Many national companies work aggressively to build reputation locally. Seems easy, right? Build strong awareness nationally, then drive it home in local markets with tailored messaging. Sometimes it’s that easy. But more often, it’s not. Here are some important lessons for media relations practitioners:
Lesson #1: Reporters (and bloggers) are skeptical. Whenever you step it up in a regional or local market, you can expect a good degree of skepticism. People may think your company is struggling, trying to divert attention or fearful of competition. The list goes on and on. It’s important to be as candid and clear as possible with reporters and bloggers. It’s equally important to stay positive. The process can be a real test of patience, especially during the first few months.
Lesson #2: There may be local resistance. So you have a nationally admired brand, or at least one that’s nationally recognized. That’s great, but it’s not always so great for targeted media relations purposes. Across many industries, there can be strong resistance to national players at the local level. Think of Wal-Mart and the struggles it has faced, at times, when entering small towns. It’s important, and perhaps imperative, to keep organizational hubris in check. Focus your messages on who your organization wants to serve regionally and locally, and why the organization is uniquely qualified to do so within these specific markets. Messages about national prominence should take a backseat.
Lesson #3: Results may be disappointing—at least initially. Most likely you will have a realistic goal in mind when it comes to targeted media relations. But others in your organization may not. They may expect big things quickly. However, ramping it up within a certain area or among a certain audience doesn’t guarantee immediate or impressive results. Targeting your messages, building local relationships and establishing trust and being responsive—all of this takes time, energy and resources. You’ll need to be a strong leader in order to stand your ground and stay the course.
David Remund teaches public relations and communication leadership at Drake University. He has designed and managed national communications programs for Bank of America, Principal Financial Group and Wells Faro & Company.