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Starting And Expanding Your PR Program
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By Donald Levin

Build on a firm foundation. Successful PR programs require experienced staff who work closely with the organization's management team. Experience provides judgment about what works and what doesn't, what's worth doing and what isn't.

You can educate management colleagues to appreciate that PR is longterm and requires considerable preparation. For example, the marketing publicity process should begin at least six months before product delivery. That will ensure that prospects are primed to receive the product as your company can ship it.

Inform management about the need for their input and availability, for example, their time for interviews. You're in trouble when you hear, "Just do your thing. I'll get back to your reporter later."

Don't be fooled by your own associates. Be realistic about the value of your news. Beware of the top executive who says, "Our development is revolutionary. Hold a press conference as soon as possible." That judgment often doesn't match a reporter's. Counter the executive who says, "Oh, the media have pages to fill every day--they're dying for our stuff."

Research. The basis of a new PR effort is research--what your target audiences know about your organization, its products/services, and those of your competitors.

Surround yourself with people who have objective opinions about your organization and its audiences/markets. Listen to financial analysts covering your field, government leaders, top journalists, university experts, etc., to understand the environment your organization
operates in.

At least do the secondary research of retrieving articles on your field from Nexis and other databases. The minimum phone research is a prospects study with blind interviews covering four competitors and your company. Ask six questions ranking product/category awareness, organizational reputation, etc.

Get help. Better to admit early on that you'll need outside help for your new program than to be swamped later--or worse, to overlook something or promise too much.

Create the program. Go for the Big Idea. Tie to news and trends. Translate ideas from giant and tiny programs to your particular needs.


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