This is a guest post by PR columnist, Alison Kenney.
Stealth-mode PR. It sounds like an oxymoron, but I bet you know what I’m talking about.
You know — a company hires PR talent to raise its profile, but doesn’t want to put itself too far out there. For instance, a small private startup might want to convince investors and potential employees that it’s the next best thing, but doesn’t want to tip off competitors by revealing too many numbers (e.g. revenue, customer data, etc).
This can put the PR function in a bit of a bind.
It’s tough to get top media outlets to profile your company if you can’t show why you’re relevant to their readers by mentioning customers with recognizable names or spotlighting your meteoric growth and attractiveness as a potential investment.
However, if you find yourself in this situation – working with a client who doesn’t want to reveal too many ‘secrets’ or even just one who is less aggressive when it comes to PR – here are a few suggestions:
Take the focus off the company and its product and build awareness of its ‘thought leadership.’ The term ‘thought leadership’ has been around for awhile and is the label for establishing an individual as an authority or forward-thinker on a topic or in a particular field. The work can involve strategizing about messaging, brainstorming new language terms and making ideas come to life through examples and application. Tactics can include writing white papers and bylined articles; speaking/delivering presentations before live or web audiences; authoring a book; conducting surveys and sharing the results; and establishing and sponsoring an awards program.
Or, focus on the personalities behind the business. Concentrate your efforts on the firm’s leaders and managers, perhaps even without mentioning by name the business they’re working with currently, by promoting them as speakers, award nominees and online authorities.
Build an online presence. Invest time in developing a web site (perhaps you don’t publish all of the content at once if it’s deemed sensitive) and social media channels. You can also monitor and respond to industry- or topic-specific online communities. Building a following online will come in useful when you are able to share news. It can also result in better SEO and search results that may be important to other company initiatives.
Plan ahead and prepare for the moment when you hear “go.” Brief influencers, such as industry analysts and significant customers, so that they can serve as references when you’re ready to tell your story. In the same way (using NDAs if necessary) prepare the media by offering bloggers and key beat reporters a background briefing and general outline of your future plans.
Develop non-news content. Content is king and even pitchable these days. Create and build a bank of quality content by interviewing other people (experts, customers, etc.) about your industry or issues; record summaries of industry events (e.g. highlights from tradeshows); develop case studies (and make them anonymous if necessary); or hire a comic who can create original art for you.
Align with the company’s current goals. If publicity isn’t a priority, understand what goals are most important to the company’s success right now and how PR can support those goals. Is it developing channels for customer communications, e.g. emails, newsletters, online chats, online portal sites? Helping the sales team with support materials? Organizing events to facilitate networking? Participating in industry groups to gain credibility and meet partners?
Have you ever been in this position? What did you do?
Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. You can find her at www.kprcommunications.com. Learn more about Alison Kenney.