Many companies seeking to hire a public relations firm will simply say "we want to build our image," thinking that will automatically increase their sales. But that's rarely the case. How can you make sure a PR or marketing campaign generates new business?
In this episode, Leeza Hoyt explains that the role of public relations is more than just getting on the front page of a newspaper. She emphasizes the need for clear-cut goals and a strategic approach to PR, which can be measured as an investment in the business's growth.
Leeza highlights the importance of understanding a client's objectives before creating a marketing recipe that would help achieve their goals in today's digital environment. Where do you want to go? What resources are available to make that happen? Is there an internal team that will be implementing parallel campaigns? How can we maximize the value of your investment?
She also discusses the three stages of a PR agency's approach to working with clients. The first stage is the “discovery phase” where the agency gets to know the client and assesses their needs. The second stage is the “challenge phase” to ensure clarity and encourage the client to think differently. The third stage is the “testing and adjusting phase” to ensure the program is successful.
About the Guest
An ideator known for creating amazing award-winning campaigns for companies throughout the country, Leeza Hoyt is a well-known PR maven based in Los Angeles. As president of The Hoyt Organization, Inc., a full-service communications agency, her team is known for its cutting-edge concepts that drive companies forward. Leeza's campaigns have resulted in hundreds of awards from industry organizations. She is accredited by PRSA, and she holds a California real estate license. Leeza earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in public relations from the University of Southern California, and a master’s degree in business administration from Loyola Marymount University.
About the Host
Abbie Fink is vice president/general manager of HMA Public Relations in Phoenix, Arizona and a founding member of PRGN. Her marketing communications background includes skills in media relations, digital communications, social media strategies, special event management, crisis communications, community relations, issues management, and marketing promotions for both the private and public sectors, including such industries as healthcare, financial services, professional services, government affairs and tribal affairs, as well as not-for-profit organizations.
PRGN Presents is brought to you by Public Relations Global Network, the world’s local public relations agency. Our executive producer is Adrian McIntyre.
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From the Public Relations Global Network, this is PRGN Presents. I'm Adrian McIntyre.Abbie Fink:
And I'm Abbie Fink, vice president/general manager of HMA Public Relations in Phoenix, Arizona and a founding member of PRGN. With public relations leaders embedded into the fabric of the communities we serve, clients hire our agencies for the local knowledge, expertise, and connections in markets spanning six continents across the world.Adrian McIntyre:
Our guests on this biweekly podcast series are all members of the Public Relations Global Network. They discuss such topics as the importance of sustainability and Environmental, Social, and Governance programs, crisis communications, content marketing, reputation management, and outside of the box thinking for growing your business.Abbie Fink:
For more information about PRGN and our members, please visit prgn.com. And now, let's meet our guest for this episode.Leeza Hoyt:
I'm Lisa Hoyt, President and CEO of the Hoyt Organization, a Los Angeles-based public relations firm.Abbie Fink:
Leeza, I am so excited about this conversation. So often clients come to us, “Help me get on the front page of the newspaper. Help me get on the national news,” which is great. We love that. We want to help you do that. But I think our answers have to be, and our advice needs to lead them a little bit more to how, what public relations and strategic marketing communications do to help them with their business. It's more than just a front-page story. This is really a strategic part of and should be a strategic part of any business. We're going to talk a little bit about how PR builds your business and how it can grow business, both for ourselves as PR agencies and of course the advice that we give our clients. Talk a little bit about that. How are you seeing what we do and how businesses should be thinking about the role of public relations.Leeza Hoyt:
Abbie, you hit a hot button. I can't tell you how many people call us and say, say, I want to be on the front page of the New York Times. My first question is, why? What is it that you want to do with that? Because in today's digital environment and with all of the options that we have in the marketing communications field, that's only one element of the overall recipe that we want to build for a client. What do you want to do? Why do you want to be on the front page of the LA Times? There's a wide variety of reasons that go into that. But if I can get a clear-cut answer to that, then my response will create a recipe, a marketing recipe, as it were, that will get them where they want to go.Abbie Fink:
Now, you and I have been doing this work for many years. I can remember early on in my career, the way that a PR strategy was measured was really by the number of column inches that we got or how many hits we got on television. And as we have grown and thought more strategically about the role that we play, it really is needing to be considered more of an investment in your business and in your growth. What we should be looking at is how this investment in communications and public relations will net out a return. And what's the business strategy around that? So we have to be thinking about it in terms of the, you know, the advice that we give to our clients and helping them understand that. It's not an automatic, we do this and you're going to see people walking through the front door or your phone ringing. I mean, this is an investment over time and needs to be evaluated against a strategic business growth plan. Agree?Leeza Hoyt:
Correct. Absolutely correct. But you'd be surprised how many companies can't turn over a growth plan or even a business plan to us before we design the program. So some of the questions that we start with is, where do you want to go? Where are your key areas of growth in the next 12 months? We break it down into smaller increments of questions that allow someone that we would be talking to, they should be able to tell us this. What's the key elements for growth? We're working with a technology startup, their main focus was raising the visibility of their company. So we developed a digital public relations campaign that included media relations, it included social, all the typical digital tools that you would use to create that. But they came back to us and said, we don't have a sales funnel that's strong enough. Okay, who are you marketing to? They couldn't tell us who their specific market was. It's in the medical field, and we know the medical field inside out and backwards. They wanted to sell to HR directors. It actually needs to go to the insurance companies first, because the insurance companies bolted on to their product that they then sell to the HR directors. So we met with the CEO, we laid out a plan. He's a scientist. We explained how that particular sales funnel works and reverse engineered it. Truly what they need is lead generation specifically for the insurance companies, HR being the secondary market. What we developed was a lead generation campaign through LinkedIn. What they really needed was a sales funnel. Until you get into those questions about where you want to go and get clarity on where they want to go, our program can't help you. But once we got clarity and brought information to the table that explained how that industry worked and coupled it with their key market, which was HR, now the program is kicking it off the charts. So we reverse engineered it. We did the lead gen campaign first, and after open enrollment, we're going back to the HR and doing brand awareness.Abbie Fink:
What I hear from this is really about as the PR agency coming into the conversation, a CEO or a director of marketing, whoever it is, is that's been tasked with seeking out a public relations agency or outside counsel has a very, they know what they want and they have an end game in mind. They want increase in sales, they want to talk to HR directors or whatever that might be. But as the outside counsel, our responsibility is to look at it from the outside in and really challenge them to think about where they're going and what do they really want and how what we do can impact them. Where in that conversation do you start to have those questions? Where do we start challenging what they're coming to us for and what we want to advise them with? Because certainly that first phone call is not the time to be diving in that deep. I mean, that's just the getting to know you part of the process. This is a lot of our intellectual property, right? is our brain power here in terms of communicating and creating the strategies. But where in the conversation, where in this new business development phase do we need to be putting ourselves out there and having these kinds of conversations and really being comfortable with challenging that client, that prospective client to think differently about what they came to us for, and what we advise them might be a different route to take to ultimately get to that end goal that they're seeking.Leeza Hoyt:
We do it in three stages. The first stage, and you're correct, because it's a discovery phase, you need to know what they're looking for, what are they coming to you for? We ask them from the get-go, what is it that you think you're interested in? Is it earned media? Is it social media? Is it digital media? Is it a company newsletter? We throw out pretty simple terms because we don't know them. So it's a bit like dating. We want to make sure we get to the take you home to see mom and dad stage. But unless you understand the culture of that company and the people that you're talking to, you'll never get past the first date. So what we do is we focus on the first phase, which is the get to know you. What do you think you're looking for? What's the path that you've outlined? Some of them have it outlined. They know exactly what they need. They know exactly what they're looking for. Easy, hit the gas, you're ready to go. Some of them don't. That's where we come in so that we can design a program that works for them. The second phase, to your point, is the challenge phase. If we're designing a program, the way I phrase it is I go back to them and say it's really critical that this program work for you because we want this to succeed and so do you. So I'm a little confused. How do we do that? There are some things that we don't quite understand. We go back to them and phrase it in that way so that we can get clarity from them on the things that we need to challenge them on. So it's not confrontational, it's actually just looking for clarity because we may not know everything about their industry. It's impossible, we can't. And the third phase is we put in time markers so that we test a theory. If we come up with the theory that this is the program that's going to work, we give it 30 days. We roll it out as an incubator program, and then make adjustments as we go along. And if we do it that way, they love it.Abbie Fink:
That part of it right there is such a critical component is really about what does success look like? We certainly have what we think is success in terms of what we do and what we want to see, that front page story in the New York Times could be a success measure. But there also needs to be the impact it has on your business. What are you looking to accomplish? What's the win? How will you know when what we have done is a win? Is it increase in sales? Is it new hires? Is it number of phone calls, hits to your website, whatever the mechanism is. And there are things that happen in the process that outwardly may feel like it's successful, but if the end result didn't actually do what you wanted it to do. One of my greatest examples of not asking the right questions, I was doing a campaign for a nonprofit. They had a grant and they had a very clear and specific target audience that they were going after. And we did amazing work, you know, the front-page stories and the big newscasts and I mean, amazing things. And the client was just never happy. And we're like, how much more could we possibly do? You've been in every media outlet available. Well, what they really wanted was people calling and signing up for their parent counseling programs that they were offering. Nowhere in any of the things that we did, did it actually say, and there will be a parent program on Tuesday, right? And so, yeah, they got the great article that they frame, and it's hanging up in the lobby of their office. But they never really got the results. And it's a perfect example for me to remind me, and remind all of us, to ask the other questions. Because what they tell us versus what they ultimately want may not be the same. And then, and I love the 30-day testing is, are we still on track? Are we still getting to you what you need? Are we still accomplishing it? And are others in the, in the workplace, others that are being impacted by this work, still seeing it as successful? Because again, what a CEO may want may be different than the salesforce or the frontline workers that are answering those incoming calls.Leeza Hoyt:
Well, part of the success strategy that we use is we make sure that whoever the decision maker is, is in that meeting. And the mistake we made in this particular client was we thought we did have the decision maker in the room because it was the director of marketing. And it wasn't. So that's why at the 30-day mark, when we found out that their goal was building their sales pipeline, we pivoted to doing a lead gen campaign through LinkedIn, created a landing page, did a drop down on a white paper so that we could capture the potential sales leads. Once we figured out what the goal was and we were talking to the right decision maker, It was an easy pivot to make. We're right in the middle of that campaign now and it's going remarkably well. It's awesome.Abbie Fink:
Our listeners here are business owners, leaders of businesses, really around the world, if they were listening to us for some advice about what to look for in hiring a PR agency, why would I want to hire a PR agency? What role can outside communications council bring to a business really of any size, right? This is not, you know, major corporations. It could be nonprofits. It could be the government sector, all of which can benefit from a strategic communications plan, an implementation of a plan. So what kind of advice would you give if they're thinking about bringing in outside council? What should they be looking at internally to see if they're ready to do that?Leeza Hoyt:
Before you even get on that phone, figure out what you want to accomplish. Is it truly a brand awareness campaign? Is it that you've got some new hires and you want to get them out into the market? Are you struggling on the digital front because your social isn't working for you? If so, why? And the biggest thing that we bring to the table is what is the message? What do you want to get out there? One of the things that we develop almost across the board for all of our clients is a messaging map. If we can convince them to invest in collaboration within the firm, which is hard because it takes everybody out of their day-to-day role for a chunk of time, is listening to everybody to see how they describe the company. Do they have an international sales force? And if so, are they all selling the company in the same way. I can guarantee you that each person is describing that company in a much different way. So if we can get them even preliminarily doing messaging for their team, they will all build their brand. It's almost like if we all work together, it's a much easier lift. All boats rise together. And there's an architectural firm that's global. And one of the reasons they are incredibly off the charts well known is their branding is consistent. Their messaging is consistent in everything they do. And I know how hard they worked at making sure that all the C-suite could describe the company in the same way. So that way, if you go to a multifamily conference and I go to a hospitality conference and Adrian goes to a health care conference, we know that company is going to be described on a high level very similar in every market. And then when you get down into the product type, then it's within that product type. But that's why they've been so successful. They have everyone consistent in how they describe the company and what their company values are.Abbie Fink:
So really for any organization, big or small, that is considering bringing in an outside public relations agency to help guide their business, to build their brand, to build their image, to build their reputation, there is internal work that needs to be done, in that there needs to be a buy-in, that this is a valuable component of the sales team, the internal teams, the external teams, whether marketing and public relations is directly part of their job description, they will be impacted by the work. And when that conversation can take place and they can come to the PR agency willing to answer those tough questions and are encouraged by the challenging questions that we ask, this relationship can develop and we can see success, not in terms of how what we do and the impact that it has on that company, and really be able to go back to a measurable outcomes, a metrics that we've created that says this strategy worked, This is what it accomplished. This is the success that we had. And this is how this investment has helped us grow our business.Leeza Hoyt:
Yes. But remember, what we bring to the table is somebody that has picked our head up. We know what the full breadth of all the tools are that are out there. The biggest thing that we bring to the table for them is information. Our world is no longer, to your point, just the front page of the New York Times. Our world comes with a toolbox that has 100 tactics that we can use. It could be podcasts. It can be in-person meetings. It could be lead gen. The client brings us on board because 99% of the time, they don't know how to put that program together. That's not their day job. Their day job is that company, not our job. So what we bring is solutions. And at a minimum, one of the things that we do on our new business calls is I tell them upfront, we want to make sure that you get something out of this call, even if you don't hire us. That's my goal, because I realize you don't understand our world. Let me help you get a glimpse of how our world has changed. And I guarantee you they'll get off that call and they'll know something that they didn't know going into it. If we can bring that to the table, it's a home run.Adrian McIntyre:
Thanks for listening to this episode of PRGN Presents, brought to you by the Public Relations Global Network.Abbie Fink:
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