3 Opening Moves for an In-House PR Startup

This article originally appeared as a guest post on Brian Camen’s excellent The PR Practitioner blog.

With limited marketing resources, you have to reach for the low hanging.

With limited marketing resources, you gotta reach for the low hanging fruit.

A corporate reorganization left my manager and me – both marketing copywriters by trade – as stewards of the media relations program for a Fortune 500 enterprise in Phoenix, Arizona. Our company had historically shied from media coverage. But, despite limited resources, we wanted to transform our minimalist approach into a more proactive model.

At the start, our assets included a press release template, a process guideline for media engagement, and a pool of incredibly knowledgeable but far-flung subject matter experts (SMEs). That’s about it.

So, like most in this economy, we took a deep breath and got to work. These were our opening moves:

1. Pick the low-hanging fruit. With limited startup resources, we had to accept our limitations and identify and pursue easily achievable wins to gain momentum in our efforts. We simply didn’t have the manpower to pitch stories or build deep relationships with the media. So we patiently followed journalists on Twitter and browsed HARO e-mails and waited for a pitch to hit.

2. Secure executive buy-in. In some large companies, it’s easy to lose hours, if not days, in approvals. That dog won’t hunt for journalists on a 3 p.m. deadline. So we made the case for responsiveness and flexibility and streamlined our engagement process. Fortunately, our executives were very supportive—especially after we whetted their appetites with a handful of early wins.

3. Build a SME list. We’re blessed with a robust and deep pool of SMEs. Unfortunately, they’re spread from Boston to Chicago to Dallas to Phoenix, and that’s when they’re at their desks and not in the field. Plus, our industry is pretty technical. So we had to assess the SMs for which we had SMEs, and then locate the SMEs. Our SME list enabled us to react quickly to media opportunities.

We didn’t do everything right. But we managed to keep the lights on while building relationships with local journalists. And we advanced long-term projects including an online media room and an introductory media kit.

Eventually the plan called for adding resources and scaling our fledgling operation into industry publications and key markets outside Arizona.

So how’d we do? Let me know if we missed any key steps – or low-hanging fruit – in building out our program.

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