Forget trade shows, advertising, even direct marketing - the best bang for the corporate marketing buck is public relations, but only if you know what you're doing. Unfortunately, most companies don't have the secret PR sauce and, frankly, the same is true of far too many agencies.
Fortunately, I hooked up with the right agency back in the mid-90s and, together with a modest marketing budget, we managed to put a tiny company on the map in a big way. It was a microprocessor company named Cyrix and we competed with Intel, a company roughly 100 times our size. But you wouldn't know that from the press we got.
I still marvel at the results. One product launch had over 100 million impressions. You don't get results like that from trade publications. We're talking front page Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and live interviews with CNBC and CNN. And this wasn't a one-shot deal either; we launched product after product for years and years.
I recently spent some time chatting with Lou Hoffman - president and CEO of the Hoffman Agency, a global PR firm based in Silicon Valley, and the brains behind that breakout success. From that discussion, here are 10 techniques that were so effective back then that the agency still uses them today.
- Humanize the story. How do you humanize a semiconductor chip? We took the lead designer on the press tour with us. Storytelling is even more relevant today - you need content rich in flavor and texture to get over the Internet noise level.
- Let necessity be the mother of invention. Because of our lightweight budget, Lou says I inspired the agency to take risks and deviate from the norm. But frankly, we were a second tier player who wanted first tier visibility; traditional strategies and tactics just weren't going to cut it.
- Pitch David versus Goliath. A classic. Everybody loves a David vs. Goliath story.
- Internal leadership. This is a requirement. A top exec has to be willing to stick his neck out, sell up, fight for resources, and take the heat.
- Set aggressive goals. The best way to get the management team on board is to set aggressive goals and metrics and then meet them. And if you fall a bit short, trust me, nobody will complain.
- Commit exec resources. Successful PR requires executive commitment to drive internal strategy and planning, do press tours, and to build media relationships by dropping everything and be a resource when the press calls.
- Skip the Kool-Aid. Too many executives breathe their own fumes and expect the media to just rollover and write big stories about their products. Always start with a strong dose of objective reality.
- Lead with the Wall Street Journal. Cultivate relationships and break big news with the WSJ, then sit back and man the phones when everyone else picks up the story.
- Let customers and analysts tell the story. Especially true for tech or B2B, line up analysts and customers to bring credibility to a big launch.
- No events, just one-one-one interviews. We never did a PR event, just one-on-one interviews. Big time investment, big payoff.
Check out this must read: PR Pitfalls - Where Execs Go Wrong