Tip Sheet: More Of The Same, And Better: How To Expand Your Program After Its Initial Success

Expanding your program and budget after a successful PR initiative should provide a win-win scenario: creating more exposure as momentum builds and elevating awareness from the initial burst of coverage, making it easier and more cost-effective for you to get more and better results. Therefore, a successful initial program should most often lead to additional budget for more activities. Unfortunately, PR pros are trained as communicators and consultants, not as salespeople. So when it comes time to expand programs and services offered to clients after an initial success, often they don't know where to start. PR agencies too often overlook the leverage to be gained from demonstrating the ROI from successful results, while corporate PR people often don't know exactly how or when to assert themselves by taking advantage of a successful initiative to lobby for additional budget with internal clients. The good news is that solving this problem requires only rudimentary sales skills as well as an ability to stand in your client's shoes. Here is a three-step program to expand your program after the initial success: 1. Understand the client's needs. PR tacticians too often neglect to study the client's business plan and overall strategic requirements. Even corporate PR professionals fail to think strategically enough about results that matter. It's extremely important to understand the corporate goals and objectives and to be able to talk about the "end-game" strategies to win in the marketplace. Is the marketing program meant to increase awareness among influencers or to directly stimulate sales? If so, who are the most important audiences and what are they thinking? Should your primary concern be the middlemen who may control the distribution channel, or the end users who will create the market pull? Does the positioning and the messaging need to evolve now that initial awareness has been built? Knowing the answers to these questions enables you not only to come up with more relevant creative ideas for expanding the program, but also to make a more convincing case for next steps. 2. Know what you can deliver. Once you understand the client's strategic needs for both the short and long term, you must develop a realistic strategic communication plan delivering tangible, measurable benefits. Think like a reporter and ask the question, "What's the second-day story?" Journalists who have invested time in researching and writing a story always want to leverage that investment with follow-on stories that earn them more bylines and a reputation for expertise in a particular subject area. They create an after-market for news that creative PR professionals can feed with additional news releases and, more important, "thought-leadership" initiatives such as seminars, executive visibility programs, corporate blogs, vertical market initiatives and other activities. Specific, tangible ideas are preferable to vague strategies. And know what's possible or not: for instance, if you are having a difficult time getting customers to provide testimonials, focus instead on bylined articles, or white papers that still have plenty of currency with the media. 3. Remember: Nothing sells like success. When you have developed a realistic follow-up plan, come up with the right strategy for selling it to ensure you get the resources and budget you need to deliver the goods. First, be ready to merchandise the results of your initial success. Don't just put together a clip book, but top it with an analysis of the benefits delivered by all your activities. Did the stories reach the target markets? Have customers and prospects reacted positively? Have you solicited feedback and support from the sales team that is benefitting from your work? Then, remember you need to sell the program not just to your day-to-day contact, but also to all decision-makers in the chain. Think first of the marketing mix and budget issues confronting the CMO. If you can show an ROI from your initial activities and demonstrate additional leverage from more cost- effective ongoing activities, you will make your day-to-day contact look like a hero. Whether you are a PR agency representative trying to expand your firm's business, or a corporate PR professional competing for scarce budget and resources, selling solutions becomes easier once you understand strategic business needs. You will get what you need to secure approval of follow-on programs that make the phone ring and moving the dial on your business and career. CONTACT: Michael Renderman is VP of Business Development for Cision North America. He can be reached at michael.renderman@cision.com.

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