PR: How to Effectively Reach the Masses
Credited with creating a niche for themselves within the broadcast industry, V2 Public Relations Inc. provides key elements for successful media campaigns.
PR has gotten a bit of a bad rap over the years but now appears to be on the rise. Companies are realizing the benefits of utilizing this channel: the ability to attract and create public interest, placement of products or services in a variety of media outlets under a set budget, building relationships with key media personnel; and, most importantly, working with an agency that can successfully execute these key elements.
When it comes to media relations, most companies do not know where to start. Cathi Volante, president of Chicago-based V2 Public Relations, has built her business around doing just that, helping retailers and manufacturers create and execute aggressive, high profile media plans.
“Most companies we meet with have ‘media worthy’ products or services, they just don’t know how to effectively present them to the press,” says Volante. “More importantly, they do not have the relationships needed to obtain the high level of exposure they desire. Our clients consistently appear in national magazines and newspapers and on major television programs, i.e. “Oprah,” “The Early Show,” “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America,” “FOX & Friends,” as well as CNN, CNBC, The Food Network, the list goes on,” says Volante.
When companies begin what can be an exhausting search for the perfect PR firm, they often make the common mistake of hiring the one with the biggest name. Sadly enough, a big name oftentimes means mass, unspecified marketing efforts and billable time without any real purpose.
“At V2, we believe there is more to a company than just a new product,” states Volante. “Sometimes it’s the story behind the story that will get you the most press and create a niche that other agencies may not have been able to find or care to discover.”
As publicist for some of the nation’s largest retailers right down to the smallest of confectionery manufacturers, Volante agrees they all have one common factor, an aggressive media plan designed around ‘their’ budget. “We create custom PR plans around each company’s goals and budget. It’s a practice that has became archaic but one we find better helps our clients achieve their long-term goals...not ours,” says Volante.
Public relations is an effective means for gaining exposure in many different media outlets under the umbrella of one retainer; trade and consumer print, as well as radio and television placements. On average, a yearlong comprehensive public relations plan costs less than one national network 30-second commercial or a full-page ad in a major publication. “In other words, you get more bang (or should I say buzz...) for your buck,” she says.
Stephen Schuster, president and creator of Blitz Power Mints says, “It is incredible to see our company and brands featured on such national powerhouses as “The Today Show,” “FOX & Friends,” CNN and WGN. The myriad of newspaper articles have covered everything from national and metropolitan cities to small-town newspapers.
“My partners and I have used this PR for credibility when presenting to the banks, suppliers and buyers. The constant communication and follow-up by the V2 staff is impeccable. We will continue to work with their firm for many years to come.”
The realm of public relations is so broad. Where should a company begin?
“Make sure you are comfortable with and trust the agency you are about to work with,” Volante explains. “Do you know who will be working on your account? Did they bring that person to the initial planning meeting?”
She points out that many agencies will send a seasoned salesperson that would make even the best of politicians pale in comparison. A question that must be examined seriously is this one: Are your products and company’s reputation in the hands of an experienced account executive that knows the business or is your business entrusted to an intern?
“If a person says they have less than five to eight years of experience, you might not see the R.O.I. that you were hoping for,” says Volante.
Presentation, how important is it?
“Extremely, especially if a company is targeting national media,” says Volante. “Think of it as your first impression. If you look unorganized in how you are presenting your product (even if you are not), you will be perceived that way. After all, isn’t that one of the key elements of PR in the first place, portrayal of an image? Most national and regional press members expect organized, well-presented materials,” she continues.
Isn’t it the PR agency’s responsibility to create good, solid materials?
“Absolutely,” says Volante. “A good agency will advise their client on what needs to be done as well as construct quality press releases and pitch letters that have pertinent information that is easy for the reporter to find. Many companies make the classic mistake of burying their story at the end of the press release.”
Most mainstream print and broadcast producers receive in excess of 100 packages per day. Can you give us the inside scoop on how to make one stand out from the other?
“It comes back to presentation, of course, but it really boils down to your relationship with the media,” says Volante. “The statement that ‘it’s not what you have...it’s who you know,’ holds very true today. We personally contact each and every media professional before sending them as much as a letter. This gives us the opportunity to ‘tell’ our client’s story and makes for solid business practices that are appreciated by the very media we are pitching.”
“This practice also ensures us that the material and product samples we have discussed will be reviewed, thus positioning our clients directly in front of some of the nation’s most influential press members,” says Melissa Tibbs, account executive at V2 PR.
“Outstanding efforts combined with level five service by their account executives have catapulted our company to a new level,” says Scott Jackson, vice president of sales and marketing for a small confectionery plant in New Jersey. “The article and television placements put our products in front of critical buyers.”
There is so much more to PR than reviews on a product, of course. What are some other avenues companies can explore when trying to publicize their business?
“Event planning is grossly overlooked,” says Volante. “Many retailers and manufacturers have products or items that are easily promoteable given a little effort. We have executed several high profile events and contests in which the winner has been placed on national television shows, hosted key events and made appearances at retail stores, resulting in additional media coverage.
“Every day I see confectionery and food products in the marketplace that would make for great in-store contests,” she continues. “In hosting a contest, both parties benefit from the media exposure, creating an excitement for both the brand being publicized and the store locations in which the contest or event is being held.”
Trade show media, too, are often not taken advantage of.
“A trade show gives the media a ‘news hook’ to products and companies they may not otherwise cover,” Volante explains. “We have a team of account executives who are dedicated to cultivating press interest before and during a trade show, actually escorting the show’s top attending media right over to a client’s booth for a one-on-one interview. Smaller companies love this division of our company because it offers quality media on a shoestring budget.”
You have appeared on “FOX & Friends,” WGN, “The Early Show,” NBC, ABC and other major networks as “The Gadget Diva.” How can being a television personality provide your clients with another avenue of exposure?
“We created this personality as an alternate means of generating additional television segments for our clients in areas where they may not have typically been included. With the ever-changing media and the latest broadcast restrictions, we are always adapting and looking for new and creative ways to get our clients the exposure they want and need, while still providing objective and useful information to consumers,” says Volante.