The key to gaining the perceptual edge is to influence the influencers, or gatekeepers. Where do the gatekeepers get their knowledge? From a smaller set of influencers whom they trust. You need to reach the following groups:
- Gurus-Key industry insiders.
- Influencers-Key trade and business press; industry analysts.
- Decision makers-Key bellwether buyers; those who can say yes.
- Naysayers-People who can say no along the way.
- Mass buyers-The masses who mainly follow what they perceive as the winning trend.
There is always a lot of controversy about the value that a PR agency can bring to the table. Many small companies believe that they can get to the gurus and influencers themselves and that the often sizable cost of using an agency may not be worthwhile. Our experience, however, is that, when properly managed, PR fees garner tremendous multiple returns on your investments in them as long as your expectations are properly set at the outset. The agency provides three basic functions:
- Creative-Helping to define the message.
- Execution-Getting the message out.
- Rolodex-Knowing who to go to and having the ability to get them to listen.
The sequencing and timing of the PR effort is crucial to getting maximum bang for the marketing buck. Ideally, you are creating a crescendo that begins with buzz about the company, moves on to buzz about the specific product, gets industry gurus and key influencers talking off the record about the product, and culminates in a blizzard of press coverage led by the daily mass and trade press followed during the next two or three months with additional stories in monthly magazines and on radio and television.
No one knows your company exists unless you take the proper steps to gain the right perception and then deliver the reality of leadership. Working through the various circles of influencers is the best way to quickly have that perception created. This perception of leadership will help not only in selling the product or service but also in hiring and fundraising for the entrepreneurial venture.