I Pity The Tool!… That thought it was a Tactic
I recently had a run of people I’m connected with on LinkedIn endorsing me for the skill of “Press Releases”. So much so that “Press Releases” quickly rose to the second-highest skill on my personal profile. Considering I am a public relations professional, you would think I would be thrilled that so many of my connections would provide such an endorsement, but I’m really not.
It’s not that I don’t value people I know and trust taking the time to publicly give me a stamp of approval, I truly, truly appreciate each and every endorsement. What disappoints me is how a large portion of business professionals still tend to focus on tools rather than tactics. As business professionals, we ought to focus on celebrating achievements that rely on strategy and ingenuity rather than the smaller day to day mechanics.
The truth is “Press Releases” is not a skill; press releases are tools. Saying someone has the skill of “Press Releases” is the equivalent of saying Michelangelo had the skill of “Paint Brushes”. [Note: I would like to point out that I understand it is my own fault for listing “press releases” as a skill when I first set up my LinkedIn profile and I am the only one to blame for it being there to begin with. After seeing more and more people endorse me for “Press Releases”, I decided to quit being bothered by it and just simply delete the skill from my profile.]
Remember a year ago when a few emerging statistics drove just about every company to declare, “We need to be on Pinterest!”? They had no idea how they were going to use Pinterest or how it was going to help them achieve specific marketing goals and objectives, they just saw statistics that claimed more people were using Pinterest. Businesses worried about becoming the last guest to the party and launched the guaranteed-to-fail (or at least be incredibly
unremarkable) “We Have a Pinterest Account Too!” strategy.
The press release itself is a great example of so many things that can be right and wrong about public relations and marketing when it comes to seeing the bigger picture. Although there are people that will argue differently, a press release can still be an excellent communications tool for businesses (although I will say they are not completely necessary, at least not in the traditional sense). Where businesses fail is when “We need a press release” becomes the first thing discussed regarding media outreach. Instead, the conversation should always begin with a focus on the following five areas, in order:
- Objective: What do you want to achieve?
- Measurement: How will you measure your goal?
- Strategy: How are you going to achieve this goal?
- Tactics: What specific actions are you going to take?
- Tools: What support materials do we need?
So let’s say your company is getting ready to launch a great new product at 2014 CES. You are going to want to get as many members of the press as possible to find out about your product, cover it, possibly even review it, and help drive sales. An idea for your plan shouldn’t start off with “We’ll write a press release and blast it out to every media member on the pre-registered media list.” (Don’t EVER do that, by the way.)
In this example, your overall goal would be to generate/increase sales. If you truly want to see the value of your marketing/PR efforts, you would have to be specific in quantifying the desired increase, which is where measurement would come into play. Your strategy would be to drive people to your unique landing page, online store, retailers or other areas where they could purchase your product. Where tactics come into play is identifying how you are going to make your strategy happen, and THEN, determining what tools will help you in the process.
So, if this included “we need a press release”, you only came to that conclusion after you realized you could use a press release (Tool)…as a way to provide that product reviewer with more information following your targeted, personalized pitch after thorough research (Tactic)…in an attempt to gain media coverage to promote your product and brand (Strategy)… as a way to increase visits to your online store by 50% in Q1-Q2 2014 (Measurement)…because you want to increase sales by 10% by the end of Q2 2014 (Objective). See how easy that works?
So as you dive into your marketing plan for 2014, keep in mind that all of those great tools you work so hard at developing and managing will only produce the results you want if they are supporting your specific objectives.