Dealing With Limited Resources






Target is known for many things. Consumers recognize the
retailer’s iconic red and white branding. Manufacturers
understand that the company is the world’s seventh largest
retailer. And now, bloggers know that Target’s public
relations department “does not participate with
nontraditional media outlets.”

The New York Times
(http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/28/business/media/28target.html)
reported earlier this week on one blogger’s attempt to get
the Target PR team to respond to a request for comment.
Instead of a comment, however, the blogger received the
“does not participate” message. While Target’s decision not
to deal with bloggers is questionable, what’s most
interesting is the company’s reasoning: It doesn’t have the
resources.

Noting that the company has a small public relations team, a
spokesperson told The New York Times, “We want to make sure
we are making an educated decision and we live up to any
promises we make, in terms of service.”

I’m actually not surprised that Target has a small public
relations team. Major retailers effectively utilize
advertising to get their message to consumers across, and
well-established retailers such as Target tend to believe
that their most effective means of promotion is simply to
let the prices and products they carry speak for themselves.

By contrast, technology companies such as Microsoft employ
numerous outside PR firms, while Yahoo!’s in-house PR
department is of epic proportions. Many manufacturers often
employ just a few PR professionals and support staff, and
service-related industries such as airlines have robust, but
not overbearing, PR departments.

The luxury for Target is that the company, which generates
more than $60 billion in revenue and almost $3 billion in
profits annually, is that it can decide whether or not it
wants a big PR department. Obviously, it has decided to keep
the department small and, despite the negative ink regarding
its dealings with bloggers, the company’s PR department
appears to do a very good job (especially when compared to
rival Wal-Mart).

Unfortunately, what is a luxury at Target is the cold, hard
truth at many organizations. My company, for example, has
exactly one person dealing with PR issues – me.

I do all the pitching, handle all of the inbound media
requests, prepare all of the press releases, train all of
our editors and analysts on how to speak to the media – and
I actually do about 95% of the interviews myself. Today
alone, I spoke to a wire service reporter on a breaking news
story, an online journalist, and a foreign newspaper
reporter all before noon. I also have a radio interview at
7:00 PM EST tonight.

It has taken me a while to get a handle on dealing with my
limited resources and all of my PR duties, but I have come
up with some simple rules to get me through the day.

1. Prioritize: Certain media outlets will get my undivided
attention because they reach my company’s target audience. I
give these media outlets preferential treatment because I’d
trade one piece of ink from them for ten pieces of ink from
other media outlets. They get responses first and I work
closely with them to ensure they receive the information
they need as quickly as possible.

2. Be Honest: I ask that journalists be patient and
understand that we don’t have a large PR department. I am
very upfront about when I can go over details with people
(my company is in the business of analyzing data, so I often
have to spend a long time on the phone explaining things)
and try to get the journalist to work around my schedule,
not his or hers. This may not work with every journalist,
but I have to prioritize who gets my time and when they get
it.

3. Plan: At the end of each week, I create a PR plan for the
following week. I sketch out what I hope to accomplish and
when I hope to do so. I create a schedule where I set aside
blocks of time to make/return calls and send/reply to
emails. I also ask certain co-workers about their schedules
and whether they will be available to help. Stuff happens
and I can’t always stick to the schedule, but just putting
it together helps me maximize my time each week.

4. Always Be Working: When I have some downtime at work, I
update my PR lists, template pitches, boilerplates, etc. I’d
rather do this when I have some time to spare than
on-the-fly when I need to get something out the door.
Advanced preparation is huge when you have slim resources.
It will save you a lot of time and stress.

5. Interns: I hired an intern last year and will do so again
this year. My intern proved to be a valuable resource as he
helped write and distribute press releases and prepare me
for various interviews by collecting data and information.
He was inexpensive and a huge help, especially when I had to
do a series of television appearances over a four-day
period. He got important experience, a stipend and college
credit out of the deal.

6. Remember, It’s a War, Not a Battle: It took about six
months for us to start generating the type and quantity of
PR that we wanted to generate. I was lucky because my bosses
understood that because of the limited resources they gave
me, we would need to build up our PR profile and not try to
go for the gold immediately. Our patience has been amply
rewarded.

Last year, my company doubled the amount of ink it received
compared to 2006, scoring over 500 press hits, including
eight television appearances and more than two dozen
articles in The Wall Street Journal, our key media outlet.
We did this utilizing a part-time PR person, a lot of common
sense and just a little elbow grease. There’s no reason that
even a one-person PR team shouldn’t be able to match those
results on a comparable basis.

Ben Silverman is currently the Director of Research for
InsiderScore, an investment intelligence service.
Previously, Ben was a business news columnist for The New
York Post and the founder/publisher of DotcomScoop.com. He
can be reached via email at bensilverman (at) gmail.com.

 

This article previously appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.prfuel.com),
a service of eReleases.com (http://www.ereleases.com).

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