Ict@innovation: Free your IT Business in Africa/3-1
Module 3.1 Public Relation and Advocacy Strategies
For instructional purpose, it is advised that trainers/lectures use lectures, role play and group and individual exercises as a major means of delivering this module.
The Terms "Public Relations" and "Media Relations" are often used interchangeably; however, doing so is incorrect. The definition of media relations is somewhat narrower. Media relations refer to the relationship that a company or organization develops with journalists, while public relations extend that relationship beyond the media to the general public.
Public Relations: Public relations (PR) refer to the practice of managing the flow of information between an organization and its publics.
PR may consist of a variety of activities engaged in by organizations or celebrities that are intended to promote a positive relationship or image with their customers and prospective customers (members of the public). Communications is often in the form of news distributed in a non-personal form which may include newspaper, magazine, radio, television, Internet or other forms of media for which the sponsoring organization does not pay a fee.
Media Relations: is the act of involvement with various media for the purpose of informing the public of an organization’s mission, policies and practices in a positive, consistent and credible manner.
Typically, media relations involve coordinating directly with the people responsible for producing the news and features in the mass media. The goal of media relations is to maximize positive coverage in the mass media without paying for it directly through advertising.
Dealing with the media presents unique challenges in that the news media cannot be controlled - they have ultimate control over whether news angles pitched to them are of interest to them or their audiences. Because of this, ongoing facilitation of communication and relationships between an organization and the news media is vital. Working with the media on behalf of an organization allows for awareness of the entity to be raised as well as the ability to create an impact with a chosen audience. It allows access to both large and small target audiences and helps build public support and mobilizing public opinion for an organization. This is all done through a wide range of media and can be used to encourage two-way communication between potential customers and companies.
Although most organizations know the importance of PR its benefits, unfortunately are not so well understood. Public relations if done right can reach a large audience without the expensive cost of traditional advertising and marketing.
A few of the significant public relations benefits include:
- Economical way to reach your target audience in masses
- Stimulates awareness of, and the demand for your company's products or services
- Strengthens your company image and perception
- Paints the picture of a company that is active and innovative
- Creates more credibility that traditional advertising
- Creates an advantage of your competitors that are not utilizing PR effectively
- Increase search engine visibility and organic results
It is a proven fact that public relations carry a higher credibility factor.
Therefore by using media relations effectively, SMEs can enhance the reputation of their respective organizations while establishing good working relationships with journalists that will serve them well in future endeavors.
Getting the best out of your PR efforts
Ever wondered why your competitors keep cropping up in coverage - whether it be national dailies, on big-time TV broadcasts or even in local business magazines - while your organizations relegated to the back of the trades? Here is why.
There are two essential approaches to media placement; one is to persuade reporters that your organization has news worth reporting - this approach is deliberate and release driven; the other is to persuade reporters that there are individuals within your organization who - because of their industry perspective or some form of expertise - are worth interviewing - this approach is opportunistic and pitch driven.
Of course for a small business or even for individuals managing their own PR Campaign that may seem impossible but just do not ignore all the great opportunity to get free coverage. And here are examples of some great opportunities for you;
Press Kit : Your press kit, or media kit, is an invaluable tool you can use to promote your company. From trade shows to product launches. Typically a press kit may contain Company info, a quote sheet from those involved with the product launch and development. High resolution images of the product. Your PR person's business card
Use your Bog: Your organization or employee blog is an excellent way to keep you visible to your customers. Try and make your blog a regular part of your public relations campaign effort. It has potential of giving you exposure to customers, journalists and it even provides you advertising opportunities.
Organize Media Events: PR is more than blitzing the media with your press releases. Organizing media events is an exciting way to get multiple media outlets to come to you and give you free exposure. Be creative when coming up with ideas. Just because you have a news conference doesn't mean the media will show up.
A groundbreaking ceremony with a local celebrity or other prominent business figure to address the crowd increases your chances of getting publicity over the same event with just you and your employees giving out free software CDs.
So if you planning to ‘take on’ the media and need some useful tips here are some of them.
|Effective PR Tips|
|# Play reporter. "Forget for a moment your own organization's objectives, and read the world as a reporter would. "Given your beat and the readers you must satisfy, what topics are of interest? What angles do you find fresh and provocative? With which sources - with what expertise - do you want to be in touch with?"
- ie. you've read your own FOSS Article, or you've previewed your product/service demos, and you know what works and what doesn't. You've also researched the reporter's work, and you're familiar with his or her recent reporting and attitude towards FOSS.
More information on useful tips can be found at:
http://smr.newswire.ca/media/pdfs/whitepaper.pdf , Accessed on 30.08.09
While PR is more likely to generate a higher level of customer trust than normal paid advertising, the downside however, is the lack of access to the regular media channels which limit the number of free PR pieces. This could be a big hindrance to Small and Medium Business Enterprises. Alternatively, however, careful selection and use of strategies below could yield desired results.
International and National Events
International and National Events such as World Telecommunications days, when world and national attention is drawn on ICT sector, and both world and national leaders affirm and reaffirm their commitments to the developing and use of ICT, are arguably the most effective forum to petition world and national leaders to focus on challenges faced by players in ICT. Therefore keeping a tab on such events and learning how they are organized could give you better understanding of how best your organization can participate and be represented.
An important avenue for presenting your messages to the public or large interest groups is through large conferences. Over the years conferences have become major networking, marketing and promotion events. Conferences organizers today often provide space for participants, interest groups, or indeed members of public to showcase, display, present their products and services. These spaces, Information kiosk as they are commonly known, are becoming more and more sophisticated but generally cost effective channels. Again keeping a calendar or regularly scanning the press for such events especially conferences relating to ICT in general helps you stay in close touch but more importantly allows you decided and make all necessary preparations.
Community radio and television stations present the best alternative for channeling information for local communities. Over the last ten years, there has been a sharp rise in the establishment of community media in Africa. The fast growth is often attributed to the fact that community media’s physical proximity, local programming and targeted coverage, is highly accessible to local people. The concept of community media is that it is owned my local people, and both content and programming is done with the involvement of community thereby reflecting the aspirations of the community. Given the comparatively low charges and flexible terms SMEs are better poised to use them to greater effect.
Module 3.1: ASSESSMENT
•Discussion 1: Which is better for you to promote your FOSS business in your country, Advocacy or Public relations?
•Assignment 1: Public relations (PR) is defined as “the practice of managing the flow of information between an organization and its publics”. Name three organizations in your country with which you can establish PR to run a successful FOSS business. For each organization state what kind of information will your company share?
•Assignment 2: Your FOSS business partner is coming from abroad for few days. During the visit he/she is scheduled to meet with the media in your country. Using the media strategies just studied, write him a brief email explaining how he needs to approach the media
•Round table discussion: Discuss how you can promote FOSS in your country using each of the following media outlets
• News papers,
•Other local media channels
Round table discussion 2:
- “Governments are top-spenders on IT in most countries“. In your group discussion list and discuss
(i) Your government's ICT procurement policies as they relate to FOSS
- Do you see governments and ministries as you possible FOSS customers? What are some of the problems ICT businesses face when dealing with governments as clients? What are your proposed solutions?