A recent survey confirmed what we all know and sometimes forget: relationships and connections matter, especially in business. Could it be the reason why Linkedin is a networking lifeline for business professionals?
Last November, after a client’s news release announcing a new product landed in my inbox, I set out to understand how doing product launches had changed. In the past, it required a bit of long-range planning, organization and connections to a circle of influencers, formerly limited to reporters, editors and analysts who covered the industry. With today’s new forms of communications and different channels, the process is not as clear or as straightforward.
A survey was in order. Bryon Moyer, an editor, a technology ghostwriter, and frequent collaborator, helped compile a list of questions and then allowed me to interview him to test out the questionnaire. His comments, of course, were included in the survey.
From there, I used my network to contact a long list of influencers that included reporters, editors, analysts and bloggers to see if they’d take time to discuss what they cover and what they need when. And, to no great surprise, connections matter. In total, fourteen of them, including Brian Bailey, editor of this DesignLine and Dylan McGrath of EE Times, agreed to be interviewed. One of the 14 has since departed his trade journal gig and is working at a semiconductor equipment company, a trend that seems to be picking up momentum with our influencers.
Each offered their needs for a product introduction, along with opinions and requirements in candid and insightful discussions on the state of the publishing industry. The semiconductor industry has far more influencers than those 14 who offered their time and opinions, but making the time to talk proved to be far more difficult than expected. We may have sizeable networks on Linkedin, but time isn’t something everyone has in abundance.
It may be obvious to anyone reading this that I was able to leverage my connections and reputation as a Public Relations professional built up over many years. And, that is true. I was able to “get” interviews with some influential influencers, something not everyone may be able to do. Even then, Bryon Moyer came to the rescue to use his connections for two interviews that otherwise may not have happened.
I don’t mean to be boastful. Instead, I’m pointing out the obvious. Companies hire Public Relations professionals like me for our writing and communications skills. Most important is our network. We need to know who is influencing the industry at large, and how to reach and influence them. Influence is not pejorative.
Having regular contact with the influencers matters. Nothing comes close to having this contact with an industry’s key influencers. Among other things, a credible PR person will be called by influencers when they need help. It also keeps track on what’s on an influencer’s mind, what he or she is working on or if they’re looking for content. And, if so, what kind. PR professionals have been known to offer story ideas or information on the latest trends.
The survey confirmed what many corporate executives know already. PR is an effective and cost-effective marketing program. A well-executed PR campaign can build instant visibility and credibility, and is vital to gaining the critical edge on the competition. The cost for that? Priceless.
The semiconductor industry has a wide range of companies in all forms and sizes, many with large and capable PR departments. Typically, a small startup or emerging company does not have the budget or the need for an in-house resource or a big global PR firm.
Instead, they outsource the role to boutique PR firms and consultants to quickly establish themselves as major industry players and market leaders. With the steady guidance of an experience PR professional, a carefully crafted and focused PR program can create legitimate publicity opportunities.
Public Relations can be viewed as another sales channel, and can be treated as part of the sales process — just a different audience. As with any sales engagement, it meets a company need to establish clear goals and positioning, and create ongoing relationships. It’s not just a broadcast medium, either. It can provide audience feedback, especially with the instant feedback channels available to all of us today.
Knowing when to bring in a PR professional depends on a company’s goals. A startup may want to promote itself to generate interest from the venture capital community if it’s raising funding or wants to immediately establish itself as an industry expert. Or if it’s hiring and needs to show candidates that it’s real or needs beta customers to test the product. More often, PR professionals are brought in to help with corporate and product launches.
At whatever stage a company decides to hire a PR agency or consultant, goals and objectives should be considered. That is, what do you want to accomplish? A PR consultant will offer strategic counsel and assist with company and product positioning. They will need access to decision makers to better understand the vision. A company can count on PR professionals to plan and execute a campaign and offer an evaluation.
One final note: Public Relations should be considered an ongoing process to create and sustain awareness. Optimally, it’s not done on project basis, but is done over a one-year period or longer to work toward gaining credibility and visibility. Educating the market and differentiating a company and its products takes time, as does changing perception.
While mass communications may be my expertise, don’t ask me to design, verify or build a chip. But do call me or another PR professional if your company is in need of image building. We will make a difference.
About the author Nanette Collins started Nanette V. Collins Marketing and Public Relations in 1994. The firm creates strategic PR plans to build awareness and establish the company’s credibility and visibility. Collins holds a Master of Science Degree in Public Relations from Boston University College of Communications, ground zero for the marketing and PR network to the business world, and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Journalism from Suffolk University in Boston. More details can be found at: www.nvc.com.
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