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Columnist
Your PR strategy may need a refresh
By Jim Kendall | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 6/10/2010 12:01 AM

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If your approach to a tough sales environment is "We need some good PR," you may need to rethink your definition of PR.

At least as practiced by Julie Baron and Joanne Levine, two veteran public relations professionals, PR isn't that simple any more.

In situations where the fate of your company may hinge on how outsiders perceive its response on a sensitive topic, PR often becomes a high-stakes issues-management activity. Even when the stakes are less dramatic, the traditional send-a-press-release approach to public relations tends to be out of sync with marketplace realities.

"It's so much more than sending out a news release and dialing for interviews," says Baron. "PR involves setting up speaking engagements, developing programs that teach employees to be ambassadors for the company, submitting award applications and community involvement."

What makes PR work, Baron says, is the integration of PR and marketing communications.

Business owners who grasp that the best blend of marketing and PR may be the opportunities around a podium presentation at the industry conference or sponsorship of a high-visibility event that targets their target audience can come out ahead.

The old news release isn't dead, however. It's just no longer a one-use tool.

Levine, for example, points out that the research, concepts and words she uses to create a basic background news release now are likely to become part of "a really good e-mail letter" intended to help a client generate new business.

In addition, the Internet has made it easier to "target where you want your news releases to go" Levine says. She adds such outlets as bloggers and online publications to the PR distribution list, and works with clients to plumb appropriate social sites.

Levine is president of Lekas & Levine Public Relations, Libertyville. Baron is president of Communication Works, Inc., Arlington Heights. Both occasionally suggest topics for this column, but neither suggested this one.

When your PR advocate scores with some publicity, the two of you need to build on the good news by marketing the results.

For example:

• An item in your e-newsletter that notes, and links to, your bylined article in the industry trade magazine will extend and reinforce the reach of the article.

• So will your handwritten note on a mailed copy of the article (reproduced with permission, of course) that goes to key sales prospects and says something such as, "Tom: This is what we talked about last week."

• A short video on the company website of your induction into the business hall of fame will expand the success of the moment.

• Questions, comments to Jim Kendall, JKendell @121MarketingResources.com

© 2010 121 Marketing Resources, Inc.