When executives say they want to increase the company’s visibility, you as a communications professional need to dig a little deeper and find out what specifically it is they are looking to achieve. Then, you need to match their business objectives with the most appropriate and targeted approach.
Telling Your Story to the Masses
The traditional news media has long been one of the most desired ways to “see and be seen” because of the large numbers of people it reaches. And even though network viewership is down and many newspapers are struggling financially, print and broadcast news outlets are still powerful voices in our society. Just look at our presidential elections.
Barack Obama and John McCain needed to reach as many Americans as possible, but most organizations need to reach a much more targeted group of individuals. For example, if you are in the recycled paperboard industry and want to reach the paper manufacturing industry, a placement in front of the 30,000 readers of Pulp & Paper would most likely help you reach your target audience better than a major national news outlet.
This is not to say that major media placements are never worthwhile. It just means you need to understand your organization, your audiences and the most effective way to reach them with your messages.
Tapping into New Media
The popularity of the Internet as a source of information and as a community is undeniable. A 2007 Harris Poll showed that 79% of U.S. adults are Internet users, spending an average of 11 hours a week online. Technorati estimates there are more than 112 million blogs, and Facebook claims to have more than 100 million users.
But how do you increase your visibility among the people who matter most to you—current or potential customers, partners or investors?
For starters, it is important to work with clients to determine if social media is the best option for them. While it is an exciting and effective way for many types of organizations to reach people, it is important to start a social media campaign because it makes sense, not just because it exists or because it is the “newest gadget” in the public relations toolbox.
Find out if the people you want to reach are active social media users. If so, what tools and Web sites are the most popular with this group? And be sure to revisit your research periodically. For example, if you are targeting stay-at-home moms, you’ll find many are very active in social networking, forming and joining groups to fit their interests, from autism awareness to their alma maters. However, only a few years ago, your findings may have been quite different. Who knows what another year or two will bring?
You also have to make sure to reach your audience through mediums that effectively match your goals. Breast cancer awareness associations have seen great success by raising awareness and generating donations through Facebook. There are countless groups with hundreds of thousands of members, many of whom passionately support the organization’s cause and actively post thoughts and discussions every day. However, a technology company looking to sell gadgets directly to, say, Facebook users might not be as well-received if it is seen as too “salesy” to the Facebook audience. So, clearly finding the right place online is critical.
Of course, never underestimate the value of actually being seen if you want to “be seen.” Face-to-face communication is invaluable in raising your company’s profile, and special events—provided they are the right special events—can offer great visibility as well as personal interaction with your customers that online conversations cannot replace.
If you are in the healthcare industry, look for trade shows where you can exhibit your services to doctors and hospital administrators. If you are in the nonprofit sector, find conferences in your area where you can network with other executive directors. Holding your own event can give you more control over attendees and the message coming out of the meeting, but it typically involves more expense and more effort to attract the attendees.
Traditional media relations, social media and special events are some of the more popular ways to raise your organization’s visibility, but there are certainly other tools available. No matter which method you choose, remember you don’t need to focus on reaching every person on every street corner. To grow your business and your bottom line, focus instead on reaching the right people – those who truly have the potential to buy your product, use your service, partner with your company or invest in your business.
Dave Groobert is the General Manager for the U.S. operations of Environics Communications, a full-service public relations firm with offices in Washington, DC, Metro New York, Toronto and Montreal. You can send questions or comments to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202-296-2002. For additional information on Environics, please visit the firm’s Web site at www.environicspr.com.