Making Imperfect Circumstances Yield Good PR and Brand Awareness

Good PR can happen even if all elements aren't perfect.

A one-legged bird beats the odds and inspires me to better thinking on PR

No PR Campaign Ever Has All The Legs It Needs, But You Can Still Win

Yesterday, I was absolutely famished by 10 a.m., and having been working since dark, I decided to grab a bite near my Orange County, California office. I was mulling a particularly sticky client issue as I was digging into my scrambled eggs on the patio of a nice little café, and frankly, feeling a little grumpy.

I unplugged from technology and let my mind float. I was mulling options for creating news where there is none and ways to edge our customer engagement up, while occasionally shooing the greedy bird community away from my table.

Finally I noticed one of these little gray-brown birds looking me square in the eye and holding his ground more persistently than the others, inching quite close to my chair. I thought at first he had a leg held up to his breast, but quickly realized he protected just a strand of what used to be a leg. And yet here he was, proud as you please, getting more than his fair share of bagels and breakfast scraps.

I just began to chuckle out loud to no one, and I’m sure people thought I was a loon.

It took a real-life one-legged bird to remind me this morning that nothing in business or PR is ever perfect and the dedicated, persistent and bold ones get the goodies, the coverage, the brand exposure.

You always need more time, more details, a better image, more spokespeople, a better partnership. Even companies with multi-million dollar budgets rarely feel they have all the tools at their disposal for making “perfect” campaigns. But you know what? Just getting on with it, planning the best you can, with a realistic understanding of your shortcomings and how to compensate for them, combined with an attitude of persistence and resilience will yield great results.

The Practicalities of Working With Imperfection

So, what does this mean practically speaking?  How do we move from little bird analogy to the cold, hard reality of making your CEO thrilled? Sometimes, a solution will appear. And other times, frankly, it isn’t going to be easy. You are going to have to wear the big boy or big girl pants and tell your execs what is possible, probable, or a big fat stretch.

Here are a few examples of how you can work around your missing PR legs:

  • You’re not quite ready for business press. You can’t talk about your funding, your profit, or you don’t have a ton of customers yet. These missing legs always make those editors who get on average 150 emails an hour tougher to reach. But, just because a Wall Street Journal  story might not be likely right now does not mean that you can’t get profiles, interviews and bylines placed with core industry bloggers who then raise your credibility. Those guys will likely get you more sales than a glory hit.You should still pitch WSJ if you feel your story is pretty good, but don’t put all your eggs in that basket. And remember, all reporters search you via Google when they are considering interviewing your company, so the more written by or about your business, the better.
  • You are in a news slump. There is nothing on the horizon. Do you go quiet? Hell, no. This is the time to stop the impulse to churn out useless news releases and go head-down creating valuable thought leadership pieces and start blogging more regularly. Follow reporters more closely  and touch base just because. Brainstorm creative stunts and programs that will populate your blog or serve multidisciplinary marketing needs that will carry your brand for months to come.  And if you have to remind the C-suite that quiet doesn’t mean taking a nap, be sure to involve them.
  • Speaking gigs are big in your industry but your CEO is completely monotone and gets hives in front of a crowd. Is there someone else with a good enough title that can speak for him or her? Or can you make the case that ongoing speaker training is a good investment?
  • You’ve snagged a great partner, but they are too busy to do news. Keep nurturing the relationship, settle for a blog post, place articles of your own with pubs important to them, and return a few months later suggesting you pitch a byline or tutorial with you both.

Play to Your Strengths

The little bird eventually sought out more receptive diners, but his bold spirit reinvigorated my client brainstorm and left me smiling.  Full disclosure: (I walk with a heavy limp, and often forget about it, until I see myself walking in a store window, so I might be a little biased toward this tough bird.)

Although I felt really silly, my steps slowed as I walked out of the cafe. I realized sheepishly that I was looking for that little guy. For a few moments, I could only see “normal” birds. But just as I was stepping to my car, my feathered friend seemed to realize he needed to come say goodbye and alighted near the post where I stood, balancing perfectly on his one leg.

I looked him in the eye, we nodded at each other, and he politely posed for a  very long time until I got this picture.

He should remind us all that we can always make what we have more to work with than it appears in marketing and PR, even if it feels like we are missing a crucial piece.

And my client? Sticky issue solved. Two pieces of coverage and a great new editor interested. Thanks, birdie!

About Kara Udziela

Kara Udziela created Vibrance in 2006 to unite big agency brainpower with small agency passion and help companies and entrepreneurs who are changing their corners of the world to explode off their web sites, polish their stories and finally get the recognition they deserve on national and international stages. Vibrance launched startups like the now global stock media powerhouse iStockphoto, growing its strategic communications campaigns across 10 countries.

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