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Building and managing relationships with the media is a complex but important task. The majority of larger businesses benefit from having their own press office, particularly where an in-house resource is available. But what exactly is a press office, why would an SME invest in the function and how should it actually be set up?
The press office exists to maintain media relations and increase the brand’s presence in the press. This will involve proactively putting out press releases and preparing formal responses on a reactive basis. The press office doesn’t need to be a physical office; it could be just one person with a phone and a laptop, or a group of public relations (PR) specialists, or it could be outsourced to a PR agency – it just depends on the size and requirements of the business. The office will seek to build relationships with journalists in the consumer and trade press, and broadcast media for mutual benefit and to clarify and share corporate messaging in the public domain. In effect, the press office becomes the public voice for the organisation and ensures that its reputation is managed through the effective delivery of timely, on-brand and well-considered messages.
Most businesses need to engage with the media to a certain extent. PR is a highly valuable marketing and communications tool and the right relationships and a proactive strategy can work wonders for public awareness and brand perception. Yes, it’s possible to outsource the function to a specialist agency, and many firms will do this to access specialist expertise on a flexible basis. Others may prefer to keep the function in-house to benefit from rich internal knowledge and existing PR skillsets where these are available. There is no correct single approach; which works best will depend on the needs and circumstances of the business.
There are various elements to consider:
Make sure you have the right mix of skilled, experienced PR professionals in place to run the office, whether in-house or outsourced. These individuals must be trained in areas such as reputation management, media relations, media training for spokespeople, external communications strategy and management, copywriting, brand engagement, media monitoring, crisis communications, events and so forth. Increasingly, social media management is also a core element of press engagement activity as part of broader external communications.
As part of the press office’s leadership, there must be protocols that define who can be a public spokesperson for the organisation and what the sign-off processes are for different types of corporate messaging. This framework will act as a sense-check and safeguard for external messaging.
Every press office needs a sound strategy, particularly for the proactive elements of its work, which could include press releases, social media management, editorial opportunities, speaker platforms, thought leadership pieces and so forth. The strategy will consider communication objectives, check that activity will be aligned with brand guidelines and match each identified target audience. Executive profiling will be a focus activity for the organisation’s key players and involve positioning leaders onto different platforms for external PR opportunities.
Assets must be evaluated to help deliver the strategy. These include items such as image banks, videos, published content such as white papers, brand guidelines and branded visual assets and access to specialist freelancers for areas such as photography and videography. The press office will need to liaise closely with marketing on these elements, which will be shared across the teams for mutual benefit.
As part of the strategy development, competitor research must be carried out to see which organisations are doing PR well and which are missing opportunities. Look at case studies, press features, other speakers, social media accounts and events to see what best practices look like for your industry.
For a new press office in particular, building up a network of press contacts to whom you can promote your communications will be a priority. Do your research, be proactive and look for opportunities to build up a valuable trade and consumer press network. Remember, this isn’t a one-way opportunity in which your company is simply seeking column space or airtime. In return, you can offer media outlets contributing articles and comments from your spokespeople to enrich their content.
Be sure to spend adequate time and energy monitoring the effectiveness of your work. This is about more than just tracking column inches and likes. Look at industry best practices for benchmarking and evaluation and spend time creating your own approach.
Get these elements in place, build up your activity and profile and you’ll be well on the way to creating a successful, effective press office that really delivers for your business.
Think you need a little help? Give our team a call, we’d be happy to help! We’re also hosting a Breakfast & Learn seminar ‘How To Develop Your Digital PR Strategy‘, on Wednesday 18th April at our London office – reserve your place today!