Why a PR Plan Should be Part of your Business Plan

In August I gave a talk for the eWomenNetwork Accelerated Network Luncheon. I spoke about a few things that stood out in a survey taken with the group here in Seattle, Washington. The last topic addressed was on how to budget for working with a public relations professional (which will be addressed in a following blog, and I mention this primarily for the eWomen Seattle group). During the speech, I promised to blog about the topics I spoke on in more depth, as well as answer questions individually to those that asked. My plan ongoing, is to also to write about the questions in more detail. This post is the beginning of that journey, which should take us through the next several weeks. It will be a learning experience not only for the eWomenNetwork Seattle group, but for all interested in this topic. Here I will discuss why a public relations plan should be a part of the overall business plan. Strategic public relations planning is not just for large companies, and it does not require hiring a full on agency if your small business does not warrant it.

In my 20+ years, I have learned time and again that it all starts with learning about what public relations is, and for our purposes here I will be addressing publicity and promotion under the public relations umbrella and why a crisis management plan is important. From my survey taken with the eWomen Seattle group, getting the word out about what they do, who they are, why it matters and who benefits is critical. This is important to all entrepreneurs, whether they are in a service profession and work out of their home, work independently with a larger firm, have an online business, or a small-to-medium sized business with a storefront. It is easy to get confused, depending on who you listen to and the books you read. Here are three things you can sink your teeth into to start with, on the journey of understanding why you need public relations:

1.  Put your marketing plan in motion first, because your PR plan should ignite it. The marketing plan is built from the marketing mix, something most people know about from going to business college – if that was your path. It you did not, then pay close attention, as this will be a great help to you. The marketing mix is made up of four parts: your product (or service), the price you set for that product (s) or service (s), the place or location you choose to have your business–online, store front, home office (this also includes distribution), and promotion. How are you going to promote your business? There are a number of things you can do, including direct mail, in-store or online parties, partnering with non-profits, or as David Meerman Scott proposes in his book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR–do something brilliant that gets the attention of your customer and the media.

Publicity lights a fire and works with your overall marketing strategy to keep it burning

Publicity lights a fire and works with your overall marketing strategy to keep it burning

2.  Make a list of creative promotional ideas. Promotional campaigns, which are also called PR campaigns (because promotions are leveraged for publicity)  should be fun, relevant, and attract attention. This is the buzz effect. If your product or service is not necessarily exciting you have to create something exciting, or get involved with the latest craze to get noticed, like the current ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. You can either get on board and create your own (it is about over though, they have raised about 100 million) or take another route like these people Mashable wrote about “8 Bucket Challenges That Don’t Involve Any Ice“. You can make it funny, or more serious depending on the message you are trying to convey. The key is to consistently live outside your comfort zone brainstorming ideas. Using the latest craze can get you media attention and the attention of your customer. What sets good PR apart, is the approach taken to create buzz that gets you noticed instead of your competition.

3.  Decide who will take care of your clients in an emergency. Crisis management is a practice area under the public relations umbrella. We will touch on it briefly here, as it should be a part of your overall public relations plan which makes for a healthy business plan that not only makes it more attractive to loan institutions, (if you are thinking about going for a small-to-medium sized business loan) but it’s good business. Just over two years ago I had a health emergency that landed me in the emergency room (thinking I had food poisoning) and following emergency surgery, I was in the hospital for almost two weeks. I had no plan in motion to care for my clients, no one to call that could either jump in and make phone calls, or manage my clients in my absence. The lesson here, is even if you are a sole proprietor, it is your responsibility to make sure that someone knows who your clients are, what is in motion, and has all their contact information. The best plan has someone on call that you collaborate with that is familiar with your clients, and knows who to call to put the plan in action. From there, your emergency partner can either manage these clients with your direction until you can step back into your business, or find them someone else to work with in the event of your death. When my emergency happened, I lost two clients. It was my responsibility to make sure there was someone to call them and keep them informed and give them options. I did not have this plan in action. I do now! It is the right thing to do, and it shows your commitment and integrity to those you serve, in case of an emergency. Make sure your clients are aware of your plan, they will respect you for it.

The three things talked about here are great to get your mental engine going–getting a strong marketing plan in place so you can ignite it with public relations, brainstorm your promotional ideas and make sure to get that crisis management plan in place. I look forward to hearing your questions and comments here. Jump in! Let’s engage and have a conversation. There will be many blog posts to follow, and I look forward to giving you great content to continue to sink your teeth into!

What You Can Do Right Now to Start Developing a Crisis Mindset for Your Comprehensive Emergency Plan

In my previous post I stated that I would take you through my own process of creating a plan for Firetalker PR. This post will get you started based on what I have done so far. According to Emergency Public Relations, Crisis Management in a 3.0 World, by Alan B. Bernstein and Cindy Rakowitz,  there are things to consider as you move toward developing your plan as I have.

It is important to know there is work to be done before jumping into creating your plan. Having a crisis mindset is critical to the process, whether you are a publicist, or a business coach. For the purposes of this post; I will come from being an entrepreneur, and what that mindset means so you can follow along and create your own plan too.

First, I thought through what it means to my clients to always think from a pro-active worst-case-scenario perspective (which is the best way to do it, even though it may sound strange to you at first). I looked at the possibility that if I was in the hospital and/or passed away, what that would look like for my clients.

It became an “if this, then that” equation as I thought it through. So, if something happens to me, then I have it in a legal document called an Advanced Healthcare Directive (as additional information provided) that a colleague I have chosen, (another PR professional) should be notified. She will take care of my clients; my business. I stipulated that she would do outreach and make sure everyone knew what had happened to me. Therefore, I made the commitment to her to always keep her up to speed on what is happening, and where she may need to keep things going. If I pass away, she will offer her services to my clients and/or assist them in finding someone to care for them if they wish. (Of course, it is recommended to get the buy-in of whomever you choose before putting all of this in writing, and make sure you trust them!)

I recommend using Google to research the type of directive you wish to have (free or through an attorney). I used Rocket Lawyer, which is highly recommended by many professionals (also by Forbes, Wall Street Journal and more). An Advanced Healthcare Directive is a great way to prepare for the worst-case-scenario and develop that crisis mindset you will need to follow me through my crisis plan production as an entrepreneur. How you ultimately decide to do this is up to you. I still recommend, and always will, that you buy Cindy Rakowitz’s book and get all the additional information you will need to make your own final decisions. You can also find her book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Next time I will take you through my process in considering other emergencies I feel would effect my business (brand attack, personal attack and rapid social media response).

Have a question or comment? Please ask away! Start a conversation so we can all learn from each other. Talk to you soon!

Do you have a plan in place for your business in case you end up in the ER?

In May of this year I became very ill and ended up having emergency surgery. For months prior to that, I had several other health issues that were annoying to me, and to everyone including my clients. All of it related to a compromised immune system (I never knew, until I ended up in the hospital ER May 19th as my body was busy fighting an infection going undetected). I was told I “dodged a bullet” by the surgeon. This entry is longer than the normal post; it is important to stay with me and read on.

The reason I am sharing this intimate experience with you is to use myself as the perfect example of, “it will never happen to me” that stays somewhere inside our minds (even if we deny it). It’s right up there with knowing you need to take better care of yourself and you don’t, because you can’t tear yourself away from the computer. We all procrastinate as we need to get one more thing done, right? So what happens if there is an emergency, a crisis in our life that affects our business?

Emergency being the key word. Did I have a crisis plan in place in case of a personal disaster? Did I work with colleagues I consider partners to put together a reciprocal plan?

No. I was blessed to have people that cared enough to help me out. I was too sick to even know to call anyone (including family and friends) and I was out of touch when I shouldn’t have been. However, within the last day I’d been in touch with a friend and colleague (that knew I did not feel well), Janet Powers who happened to call me at the hospital on my cell.

She is founder of Women’s Toolbox and was kind enough to make a call to one of my clients for me (Janet had a full plate—it was not her job to call my clients for me) and explain how sick I was. I can tell you in complete honesty, if Janet had not reached out I don’t think I would have had it together enough to do anything; I was so ill. Ironically, this client Janet called for me was Cindy Rakowitz, CEO of Blackman Rakowitz Public Relations, and author of Emergency Public Relations Crisis Management in a 3.0 World.

Imagine my embarrassment. This is hard for me to say, but can you also imagine what Cindy must have thought? She felt bad for me and wanted me to get well; however, I am sure she was saying, “Where is her crisis plan?” Cindy is a crisis management expert. Earlier this year I promoted Cindy’s book and I can tell you, I am reading it again. This time with a pen in my hand taking notes to build my plan. Her book lays it out step-by-step.

When a plan is in place you think about that plan and you have that mindset. Reading a book like Cindy has written and acting on it are two different things. I would have made calls before I went to the ER. My plan building starts with my next blog post and I am going to share my process with you. A crisis plan for an entrepreneur is emphasized in Cindy’s book and I have even blogged about it myself. I cannot tell you how hard it is to admit I was not prepared. Never again! Look for my next post and let me know what you think. In the meantime, buy Cindy’s book and take charge of your brand’s (business) crisis management. This should be an element of your overall marketing and PR plan.