Paint pot

PR is like watching paint dry

6th Nov 2013

Like glossing woodwork, a successful public relations campaign takes a lot of preparation and many layers that are applied and reapplied over time. While this requires a lot of effort, if done correctly, you’ll get a finish that you can be proud of.

The primer involves an honest conversation with the main spokespeople, to hone in on the real benefits and differentiators offered by their product or service. Once that’s been achieved, we can introduce the company to the core journalists who regularly write for the audience that it is trying to reach.

Over time, the same key benefits are repeated through customer stories, interviews, presentations, press releases, comments on breaking news, social media and company blogs, to convey the core values of the company.

This process was exemplified when the producer of a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary requested an interview with my client. The producer had undertaken some research and seen several comments that the spokesperson had made on information security over the previous months. During the initial call we established that the most appropriate person for the documentary makers to speak to was an expert on ‘social engineering’.

As a result, the Dispatches programme featured Gavin Watson, who leads the Social Engineering Team at RandomStorm discussing how “blaggers” gain access to private information from organisations charged with protecting people’s data.

This is a topic that Watson had been discussing for the previous six months at industry events, within opinion articles in the information security press and in comments made to journalists when they were reporting on high profile security incidents.

Another example of this long term approach was seen in a recent issue of the Financial Times Connected Business, where the only vendor quoted was a company CEO who had been blogging on the topic for more than a year. His quotation was taken from a post that had been written long before the FT’s editorial calendars had been published. The journalist had gone back into the CEO’s blog archive to discover the company’s true position on the topic.

Clients often task PR teams with positioning their spokesperson as an industry expert but don’t provide them with sufficient time, or high quality information, to establish that reputation. Trying to raise the client’s profile without adequate preparation and investment of the spokesperson’s time is likely to waste resources and lead to an unsatisfactory result. Like any rush job, it simply won’t stick.