Breaking news: Rome wasn’t built in a day—and neither is a quality public relations strategy. Here at ZoomInfo, we’re familiar with building things from the ground up—including products, people, and programs—and PR is no exception.

Creating something from nothing is tough, and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed when developing a strategy. You may be plagued with questions like: Where do I start? How do I get a new program off the ground? What are the essential components I need to be successful? 

Don’t worry—we’re here to help.

With just three people in three months, we built a PR strategy that has already seen best-in-class results. We’ll cover what the first 30, 60, and 90 days of implementing our strategy looked like and how you can follow suit.

Among other tips, you’ll learn:

  • What materials you need in your press kit  
  • The importance of securing guest articles 
  • How to monitor and evaluate your performance 

Ready? Let’s dive in.

Pitch Your Public Relations Strategy

If you’re in a position to champion a new program as a public relations professional—you need to know how you’re going to frame your pitch to the executive team.

Before Steve Vittorioso, director of communications at ZoomInfo, was hired, press releases and product announcements were the full extent of our coverage. Vittorioso shares how he pitched a more robust program to our vice president of content, brand, and communications:

“We needed to broaden our scope of stories that we pitch to reporters. We wanted to make sure our program moving forward included more quality media coverage, which meant more feature placements and more opportunities for our executives.”

Along with that, he wanted to ensure our program was grounded in one thing—metrics. At ZoomInfo, we’re all about data, which means guesswork is a big no-no. Everything we do is backed by statistics, which played a huge role throughout the first 90 days of our PR strategy and beyond.

First 30 Days: The Building Phase

The first 30 days you spend building out your program are arguably the most critical. This is where you lay the foundation and set the stage for your team long-term. According to Vittorioso, here are six actions you should take during your first month on the job:

Schedule and Conduct Introductory Calls With Executives

As a PR professional, one of the most important things you do is build relationships—not only with reporters but also with your very own colleagues. Start building rapport right off the bat, and ensure key players in your company know who you are. This will also help you learn what your company does, its strengths and weaknesses, the competitor landscape, and industry terminology. 

“Be proactive in reaching out. All it needs to be is a 30-minute call to introduce yourself as the new communications leader,” says Vittorioso. “Use the time to talk about trends they’re seeing in their spaces. Get their thoughts, and then immediately start identifying media opportunities.”

Vittorioso outlines a few questions to ask executives during these introductory calls:

  • What are some challenges in your industry that keep you up at night?
  • Where do you see the company headed in two, three, five years?
  • How are you trying to make the company a better place?
  • How did PR work before I got here?
  • Are there any media publications that you read that you want to be featured in?

Determine KPIs and Measurement Tools

Figure out how you want to measure success from the get-go. For us, this includes tracking share of voice (how much media coverage you receive relative to your direct competition), article sentiment (positive, negative, or neutral tone), and the number of media appearances secured for our executives.

When evaluating measurement tools, look for platforms that automatically capture news coverage, so you don’t waste time culling through pages of Google News. Automation is key here. 

Once you’ve picked a tool, start by benchmarking how much coverage your competitors are getting. From that analysis, you can then set a benchmark for yourself. Be aggressive, but realistic—you want to grow incrementally.

When it comes to share of voice, one industry best practice is to use a point-based system to track performance. Vittorioso describes how it works:

”In column one, you get three points if your company was mentioned in a top-tier publication, such as Fortune. You get two points if your company was mentioned in a local or trade publication, like Selling Power. You get one point if you were mentioned in a blog or a lower-level publication that doesn’t drive much traffic.”

Vittorioso adds: “Column two looks at the quality of coverage that you earned. You get another three points if you were the majority of that article; as in, the article is predominately about you. Two points if you were part of the focus of the article—your spokesperson may have a quote in it, for example. One point if the company name was just mentioned in the article. Add that all up, and divide it out against your competitor set.”

Develop a Press Kit

A press kit is a group of documents publicly available on your company’s website for reporters to learn about your company straight from the source. According to Rob Morse, communications manager at ZoomInfo, there are a few items you’ll need in your press kit (here’s ZoomInfo’s press kit for example):

  • Fact sheet. This should be a one-pager that includes a few facts about your company, a short blurb about your company’s history, a bio on your CEO, and contact information for your PR contacts. 
  • Four-page backgrounder. This is everything you’d want a reporter to know in four pages. It goes into more detail about the company’s history and products, your customers, and some expanded bios on the top leaders in your company. 
  • Recent press releases. Pick a few of your best ones to showcase so the reporter is up-to-date on your recent events. Switch these out on a monthly or quarterly basis, depending on the frequency of your news. 
  • A few case studies. This gives reporters a feel for what kind of customers you have and some examples of how they use your product.
  • Awards page. This highlights any impressive recognition you’ve received. 

“You want to make it easy for reporters to come find you and learn about your company,” says Morse. “We’re asking them to give us coverage, so the least we can do is make it as easy as possible for them to do so.” 

Build a Media List

A media list consists of reporter and journalist contacts for publications you’d like to be featured in. Depending on the size of your company, you’ll want to build out a few media lists. For larger companies, create a list of top-tier publications, such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Forbes. For companies of all sizes, you should also build out a list for your industry and trade publications. For us, these would be niche sales, marketing, and tech publications. Lastly, you’ll need a list of local publications—those based in your backyard. 

After we compile our lists, we use ZoomInfo’s extensive database to verify reporters’ email addresses for quick, accurate outreach.  

Assemble a Speakers Bureau 

A speakers bureau is an internal list of executive stakeholders and their various areas of expertise that you use to identify the right people when pitching stories to the media. Create a spreadsheet you can distribute throughout not only your PR department but also your marketing and content departments too. This strengthens cross-departmental alignment and ensures everyone is maximizing their internal resources efficiently. 

Start Pitching 

As soon as possible, start making introductions with reporters at business publications, trade publications, and local publications. This way, you can immediately prove value to your executive team and start establishing a solid foundation to work off of in the future.  

“I’m a big believer in when you start a PR program, you want to have wins right away,” says Vittorioso. “Wins in PR are media coverage.”

First 60 Days: The Execution Phase

Congrats! You have 30 days of company knowledge behind you, and you’ve laid a solid groundwork. Now it’s time to dive one level deeper and round out your PR strategic plan. Here are four things you should do during your second month on the job: 

Ensure a Healthy News Pipeline

Make sure you’re aware of any product announcements and company news for upcoming press releases. To distribute your announcements, make sure you’ve selected a newswire service. Work with your leadership team to establish relationships with leaders in other departments (product, customer success, HR, etc.) who you can reach out to for not only upcoming announcements but also unique stories. Track your pipeline in a constantly evolving document or spreadsheet to stay organized. 

Remember those introductory conversations you had with executives during your first 30 days? This is the time to start incorporating those leadership pitches into potential media opportunities. 

Start Media Training Executives

The executives or spokespeople at your company need to be well-versed in how to answer tricky or sensitive questions reporters may ask—and it’s your job to get them there. If a reporter asks your exec, “What is your company doing for diversity and inclusion? How’s work from home going? When are you going back to the office?” they need to be prepared to answer.

One way to do this is by scheduling mock interviews with your executives. According to Vittorioso, you should schedule at least three 30- to 60-minute, one-on-one practice sessions. In the first session, work with executives to identify talking points—such as what messages they want to convey in an interview. Put together a Q&A document that has common questions reporters may ask, along with specific questions tailored to the specific interview. 

In the next sessions, conduct mock interviews to get the executive comfortable with verbalizing their talking points. Play reporter and ask them questions. Show them where the curveballs might come in and how they can navigate those so they aren’t caught off-guard during an interview.

Pitch Guest Articles 

By 60 days, start ghostwriting blog-style thought leadership posts about industry trends to pitch to news outlets. If you want to find a nice opportunity to spotlight your executive, you can also pitch an executive Q&A to an industry trade publication. At ZoomInfo, we call this process “developing bylines.” While Vittorioso and Morse are usually the ones to write and pitch these articles, we attach a ZoomInfo executive’s name to it (typically a VP or above) to elevate the company’s brand awareness as well as the personal platform of the person whose name is attached. This, in turn, makes it easier to book appearances and opportunities for the “author.”

“It’s a good way to get your company’s name in the news,” says Morse. “You can do these bylines at literally any time.”

Build an Analyst Relations Strategy

Analyst relations is a strategy in which a business communicates with independent research and consulting firms to receive guidance and help boost credibility. While analyst relations is an important aspect of any good PR strategy, you must have a solid understanding of your company before diving in (which is why it comes in the second month!). Unlike reporters, analysts really know your company and want to have in-depth conversations as opposed to a quick 15-minute chat.

If you already have engagements with firms, work with your account manager to set up introductory calls with your primary analysts. These introductory calls are crucial to not only let them know you’re the new communications lead, but also that they have a point person who will keep them updated about product news and strategy. If you don’t have engagements with any firms, but have the budget for them—start researching.

“Start having introductory conversations with any of the firms you have paid relationships with,” says Vittorioso. “Here at ZoomInfo, we have contracts with Forrester, Gartner, and TOPO. Speak with analysts who primarily cover you and are very dialed in and understand your space.” 

First 90 Days: The Testing Phase

By your third month, you’ve laid the groundwork for a successful PR program, and it’s time to reflect on how you’re doing. As you continue all of the great work you’ve put forth, reflect back on the quarter and tack on testing, evaluating, and iterating to your to-do list.

Evaluate Your KPIs

Consider: How is your measurement tool working for you and your team? How close or far are you from reaching your quarterly goals? Is your share of voice what you expected it to be? How about article sentiment or volume of opportunities secured?

For example, at ZoomInfo, we aim to expand our share of voice by at least 10 percent to 15 percent per quarter. Based on our historical performance, this is both a realistic and achievable goal. We compare our share of voice to five or six competitors to gain a well-rounded view of the competition and monitor how they improve or digress over time. 

While it’s important to check on your KPIs and measure your performance weekly, take a step back and re-evaluate on a bigger scale to determine whether you set them too high, too low, or just right—and adjust accordingly.

For example, if you’re getting blown out of the water by your competitors, your goals are set too high. If you’re obliterating the competition (as in, if you have a 90 percent share of voice, and the rest of your competitors have 10 percent collectively), your goals might be set too low. You want to grow incrementally—especially when developing a PR program from scratch.

For example, if you refer to the graphic above, we’re working toward closing the share of voice gap between ZoomInfo and competitor six. We’re consistently assessing our performance each quarter to set new benchmarks and more aggressive goals. 

Check In With Your Execs 

It’s been a while since those introductory calls, so it’s a good time to check in and get your executives’ thoughts on real-time company news and industry trends. Why? Because opportunities are always right around the corner, and it’s better to stay one step ahead.

“You never know what news cycles are going to bring, so one of your executives might have a perspective about a certain topic that a few months ago wasn’t on people’s radar, but has suddenly cropped up,” says Vittorioso.

Not only is it important to stay in sync with your executives, but also with your department and company as a whole. It’s your job to always stay on top of company news and make sure you’re getting as much positive coverage as possible. Remember to expect the unexpected, stay one step ahead of your competition, and come to work each day over-prepared and ready to pitch.

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