’re going to get the front cover of Time Magazine or something like that, it’s not realistic because it’s also out of your control. There are so many people that make that decision. But you might say we want to get a feature in a national online publication. You can be specific with the types of things you want to get. Again, knowing where your brand has already been featured. So if you’ve done no PR and you’ve never been featured anywhere, getting that front page is going to be very difficult for a brand that spends tons of money on PR. So just keeping it realistic.
Oftentimes a goal is attached to very specific business goals. We’ve worked with companies who had apps and they wanted a certain amount of downloads by a certain amount of time, we’re able to drive people through our press where you’re mentioning where to download the app and handing out physical things like a QR code or something for them to be able to download it directly to their mobile. That’s something that you’re able to put a hard number towards and go towards and then build a plan around that.
So I would say anywhere where you can attach a number that’s measurable. It could be the number of outlets you want to achieve, if it’s tied to sales maybe it’s a certain number of new client leads that you want to get, it could be driving through your press more traffic to your website. So you’re going to mention your website and perhaps you’re going to get the online publications the link to your website, those are things you can actually measure because you measure what your historical data is and then what happens in that campaign window.
Rich: As a small business owner I have to always weigh, should I do it myself and save the money, or hire someone that can do it and take it off my list and probably do it better than I can. While I’m afraid that the answer to this is “it depends”, what kind of fees should I be expecting if I decide to hire an outside company?
Nikki: That’s a great question and I would say that if you’re just starting out there’s a few things you could do to start out yourself with building some relationships. If you’re looking to bring someone in just to take it off your plate, you can either hire a freelance person – which is always a good way to start if you know your budget is smaller – then you’re probably going to look between, and it really depends on the campaign, but from $2,000-$5,000 you might be able to do something small with a freelancer. And then it goes upwards from there.
So if you’re looking into the agency space, then you’ve got to have a much larger budget, but usually much larger goals as well. So usually the return on investment is in relation to your budget as well.
But if you’re just starting out you want to build a press list and you need someone to help you write a press release, perhaps you want them to pitch out a few speaking opportunities or on air opportunities, I think that’s a realistic budget to start. And then as you grow and as you build PR into your budget you can actually hire more of a team and agency experience.
Rich: For those of us that are “do it yourselfers”, what are some of the biggest mistakes you see out there, what should we be trying to avoid?
Nikki: So I would say the biggest mistake I see is people sending their press contacts too much information. And I actually see this with seasoned pros as well.
Rich: Too much information in terms of I’m sending to many things to them one after another, or just the press release or whatever it is is too rich with content?
Nikki: Great question. So I would say a press release can have as much content as needs to be, they’re usually 1-2 pages. And that can always be an attachment if you’re sending it with a pitch. If you’re just sending your press release you send it as is and don’t worry about that.
But I’m talking more on the side of when you’re pitching something. So let’s say flyte new media has an event coming up and you’d love to invite some select members of the press, your email shouldn’t be more than 2 small paragraphs, maybe a closing third paragraph that’s very small. And you really want to keep it to that 1-2 because they don’t have time to read that much. What you can always do is attach extra information. So you can attach your press release, you can attach a bio on someone you want to speak on their program, but at least at first glance when they look at their email it doesn’t become overwhelming.
I can tell you that automatically gets us a lot more feedback and bookings from press because they can read right away what you want and they can decide on the spot if they’re interested rather than having to read a novel and you’ve lost their interest.
Rich: So this actually brings up an interesting point, because obviously we have the Agents of Change conference, that’s actually where we met last year when you came to the conference so that was awesome. But obviously it would be great if we could get a lot of press, I’m always looking to sell more tickets. If I invite a few select members of the press to attend the conference, is there an expectation for “tit for tat”, do I spell it out that I want them to write an article about my event either before or after, or do I just say, “I’d love you to come and check out the event and see what you think”? What’s appropriate and what’s the right etiquette?
Nikki: So I would start by first inviting them to maybe a lunch or a dinner or drinks to kind of talk and find out more about who these people are that you might want to invite, and if they’re the right fit after you’ve done that kind of legwork I would invite them on the premise of “come enjoy the show, here’s all the information about who will be speaking, what events are happening.” And I would never specifically ask for coverage, especially in this case because you’re just starting out and you want to build that relationship, but you’ll probably get stuff out of it. They’re not going to come and waste their time if they don’t have an end goal of covering it in some way.
And I think if you’ve done some of the legwork of taking them out and getting to know them, you’ll kind of know the kind of content they cover anyway and if it’s a good fit
Rich: That makes sense. So I’m sure that there are people who are listening who would love to know a little bit more and want to dig a little bit deeper and know more about you, Nikki, where can we find you online?
Rich: Excellent. Nikki thank you so much for coming on and educating me on the wonderful world of PR.
Nikki: My pleasure, thanks for having me. It was really exciting.
Nikki Lamb Tudico is a PR powerhouse. You can find out what she does to promote individuals, businesses and brands by checking out her website. She is also all over social media, so go find her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, creator of the Agents of Change Digital Marketing Conference, and author of a new book, The Lead Machine. He loves helping businesses fine tune their strategies for digital marketing in the areas of search, social and mobile.