Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Guest Blog: How to Get Started with Public Relations

Marcy Fleisher is the founder and president of Fleisher Communications Group, a firm based in Columbus, Ohio that specializes in Earned Media.  FleisherCommunications Group represents a diverse clientele including a leading green energy firm, a leader in the health care technology field, and various professionals  who turn to Fleisher  for their PR needs.  Prior to starting her own firm, Marcy  spent more than 15 years as a TV reporter, earning a number of awards including an Emmy.  She can be reached at marcy@teamfleisher.com. Here are her tips for starter uppers:


Every business can benefit from a comprehensive communications strategy.  But it is my experience that women owned businesses are the last to turn to a PR pro for help, maybe because as women we are used to handling so many different things at once?  Regardless, women owned businesses would benefit from a communications plan which starts with earned media: here's how to get started:
  • ·         Earned Media
Earned media is the media exposure you don’t buy but earn the hard way or because you deserve it.   It’s favorable publicity gained through editorial influence; it can be the very best way to create awareness, build momentum, increase credibility, produce buzz and generate business. In fact when earned media is done well I believe its value far outweighs advertising, which is why we recommend it be a part of every comprehensive communications strategy.

  • ·         What is your story?
Figure out what your story is.  How is your company unique?  Any special narrative about how you got started that others can identify with? What do you provide that competitors don’t?  Are you solving a problem or providing a solution that others are looking for?  Do you have an approach that is unconventional?  Answering questions like these will help you determine your company’s story/angle which is what you your PR pro needs to know to pitch your company.

  • ·         Who do you  pitch to?
It’s important to determine who your audience is.   Are you trying to reach potential clients, investors or prospective strategic  partners?  Maybe it’s a combination of all three.  Whatever you determine, figure out how to reach these audiences.  Are they on-line, do they read the local or national newspapers or trade publications? Can you find potential clients on social networking sites? 

  • ·         Should I do my own pitching?
If you are running, building or launching a business, you’ve probably got plenty to do.  Your time is not well-spent mining story ideas or finding the angles that will resonate with reporters.  Nor is it prudent to spend the time it often takes to follow up with reporters as they work their way through your pitch. Sometimes there’s a very long lead time from the pitch to the publication and follow up is essential so the piece doesn’t get lost.  When you are running a business, time management is key.  Spending time on an area outside of your expertise can be costly.  A PR pro can easily help you through the process.

  • ·         Setting the budget
               Back in the day, PR professionals typically charged a retainer, a monthly payment for a                    pre-determined set of deliverables.  But times have changed so that  now you can often structure a payment schedule that works best for you.  My company, for example, offers clients everything from what we call Risk Free PR, which means you pay only if we secure “earned media” as well as the  more typical retainer structure.  Either way, determine the budget you are comfortable with at the onset and then be sure to ask for all options. And if you are on a Risk Free PR payment structure, be sure to specify  what the maximum number of placements will cost you.  This ensures there are no surprises when the bill does arrive.

  • ·         How do I determine the ROI on my PR?
This can be tricky.  Sometimes it is obvious.  The story runs, the phone rings.  But it isn’t always this way.  You can measure a placements “reach” by analyzing circulation, audience, unique visitors, and other similar analytics.  And you can certainly valuate your PR costs by comparing “earned media” to ad rates.  But perhaps the better measurement is the sense you get that your message is being heard.  Are people talking about you, clicking on the website, emailing with questions, liking the Facebook page?  While not scientific, all of these can provide an overall feel for the campaign’s effectiveness.

  • ·         Finally, give a PR strategy time to work, but don’t write it in stone.
Clients often ask how long will it take before I know if my communications strategy is effective?  There is no definite answer.  The truth is time is what the strategy often needs.  We typically advise our clients to give a PR campaign at least 6 months and as long as a year before measuring its success. But a strategy should always have some built in flexibility so it can be tweaked along the way.  


  1. This is very well said. As someone who has worked both for a global PR firm and as the founder and CMO of a small company, I can say that you have nailed the sense that good PR providers do a few things:

    1. Research Know the goal of the business, the customer base and the marketplace (at the minimum).

    2. Strategize And explain the strategies clearly. Reinforce everything with the research - you can't be effectively creative without a solid platform of intelligence.

    3. Invest Reasonably Keep the investment requirement reasonable - it's easy for a small business owner to get spooked by investments that are too high upfront or that don't have a clear outcome. (It's one of the major strikes against ad buys!) As a biz owner, I can assure you that anything with a positive ROI is ideal, and to that end, I love your Risk Free PR idea - it keeps accountability high and is innately measurable.

    4. Expectation Management Keep expectations reasonable - again, it comes down to knowing goals and aligning performance to those goals. Sometimes, it takes a 6 or 12 month analysis of what has and (more importantly) hasn't worked to know what to plan for and expect going forward.

    Great article! Keep up the super work.

  2. Thanks for the positive feedback wegokigo.com. You summarized nicely as well and I like your shoes even though I don't have a dog!
    My Best,