Bring PR into the mix early

We’re working on a campaign for a client right now that got off to a bit of a slow start. We were brought in after the approach had been chosen. In a perfect world, we prefer to be a part of the concept and initial campaign strategy planning because the PR perspective adds value to that component, but sometimes that isn’t what happens and we live with it.

This campaign has some challenges. It’s a crowded market place and there isn’t much news value in what the client wants to announce. Not that it is isn’t interesting to the people involved, but it didn’t meet any of our AHA external news value criteria. We took on the task of developing an interesting angle that we felt more confident about pitching to media and bloggers and sharing on social media networking sites.

We had a good brainstorming session with our AHA crew about what to pitch media, and like every story meeting we have – it was lively. We’re respectful in these meetings, but no one holds back. It can get loud; there is often a lot of laughter, loud voices and a lot of “AHA moments.” We question the ideas, concepts and angles and spend time poking holes in each of them and define what the heart of the story is, so the pitches are solid when we are ready to send them to media and bloggers. With a team of journalists on our crew, these meetings are incredibly valuable and they are interesting to participate in. I always learn something and, more often than not, we come up with additional ideas for the client for other components of their communications efforts.

This process made me realize, once again, how valuable working a strategic public relations agency can be for an organization. We could have just taken the original idea, developed a news release and crossed our fingers that it would get picked up somewhere, somehow. But that’s not what great PR does. And it’s certainly not how the AHA team works. We’re not order takers – we are a part of the team. And our focus is always on how we can deliver excellence and create results for our clients.

Our role is to help share information, to educate and to engage. And that’s what I think will happen with this campaign. That’s because we took the time to turn the information we were given upside down and sideways, to look for different angles, to effectively package it so that it would be of interest. We’re excited about the campaign now – and the client is excited too. I think from now on we’ll be brought in earlier in the process, because we have something of value to contribute at that stage.

When do you bring your communications or PR team into planning?

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