Thursday, February 17, 2011

When PR Means PR

I just wrapped up a small contract PR/marketing communications project and it happened again.  One of the folks involved with the project confused the term “PR” with press release. 
I’ve heard this more than once, from a range of clients and organizations cutting across a variety of departments (marketing, sales, communications) and industries (profit and non-profit).
It’s an understandable mix up. However, PR is short for “Public Relations” and refers to systematic, consistent efforts that support larger strategic goals.  
A fully developed PR program goes well beyond the one-off press releases.
PR programs enhance awareness, support branding and foster engagement and connections with key audiences. 
A comprehensive PR program encompasses media relations, industry relations, awards programs, speaking opportunities, and online communications.
A press release is important to any public relations effort, but is just one tool to secure media coverage.
It's been my experience that one press release here or there is an ineffective way to go.  Instead, media outreach efforts must be fully integrated into a broader marketing and communications plan, timetable, and budget.
Media outreach should support specified communications objective for one or more target audiences.
Most of the success of a media campaign comes from media relations – the research and cultivation of strong relationships with carefully selected journalists, editors and bloggers that are relevant to the organization.   
A press release has a better chance of being picked up by a media outlet if the blogger, reporter or editor has a basic familiarity with your organization.  That research will also help determine whether the media outlet is the best fit – blindly emailing press releases to reporters who don’t in fact cover the topic is not the way to go.
So remember, PR stands for Public Relations!  More about PR another time.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

When Are You Too Big to be Flat?

I attended an industry event last night showcasing the importance of innovation in traditional business settings. 

One of the more interesting presentations referenced the benefits of a “flat management organization” especially as a way to foster creative problem solving and innovation. 

The presentation got me thinking:  when does a company “get too big to be flat”? 

As a marketing professional, I’ve consulted with smaller, innovative companies and have witnessed an evolutionary progression.  

A flat org structure offers needed communication, flexibility and agility.

As the company succeeds and grows, however, and projects become more complex, that approach must shift to a middle ground with new structures, hierarchy, accountability, degree of supervision and processes.

Flexible Structure

Perhaps it’s a mix of the two approaches that serve companies well:  call it “a flexible, fluid structured process”.

There’s no doubt that the organizational structure of a business has to evolve.
With a flat organizational structure, there are few or often no levels of management between the staff and the managers. This means that the staff has decision-making authority, but the downside can be a lack of accountability or structure.
When larger companies have a number of layers between the actual workers and upper management, there is structure and process, but it’s difficult to innovate or change.
Sooner Than Later
So returning to the concept of  a flexible, fluid structured process” – as companies grow there is likely a need for a hierarchy sooner than later.

From my experience, it’s a challenge for a growing organization to maintain flat management methods as the complexity tends to grow (in tasks, projects, sales, staff, etc.) and become more complex. 

The challenge is to actively foster a hybrid approach.