Keep that momentum going

Keep that momentum going

How to maintain your great reputation through fast growth

Congratulations—your company is growing at warp speed.

Now you need a public relations program that grows with it, supporting your business goals and building a strong, resilient reputation.

Megan Deisler is Vice President of Public Relations at Berg & Associates. We’re a certified women-owned business and award-winning PR agency with a growing roster of premier clients in technology, financial services, health care, education, and manufacturing.

A PR veteran, Deisler got her career start working on Capitol Hill as a press intern for a former U.S. Senator from Oregon and then as deputy press secretary for a former U.S. Senator from Minnesota. She honed her craft at a Pacific Northwest public affairs firm and as a corporate public relations strategist for a large Northwest hospital system before joining Berg & Associates.

Deisler shares her insights on establishing a public relations program that will win the trust and goodwill of your community and support and accelerate your long-term growth.

What is the value of PR for a fast-growing company?

A PR program is a powerful tool for building trust with customers, employees and talent pools, investors, partners, and other people who matter to your business. Through public relations, companies establish trust and positive relationships with communities. At its heart, PR is about storytelling. Stories can cut through the constant barrage of information and noise we’re exposed to every day, delivering messages and meaning that resonate and leave lasting impressions.  

You can surface those stories in a variety of channels and tactics, from media relations and employee and executive communications to content marketing and crisis management. There are plenty of ways to build goodwill and a resilient reputation that can weather challenging times.Difficult cycles come and go in business; over time, PR can bring balance to the narrative about your company.

What should decision-makers look for in a PR firm?

A great PR agency makes your life easier. Its team members are easy to work with. They are responsive, proactive and accountable for results.

A great PR agency is committed to your success. They understand your business and the relationship between your company’s values and its voice and story.  They believe in your mission or purpose, in your potential and your people. When it comes to betting on your future, they’re all in.

An effective PR agency is full of ideas and brimming with tactical know-how. They have a command of public relations planning, a commitment to rigorous measurement and reporting, and are constantly evolving and innovating their strategies to push the envelope, set ambitious goals and deliver a return on your investment.  

Top PR firms manage relationships well. They will cultivate relationships throughout your organization and will open lines of communications with your front-line employees to regularly surface story ideas. And they take media preparation seriously, boosting your confidence by giving you high-quality talk tracks and practice sessions, and teaching you effective interview techniques.

Your agency must be tenacious and creative. High-quality firms are always researching the market and the media. Anyone can put a release on the newswire; not everyone will take the time to match your great story with the perfect reporter or outlet at exactly the right time. Good PR firms follow up on ideas that are not getting traction and look for new angles to generate interest.

The best agencies hire talented writers and content producers. They will ask good questions and seek out data that makes stories relevant. Their work will be crisp, interesting, and free from errors.

Don’t give up until you identify a firm that offers this level of quality and service. Your company deserves it.

What are the biggest misconceptions about PR?

PR is not advertising. You are never going to get an ad unless you pay for it. It’s not purely promotional, either. When you are talking to reporters, it is important to remember that they have editorial control. You can help shape the story, but you cannot control it.

Another common misconception is that PR is an add-on or a “nice to have.” It can’t be an afterthought or a sub-bullet in a marketing plan; it takes time, research, and resources to craft a solid PR strategy that delivers results.

What is your approach to PR?

Great PR focuses on people—the people who benefit from your products and services; the people who make your business run; and the people whose lives are changed by your innovation and ideas. This is the difference between telling a story about a premier cancer institute and telling a story about a person whose life was saved by the institute. A reader might skim the first kind of story but become emotionally invested in the second story and read it to the end.

How can a company find these stories?

A company that has trusted relationships with front-line employees will find that they are awash in good story ideas. Your front-line folks know your clients and customers better than anyone else. Positive people stories are gold, and the gold is in your employees’ memory banks.

What are the steps you take when you are building a PR program?

First, we collaborate with clients to make sure they understand their own story. Companies need to understand who they are, what their values are, and what audiences they need to reach.

Second, we get a handle on your business goals. Your public relations program will help you reach those goals.

Third, we get a clear picture of your operational road map. We want to know what is happening for your organization in the next year, two years, five years. Where are you headed and what are the milestones along the way?

With these foundational elements, we can identify your key messages and craft a strategy to deliver your top-line messages consistently, regardless of the messenger, channel, or audience. Ultimately, we will tell your story on the timeline that meets your organizational objectives.

What happens after the foundation is set?

That is when a good PR firm begins mining for gold. They will collaborate with you to identify story ideas, interview subject matter experts within your organization, and search out the customers and clients who humanize stories. They will write and share story pitches, and when they find a good home for your stories, they will prepare everyone involved for media interviews.

What types of mistakes do you see PR firms making?

Ignoring reporters, for one. I advise my clients to remember that reporters have a job to do and should be treated with respect. You are forming a relationship with your community, and that requires building responsive, ethical, and honest relationships with reporters. Clients should always feel supported and confident when they go into an interview. If your PR firm is sending you into interviews unprepared, it is a good sign that it is time to reevaluate your choice of firm.

This article was originally published in Portland Business Journal’s June 2022 issue.