People often ask me, "When is the ideal time to start PR?"
My answer is always, "Today, because yesterday is no longer possible."
Strategic publicity is a marketing and sales tool that helps you grow your company, especially if you don't have the budget to do anything else. It is by far the most cost-effective and efficient way to convince more people they need your product. It works best if the brand is making a substantial improvement in what is currently available in some way.
Companies never feel that they are totally ready to take the publicity plunge. As in life, when it comes to falling in love or falling ill, is anyone ever really ready for the most important developments and events?
People think they should start PR when they:
- Have a new product.
- Have new research.
- Have new packaging.
Nothing could be further from the truth. It is important to create a platform to give your brand credibility. If you wait for these developments to announce news, you lose. Instead of reporting your news, reporters are more likely to wonder who you are and why they haven't heard of you before.
The earlier you start PR, even if it's DIY, relevant media will know who you are so your news developments don't seem to come from nowhere. And, in the process, you will learn about the media so you get a better understanding of what journalists need and get more skillful at getting it to them.
Start by thinking about PR. Imagine your brand on the Today Show, The Wall Street Journal, being talked about by Giselle and Tom Brady, trending on Twitter. This is your fantasy so go wild!
That was fun, come back to reality. Who are your customers? And who should be your customers? What do they read? What do they listen to? How would you get these outlets to report on you and your brand? Remember, they need good stories to further their brand—make your story compelling to them.
You don't have to wait until you have everything finalized. Frankly, you never will because situations change and people have different questions. No one and nothing is ever ready for everything. Sorry, but you will never be 100% prepared.
Initially, start priming the media pump, filling the pipeline and getting the word out. It takes seven to 11 times for people to hear something they haven't heard of before. Find ways to regularly connect your brand to what people are talking about so they talk about you more often.
Everyone thinks celebrities and other influencers are the magic carpet to brand success and they can be, but there is no such thing as an overnight success. Here's a little secret: Everyone is a celebrity but some are bigger and have more influence than others. Influence comes in all sizes, shapes and strengths with different expiration dates.
What the largest multinational corporations have in common with businesses your size and smaller is that 91% of their social media followers—and your followers—have fewer than 500 followers.
And no matter which social media phenom you speak with, everyone pays more attention to information we learn from someone we know even if we don't like them that much. Start with your universe of people when looking for PR for your brand, both for numbers and learning what and how it resonates. This is a very valuable business skill, and you need to learn how to do this. Despite what you might think, it's not easy or natural or intuitive for anyone. Ask any publicist, what we do is hard work. It might be fun and some of us really enjoy it, but it's laborious work!
It's also important that your investors see you are thinking about, or even better, getting press and that people are talking about you. Nothing increases the price of stock like PR. Retailers are mesmerized by press, too, and they appreciate that you are doing something to help them move product off the shelf.
The necessary preparation to get your PR effort started is what we call "PR hygiene." You need to know what your product is and why it is a better choice than others. You have to have that written down, photos will help, great photos will help even more. Testimonials and research are very useful, too. An expert or two who loves the brand and would be willing to talk about it can help. A global personality would be great too, but let's start with someone you know. Now as Nancy Sinatra might say, "These boots are made for walking, so start walking."
When you finally hire a public relations firm, be accessible so you don't waste your money and their time chasing after you to get what they need. When you decide to start, get ready to make things happen. In your early stages remember that people want to help people. Everyone enjoys meeting brands at the starting point and being able to tell others, "I knew them when…"
Instagram gives you a great opportunity to connect with your people and find out what they connect with. Your job is to make your brand irresistible, so you don't need to sell it since people are already clamoring for it.
That doesn't mean you can't try, but it has to be clear that your PR is intended to help people find a good product rather than aggressively sell and over-hype an inferior product by disguising its shortcomings. You can't be or look like you are being manipulative and fooling them. Trying so hard hurts and it isn't authentic— just like it's hard to look great with makeup that no one knows you are wearing.
In summary, know where you are on the PR spectrum. If you really want PR, then do it. If you need help, read about it, listen to presentations and webinars and speak to professionals, but give yourself a deadline. If you have a giant list of things you need to get ready first, ask publicists how they can help you. They should be able to do everything you need, better and faster. If they can't, talk to someone else. As Steve Jobs once said, "A lot of times people don't know what they want until you show it to them." The good news is if you are reading this article, you are on the path.
Nancy Trent, founder and CEO of Trent and Company, and Kuvy Ax, owner of ROOT Marketing & PR, will present "Scrappy PR Strategies from the Pros," at 2:40-3 p.m. Wednesday, April 27, during Natural Products Business School. In addition, Trent is offering free, 15-minute consultations on how to get free celebrity endorsements for your brand.
Natural Products Business School supports emerging brands in finding the resources and information needed to fuel growth and scale impact. To participate in our April 27 programming and access On Demand content, become an All-Access Member of Natural Products Expo Virtual Community, which grants you access to premium content, industry benefits, buyer meetings and more throughout 2022.