PR is nothing more than putting out the word when something happens, right? Well, that may be the stereotype, but the proper use and implementation of strategic public relations is much more. Strategic PR begins early in the product planning stage, continues in product development, introduction, and evaluation, and helps mold the next generation.
Establishing Development Objectives
Before a product is ever announced and even before it hits the drawing board, strategic PR is establishing the parameters for its development objectives. Through the process of discovery much like market research, but with a stronger technological component, the practitioner measures the status of the industry, identifies niches both filled and void, and defines trends and interests in both marketing and technological arenas. It is also important to determine the needs and thoughts of potential customers and end-users. Trends are also discovered in interviews, by examining trade association programs, and even by reading annual reports.
Often, all these various elements are veiled and unclear, but the strategic PR process weighs all relevant information and discovers the jewels.
Benchmarking – Gathering Baseline Data
The next step is benchmarking – discovering exactly what has been done regarding the new development effort and identifying competitive and complimentary activities. Awareness of competitive efforts can lead a project to the dump heap or can fuel the flames and increase the budgets.
When complimentary efforts are discovered, it is often wise to investigate possible linkages that can further the objectives of all groups involved. Successful cooperative ventures can streamline the development process, uncover funding sources, and provide exposure and access. Less fortuitous collaborations can mire the project in unforeseen problems. One part of the discovery process is to help evaluate the potential problems or benefits of strategic linkages.
PR and The Development Process
It has been said that product development should begin with the writing of a press release. Therefore, designers and developers should have a clear idea of market demand, what consumers expect in a new product, and how it should be “packaged” before pencil is ever put to paper (or pen to digitizing tablet, perhaps).
PR Goes Hand-In-Hand With Product Development
Introducing a new product, including the behind-the-scenes PR that prepares the media, the consultants, and other influential parties, must go hand-in-hand with the new product’s development process. To overlook this necessity ignores the time-span required for introducing the product, for insinuating the need or defining the new market, and for suggesting appropriate applications – in other words, preparing the field for play, so that demand already exists when the new product arrives on the scene. There is a significant payback to that because it directly influences potential cashflow by shortening the time to sales closure.
Active PR Informs, Measures and Reacts
The active PR process is one of the best mechanisms for measuring the effectiveness and success of new products. The PR manager can play a major role in placing beta and review copies of products and in targeting the results of those reviews for maximum impact. The amount and placement of press coverage, the editorial commentary, and the customer response that may be incorporated into news articles all provide important information to the company. Management can use this information as direct feedback and as a springboard to perform follow-up to broaden the experience.
Bringing the PR process full circle, the results of early and mid-course public relations activities can help the company make minor course corrections after introduction to increase the acceptance and success of the product, and can help shape future product planning.
So, who said PR is just putting out the word?
That is only one small facet of the complex strategic PR process that wise companies employ.
Photo shot on location in Buenos Aires by me. (c) 2013