Is PR the right communications tool for you?

ellipses in speech bubble

PR is a powerful communications tool that can enhance brand awareness, introduce new ways of thinking about problems and solutions, and attract key partners. But it’s not a magic bullet and it’s not always the best choice for every organization at every moment.

Before you spend time shopping around for agencies, consider whether you can make the most of their services. Asking yourself these five questions will help you determine whether you’re prepared, have ideas to share, and are able to commit.

Do we have provocative ideas, a new model, a breakthrough technology or an exceptional impact?

You’ll need at least one of these assets to generate ongoing media interest and thought leadership—an essential strategy when you’re building a field or establishing expertise, and for staying in the spotlight when you don’t have compelling news to share. Simply focusing on your triple bottom line goals will not be enough to get media attention. If you can contribute ideas and insights that move your field forward, you have a good foundation for PR.

What are our goals?

PR can help you build brand awareness and credibility, gain wider exposure to key audiences, develop a reputation as a leader and spread the word about new products or models. But PR is not the only communications tool in the box, nor is it a perfect fit for every need. Before committing to a media relations and thought leadership strategy (what most people think of when they’re thinking of PR), consider whether advertising, direct marketing or some other tool is a better fit for your goals. PR is a “top of the funnel” strategy, to use sales speak. Editorial coverage has the highest credibility, but outreach doesn’t guarantee placements; that’s what ads and sponsored content are for. And if you are looking to generate direct sales leads, content marketing is better.

Do we have a willing and able spokesperson?

Will one or more members of your leadership team be available for interviews and to work with your PR team on thought leadership? Are they willing to be interviewed on camera? Can they tell your stories with confidence? Your spokespeople should have a deep well of expertise and be able to make themselves available at a moment’s notice for interviews. Media opportunities come and go quickly and your PR team will need your help and cooperation to make the most of them. Your spokesperson should also be open to media training (even the best speakers need it).

Is our organization on board for the long haul?

For PR to succeed, it needs broad buy-in, from leadership, internal communications, marketing, sales, legal, and anyone who may be pitched as a source. We’ve seen PR strategies fall apart when one person pushes for it but lacks support, even when that person is a C-suite leader. If everyone is not on board, you may hit roadblocks from departments that are resentful of budget allocations for an initiative that they deem unnecessary.

PR is a marathon, not a sprint—especially if you are building a reputation from scratch and want to establish yourself or your enterprise as a field leader. It can take a while to ramp up and start seeing results. That means you need patience and the sustained budget to build out your brand presence. Also, the value accrues over time: as you gain more exposure and promote your ideas across channels, more opportunities come to you.

Are our business and impact models clearly defined?

If you can’t clearly and completely explain to your PR team what you do, how you do it, and why it matters, they won’t be able to position and pitch your organization effectively. This is a common challenge among early-stage social enterprises and startups that want to launch with a PR campaign but are still working out the kinks in their theory of change, business model, product or service. Pivots happen, but you should have a fully developed concept before moving forward with PR.

If you’re looking to build your brand profile, credibility and influence, and you have the resources to support a long-term strategy, then PR is the right tool for you.