– In advertising, repetition is crucial to having your message heard and understood. We all know that. The Nike swoosh, Pepsi logo and other marketing images are constantly with us.

However, many businesspeople fail to extend that simple reasoning to their efforts at building relationships with the groups and individuals that matter most to them — their public-relations process. These businesses will send out a single news release or e-mail, attend one networking event or place a lone phone call, and call it good.

That’s a big mistake.

In business, relationships are everything. You need your customers and business partners to value what your organization offers. You want regulators and others with authority over you to trust that you are working in good faith. You want referral sources to pass your name along, and community members to help you accomplish your goals rather than stand in your way.

It takes work to run all aspects of your organization: managing inventory, cutting expenses, mentoring employees and completing all the other unglamorous activities that go into running your enterprise. Effective communicators understand that a public relations initiative requires the same kind of attention.

Think about it from someone else’s perspective. If you were an editor, would you be more likely to believe and care about something coming from an individual you’ve never heard about, or something from someone who has been consistently informing you about who they are and what they do? If you are a community activist, would you trust the proposal from someone who has been in regular contact with you, or an individual coming to you out of the blue?

Building relationships is just that — a building process. You have to be strategic and sustained in your effort if you want to succeed. Here is a five-step process for making that happen within your organization:

n Have a plan. Identify clearly who you are trying to reach, what you want them to know and do, and how you can convey that information to them over time. What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that you need to address?

n Set goals. Identify what you would like to accomplish with each group and how you will determine if you have succeeded. (Number of inquiries from potential clients generated? Increase in the volume of coverage by the news media? Etc.)

n Be realistic. Determine how much money and staff resources would be involved in completing different outreach activities — as well as how effective each is likely to be for you — before embarking on them. Would you be better served by increasing your memberships, organizing events, redoing your website or pursuing other PR activities?

n Get advice. The Web is full of great information about how to communicate your key messages to target audiences, and university classes are available. Outside PR counsel also can be a cost- and time-effective solution, allowing you to focus on running other aspects of the business while a communications professional works on your behalf.

n Evaluate and adjust. You will need to continually update and improve your communications initiative, just like you change your sales plan and expense projections to adjust to the economy. Do you need to change aspects of the program or add resources to accomplish your goals? Are there initiatives that have accomplished their goal and are no longer needed?

Ongoing, positive relationships pay real dividends for organizations that are willing to invest in creating and maintaining lines of communication. Make PR work for you.


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