Why Strategy Matters (but Action Matters More) When It Comes to PR

Apr 11, 2018

We’ve all heard of analysis paralysis the state of over-analyzing or over-thinking a situation so much that a decision is never made and the outcome is impacted. Recently I’ve been witnessing a curious yet similar phenomenon at healthcare IT companies across the country and the analysis paralysis is all about “strategy.” As in overall corporate strategy and direction.

In short, these companies are all about strategic planning, but in the end they seem to come out of it having virtually no strategic plans. They’re all about all-day strategy meetings which result in no strategy but rather more questions that prompt more all-day meetings and shockingly, yet still no strategy.

From the outside looking in, this cycle is an endless hamster wheel that leaves team members feeling tired rather than energized, frustrated rather than empowered, and most troublingly, so terrified that their actions won’t follow the still-to-be-approved (or never-to-be-approved) strategy that they simply don’t act. This inaction can be minor or major as it builds up over time but it’s always detrimental.

Back to basics to get results

Their “strategic focus,” while well-intentioned, sets companies on the wrong path in the short and long-term, especially in regards to PR which should have a constant, ongoing cadence to create momentum and maximize results.

While company strategies can be complicated and have a profound impact on PR efforts, many aspects of PR strategy are quite uncomplicated. In fact, there are core tenets which are quite basic and fundamental to any sound PR plan. There are the pillars that cannot be disputed so they need not be delayed regardless of executive indecision.

Whether your strategy is set or you’re one of many stuck on the endless hamster wheel, these four actions are key to success. They are mission-critical, and safely fit into any PR strategy for 2018 and beyond:

1. Write and distribute press releases

It sounds like a no-brainer but for many companies it’s not because they live in fear of being “off brand” or “misaligned.” They live in fear of putting out too many press releases yet not enough press releases. Those fears are unwarranted though since your company is doing good work. Why shouldn’t it be shared? Did you develop a new product? Let’s write a release. Did you sign a new customer? Let’s write a release. Is your CEO speaking at an industry event? Let’s write a release.

Writing a press release is one of the simplest ways to communicate what’s happening and why it matters. Distributing those press releases positions your company as a key player and thought leader in the ongoing industry dialogue. It’s not complicated. It doesn’t need to be debated and as long as you’re not regularly putting out more than 2-4 press releases per month, you’re not overdoing it. So, just do it.

2. Highlight your customer’s success stories

Once again, it sounds like a no-brainer. You have customers. They like your products. They like your team. They have achieved impressive results that they’re willing to share. Let them be your advocates. Capture their stories in writing. Put them in front of reporters who are eager to hear from both executives and end-users at provider organizations. It’s as simple as that. Just like with press releases, these customer success stories illustrate that your company is doing good work and that’s what makes more customers want to work with you, which of course is one of the biggest end goals of any strategy. It’s not complicated. It doesn’t need to be debated. As long as your customers are singing your praises, hand over the microphone and let them sing.

3. Emphasize your expertise

In addition to highlighting your clients, highlight your company’s thought leaders. After all, they are also doing good work (you may see a pattern here). They have knowledge to share. They have ideas to contribute. They are the faces of your company and you need some faces even if you don’t have a final strategy. This action can mean authoring bylined articles or blogs on their behalf or pitching them as experts for media interviews. By positioning your executives and SMEs as thought leaders and joining the industry conversation, you’re helping to make your company a go-to source for future media opportunities. It’s not complicated. It doesn’t need to be debated and it would really be a shame for their knowledge to go to waste.

4. Educate your sales team about PR efforts

Regardless of strategy indecision, your sales team needs to close deals. There is nothing off-strategy about building your business. Media placements from your PR efforts are one of the most powerful but underutilized tools in your sales team toolkits. Obviously, sales prospects are not interested in the same information as the media. In fact, they may be turned off by being sent a press release about a new client that just signed on. However, they may be very interested in press coverage from well-regarded industry publications that profile your company news, thought leadership, and customer success stories. That is not only informative but also adds credibility and implies that you want to keep them in the know.

Similarly, if one of your client case studies is featured in a third-party publication, that’s a prime opportunity to reach out, share the article and offer a reference call with the client quoted. It’s not complicated. It doesn’t need to be debated and if you’re earning media placements it is certainly a shame not to use them to their fullest potential.

It’s time to get off the hamster wheel and get on with the real work that makes a difference.

Lisa Chernikoff

Lisa Chernikoff has over a decade of experience in marketing and public relations. She began her career at the University of Michigan Health System where she worked closely with communications leaders and subject matter experts to write press releases on hospital news and industry hot topics. After spending a short time in consumer PR, Lisa returned to her healthcare roots, spending 4 years at the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). At AHIMA, she drove communication strategy for certification initiatives like the association's clinical documentation improvement credential. She also led new initiatives to engage student members, including a career prep webinar series and a ground-breaking healthcare IT career map to advance the HIM profession. Then, as the marketing leader at Strata Decision Technology, a Chicago-based healthcare IT company, Lisa collaborated with the executive team to support the company's rapid growth with a strong integrated marketing and communications plan. Most recently, at Procured Health, a Chicago-based startup, she launched a content marketing and media relations program to emphasize the company's thought leadership. At Procured Health, Lisa also launched a new executive webinar series and secured countless speaking engagements to increase brand awareness. Lisa has a bachelor's degree in communications studies from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.