Just as it is in chess, trained anticipation is the ultimate weapon in PR.
In chess, players study each other, trying to predict the opponent’s next move. They must think through different scenarios and try to gain a competitive edge. In the same way, PR agencies need to look out for their clients by spotting potential problems ahead of time. That way, when a crisis does crop up, they’ll be prepared to meet the challenges head-on.
But proactive PR extends far beyond crisis management. Giving your clients the power of foresight helps them succeed in the long run, and when you can successfully predict what your clients need before they can, it builds feelings of trust and credibility. As it turns out, proactive PR is the key to good relationships between clients and PR agencies.
Anticipate Your Clients’ Needs
At Mitchell, gathering insights from multiple channels is at the foundation of meeting our clients’ needs. Here are five methods we utilize to do so:
- Use tech to fortify your efforts. Proactive PR starts with conducting in-depth research. According to the Institute for Public Relations, the first steps in managing issues effectively are scanning the environment for information, gathering it, and mining it for insights that are credible and relevant.
I’m a voracious reader, but parsing through thousands of books, articles, and reports is unrealistic, so I’ve turned to several technology tools that make it easier. Turn on Google Alerts, and set up a Paper.li account, which will feed relevant news stories into your inbox twice a day.
- Take initiative. You won’t be truly engaged in proactive PR until you emerge from behind your desk. Attending industry conferences, talking face to face with experts, or even starting your own customer and influencer councils are great ways to educate yourself on industries and stay on top of what’s happening.
Again, buttress your efforts with both proprietary and syndicated technology tools. Our team uses Mintel to stay tuned in to research and reports, keeping our finger on the pulse of trends that are relevant to our clients. By doing so, we’ve been able to keep up with industry news and better anticipate what’s just beyond the horizon.
- Monitor social channels. In addition to using our research and insight tools, we’re constantly focused on predictive planning, which includes monitoring what’s happening on online social channels.
There are many moving pieces we absorb, interpret, and put into an actionable plan, but all of our tools and processes are designed with our clients’ needs in mind. We monitor the market and the consumer, and we look at the buzz around competitors. At the very least, you should be following brands and industry leaders on social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn.
- Get the ball rolling. After gathering these insights, you can’t simply sit on the information. Once you have a good handle on a client and industry, you should begin rolling out specific proactive PR tactics, which builds a reservoir of goodwill to fall back on when a brand needs it, not to mention how it can generate trust, loyalty, and sales.
For example, you may advise a client to help service a nonprofit that closely aligns with its business because, through your research, you found that its target audience wants to do business with companies that are authentically engaged in acts of goodwill. And never forget that customers love to hear the human interest stories behind a brand as well as the innovative ways the brand is staying ahead of the competition.
- Measure and repeat. I won’t sit here and pretend that things always go the way we think they should, but regardless of the outcome, part of our process includes conducting a “post-mortem” to review what worked well and what didn’t so we can learn and adjust as we go.
Creating and deepening the public’s trust in your clients is critical, and it’s usually the reason brands choose PR professionals to begin with. The most effective way to accomplish heightened trust is through active — and proactive — public relations. By knowing about potential problems and understanding trends, you’ll be well-positioned to get ahead of issues and opportunities for clients and to help them make the very best of whatever comes next.
Sarah Clark is the president of Mitchell, an award-winning public relations firm that creates real conversations between people, businesses, and brands through strategic insights, customized conversations, and consumer engagement. The agency is headquartered in Fayetteville, Ark., with offices in Chicago and New York City.
Mitchell is part of Dentsu Aegis Network, which is made up of nine global network brands and supported by its specialist/multimarket brands. Dentsu Aegis Network is innovating the way brands are built for its clients through its best-in-class expertise and capabilities in media, digital, and creative communications services. Offering a distinctive and innovative range of products and services, Dentsu Aegis Network is headquartered in London and operates in 145 countries worldwide with over 30,000 dedicated specialists.
Clark is one of the top strategic communications professionals in the country, with more than 25 years of experience in corporate communications and an exceptional track record in protecting corporate reputations and redefining perceptions in key areas of business.