HOW TO: Be a PR Ninja
(Photo – Flickr Creative Commons: R’eyes)
Agile. Stealthy. Available at any opportunity. Always succeeds. Retreats unscathed. These are the characteristics of a ninja you might see in a blockbuster action movie—but how do you incorporate these traits into your PR plan for your small business? If you want to position yourself as the authority in your field and rise above the competition, I say: think like a ninja.
It’s exciting to think about dressing up in all black with swords and having throwing stars at your fingertips, but since that probably isn’t feasible, we’ll go with some analogies of a ninja’s best traits that you can incorporate into your PR strategy:
Agility: You’ve got to be the first one to respond to a HARO query, a blog post, or a follow up with a reporter who is covering a topic that pertains to your business. If the HARO afternoon queries come out at 12 noon exactly, your response better be both relevant and in that journalist’s inbox by 12:15 pm sharp. The same thing goes for a blog post that relates to your field—if there’s a blogger writing about their everlasting search for a product or service that doesn’t seem to exist (Alas! You have the solution!); it’s your opportunity to pounce and introduce yourself (nicely!) and your business. A word of caution: try not to be too sales-y, and build a relationship before you pitch.
Stealth. The best ninjas can enter a territory with the toughest of security virtually undetected. Now we’re not saying to break-and-enter into anyone’s property; we’re talking about analyzing the competition, and doing so stealthily. You can monitor your competitors online through Google alerts, on Twitter (be careful, if you follow them, they’ll know!) and even better, through a complete social media monitoring service like Vocus. Knowing their strengths and weaknesses puts you a step ahead of their game and provides an opportunity for you to better your company or brand so you don’t fall behind. Doing it without them knowing you monitor them is just a sweeter piece of the pie.
Availability at any opportunity. Ninjas are available at the snap of a finger, and if a journalist calls you for an executive interview at 5:00pm on a Friday, you’d better be available and willing! Being in PR means being ready at any time for questions or inquiries so you need to make yourself available in a variety of mediums: e-mail, work phone, cell phone, and on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. You never know when you’ll be questioned, so be ready. A good way to fix this is by having an online community manager (like me!) that can be available to view and take care of or forward inquiries to the right department at any time, day or night, weekend or holiday.
Always successful. We know being successful 100% of the time is unrealistic and quite frankly, impossible. What’s important to take away here is that if you don’t succeed, try, try again. The persistence of a ninja is unfailing—and yours should be the same. Don’t let a missed media opportunity or unanswered pitch get you discouraged—PR and media relations takes a lot of time, patience and effort.
Retreating unscathed. Let’s face it—watching PR blunders unfold on Twitter such as the unfortunate Kenneth Cole Cairo tweets and seeing the Groupon Super Bowl XLV commercial outrage can scare the living daylights out of some of us. Having to handle a PR campaign gone wrong in the public eye is trying for a brand but can be done diplomatically. First and foremost, think before you click send. Think about your target audience and really ask yourself if this is something that would catch their attention. There are plenty of PR pros out there who believe in stirring controversy to get publicity (which is perfectly fine) but make sure that tactic works for your company or brand. It often takes a certain chemistry. For example, let’s use Britney Spears and her celebrity stardom. Stirring controversy by shaving her head in a public “meltdown” stirred negative press for her, but staged a glorious comeback for her career when she was finally ready to get it together. This can be viewed as turning a weakness into a strength–but think: was this a tactic or a sincere turn of events? For your business, this tactic may not work so much. So carefully evaluate the messages you put in the public sphere, and remember: what goes on the internet, stays on the internet, even if you delete it. If you make a mistake, respond quickly, and be human. Accept responsibility for the fault and do what you can to correct it and the rest will work itself out in time.
What do you think of these ninja tactics for PR? Do you have any additional ninja traits we can incorporate in our PR strategies? I’d love to hear them below!
If you enjoyed this post, you may also like – Cheat Sheet: How to Pitch a National Journalist
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