JetBlue Airways is a company that understands the value of public relations.
On one recent flight, David Neeleman, JetBlue’s CEO, came along for the ride. Rather than melt into the crowd, he introduced himself and thanked everyone for his or her business. He then passed out the snacks and gave each and every passenger an opportunity to express their concerns, thoughts and questions.
His crew cares just as much about how JetBlue is represented to the public. This is PR at its best.
Public relations represents the most daunting communication tool in a company’s marketing arsenal. PR is never just limited to publicity. Its process and benefits are complex and, when used correctly, the results are compelling.
The Institute of Public Relations defines public relations as “the methods and activities employed to establish and promote a favorable relationship with the public.”
PR is about building relationships. It’s how your company interacts with staff, clients and the general public. PR defines how you are perceived. PR campaigns put you in direct contact with your target audience through public appearances, publicity and community outreach. Publicity, an important element of PR, is the art of building favorable interest in your product/service through the media.
Current PR practices use an array of techniques including media relations, speaking engagements, special events, direct mail, opinion polling and focus groups to evaluate public opinion. PR firms distribute information through the Internet, satellite feeds, broadcast faxes and database-driven phone banks to recruit supporters for a client’s cause.
The techniques and skills used to communicate with the public have grown. According to the Public Relations Society of America, “Examples of the knowledge that may be required in the professional practice of public relations include communication arts, psychology, social psychology, sociology, political science, economics, and the principles of management and ethics. Technical knowledge and skills are required for opinion research, public issues analysis, media relations, direct mail, institutional advertising, publications, film/video productions, special events, speeches, and presentations.”
Perhaps no industry has been changed so dramatically by the Internet as the news media and, by extension, public relations. The news delivery process, once contained through defined channels, has evolved into a frenzied stream played out on Websites, online conferences and chat boards.
With the changing media landscape and sluggish economy, how can you get the most mileage from your PR efforts?
An integrated approach to communications is the order of the day.
Your advertising, promotions, public relations, employee communications and Internet presence must be a coordinated effort and evolve from your company’s mission and positioning statements. Public relations should impart your overall marketing objectives: Who is your target audience(s)? What key message and benefit do you want to communicate? What are your short- and long-term objectives? It is more important than ever to develop and maintain a branded environment that reflects one look, feel and voice across all mediums.
Speaking opportunities are a key driver to your organization’s overall communications strategy.
Skillfully delivered presentations help you achieve business objectives. Don’t melt into the crowd — get out there and get closer to your target audience and the community. Another benefit is being perceived as an expert in your field.
Seek new alternatives to deliver your PR materials.
The traditional press kit folder— with press releases, company profile, bios of key management — is no longer the only game in town. Consider a CD or online press kit. These formats can use video and can also translate into long-term savings in mailing and printing costs.
Don’t launch your PR effort until your website is “fit”.
Websites make organizations accessible 24 hours a day, and they can make the smallest company appear large. A poorly developed website can hinder PR efforts. Before you embark on any campaign, make sure your site is informative, dynamic, and accurate. Journalists often turn to a company website for background information. A poorly produced site detracts from credibility. There is nothing worse than having a journalist turn off to your story due to a bad website.
Make your staff an integral part of the PR process.
Your entire staff must be aware of the role they play in representing your company. You must promote your brand internally since your staff is on the front lines — answering the phones, greeting guests and speaking to their friends about their jobs. Invest in making your staff know how important they are to promoting the image of your company.
Take advantage of cyberspace.
The Internet is the most powerful communications medium. It has created an audience that stretches beyond the media, yet potentially exerts the same influence. The wealth of online magazines, industry-specific sites, and online media conferences has created an array of opportunities to gain exposure.
Wrapping it up.
In the end, companies need to get closer to the public. The JetBlue experience teaches all of us how to come in for a safe landing, in more ways than one.
Stacey Cohen is President of Co-Communications, a full-service Marketing/Public Relations firm located in Mt. Kisco, NY. She can be reached at 914.666.0066 or via e-mail, Stacey@cocommunications.com.