By Polly Winograd Ikonen
“It takes a village.” “Two are better than one.” “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” There are many proverbs from many cultures reminding us that we can often accomplish much more together than alone. This wisdom absolutely applies to P.R. as well.
We have seen this approach be particularly effective with client partnerships. Joint public relations campaigns and announcements can be readily managed, especially with an agency involved, and yield highly productive and strategic results for all partners.
Some recent examples of publicity campaigns we’ve successfully managed on behalf of our clients and their partners include:
- Business partnerships, like the recent opening of the Bay Area’s beloved Everett & Jones Barbecue restaurant opening at (client) Graton Resort and Casino in Sonoma County. This recent announcement yielded multiple broadcast and print stories.
- Land conservation partnerships, like the four-way collaboration among two Landis clients Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) and Save the Redwoods League, and their partners Sempervirens Fund and Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, who all co-manage 9000 acres in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where new trails will open to the public this fall.
- Public-private partnerships, like last year’s opening of a new behavioral health center serving vulnerable communities in San Francisco. This one involved client PRC, along with the Mayor of San Francisco and partners The Salvation Army and Tipping Point Community foundation.
How best to structure and navigate these partner endeavors? Here are our top 4 tips to achieve smooth sailing – and great outcomes:
- Meet early and often – Advance planning is your friend when it comes to supporting partnerships with public relations. It often takes multiple rounds of discussions to align the communications professionals and for them to coalesce their internal buy-in.
- Identify goals and roles – Everyone has a role to play in a partnership announcement. The PR roles typically reflect the roles in a partnership, but they don’t have to. It is important that each partner be honest and clear about what they hope to gain from a partner announcement so that the media strategy can include all of it. This then informs and enables the development of joint messaging. You’ll definitely want to take a “his, hers and ours” approach to make sure that each partner’s voice is heard.
- Coordinate, don’t compete. Within a partnership announcement, there should be enough storytelling, and media outlets, to go around. If you’ve done your work in step 2 above, identifying the goals for each partner, then it becomes much easier to decide who will pitch which outlet with which story angle and which spokesperson. You can let the business press talk to one leader and the lifestyle press another, etc. Building a shared media list and divvying up the pitching can help to optimize media relationships as well. This kind of transparency also builds trust – no one is left second-guessing what everyone else is doing.
- Agency as convener and facilitator. We have found that, as an agency, we can be effective by providing objective guidance and neutral ground for partner conversations – even when we are representing just one of the partners. As a ‘third party’ voice with expertise in how P.R. works, we are able to guide the conversation and point to best practices, as well as often taking the lead in drafting and pitching. Not only are our additional resources a welcome respite to overworked in-house representatives, but we can ask clarifying questions in ways that the partners may find too awkward to voice.