I recently conducted a webinar on the subject of PR for professionals. It was attended by some very clever people, many of them experts in their fields – but not in PR.
It can be difficult within the context of a Zoom call to gauge understanding but, from the tone of the questions, I got the impression that I should have focused in much more depth on one area: the difference, when it comes to media coverage, between relevance and salience.
Relevant coverage, in this context, refers to media articles about what you do for clients or customers. It’s the primary focus of many PR teams, and certainly of the clients who employ them.
It is, of course, important that people associate you with what you do, and that they believe you do it well. It is also, however, vital that they remember you exist – and that is where “salience” comes in.
Get out of sales mode
So, while you will often want to be in selling mode, getting your key business messages across, there is also a significant role to be played by less obviously relevant coverage – “fluff”, as some people choose to call it.
Oddly, businesspeople and professionals tend to understand this instinctively when it is pointed out in the context of social media. Any half-decent social media specialist will tell you that the ratio of “personal” and “information” posts to “sales” posts should be in the region of five or more to one.
When it comes to dealing with the traditional media, however, many clients take a different view. They might be willing to bare their souls (a little too much, I often think) on Twitter or Facebook but then bristle when a journalist writes a piece that focuses more on their lifestyle and leisure interests than their professional excellence.
But consider this for a moment: if a journalist asks about your favourite brand of shoes or whether you prefer prosecco to champagne it is because it goes without saying that you at the top of your field. You don’t want to be quoted saying anything professionally embarrassing but remember that the primary goal of PR is to get you into as many customers’/clients’ consideration sets as possible.
These sets are often vanishingly small – maybe six (personal or corporate) brands. Once you are in a customer’s consideration set they will then do the deeper research that may or may not result in a sale.
But the key is to be in there, and that means being top of mind. And that means as much exposure as possible, whether it is directly relevant or not.
If you’re honest with yourself you know that you read more of the “fluff” in the media than you do the high-minded professional content. Your customers are no different.