by Jon Thorp

Increase your construction company's visibility by learning how to use the media to kick off a PR/marketing campaign.

There is a lot of confusion about what public relations (PR) is-especially to those who are not in this field. For example, I recently engaged a company in a discussion about its PR efforts. When asked if he currently practiced PR, my contact immediately answered, "Yes." But when I asked what they did, the response was, "We always have fresh coffee and cookies at our reception desk."

Certainly, from the most basic viewpoint, these efforts can be considered "PR," but companies need to think bigger. Why? Because every company can employ tactics to gain more attention, improve its reputation and, in turn, gain more business. And this is not just for huge companies. From independent contractors to larger full-service construction entities, strategies can be employed to increase visibility.

Start Simply

To kick off any PR program, it is often best to start with the basics. This includes promoting the little things, like company happenings, new hires, facility improvements, etc. Local newspapers are always looking for news to fill their business sections, so why not send a short press release and high-resolution photo to the business editor?

To many people, trying to get a little exposure in the business section about a new facility may not seem worth the effort. But the more times a company's name is mentioned, the better. After all, why would people hire a service or buy a product from a company they have never heard of? These announcements portray that the company is progressive and growing, which lends to credibility.

Think Big


 

To gain more exposure, a company must come up with bigger ideas. Think about a recent project that was interesting or posed a unique challenge. Maybe a particular job holds significance for setting a record or being a first. Or perhaps a piece of equipment was used in an unusual application. The media loves to tell these stories, so you should be pitching them.

Most people involved in construction are humble-sometimes to a fault. When you might think the general public or media would not be interested in a particular application, typically the opposite is true. In some circumstances, creativity is required to form an angle for a prospective article. For example, a local general contractor with only three employees was the first to build a house in a new development. Although this may not seem like an obvious story pitch, the builder simply sent an email to the newspaper's business editor about the project. He mentioned that this particular house featured more amenities than most competing houses within its price range. He also highlighted the interesting facts about the new development. Then, he finished by writing about how well his houses were selling, despite the down economy. Though the idea was fairly simple, it ended up being prominently featured in the business section. And, coincidentally, the house was sold shortly thereafter.

If you do not want to write your own article, other options exist. First, if a recent job posed a particular challenge and a piece of equipment helped provide the solution, you can contact the manufacturer. Oftentimes, manufacturers have their own public relations teams who look for interesting stories to write about their products and pitch to publications.

You can also seek outside help from a public relations professional. These specialists are experienced at getting maximum exposure for their clients, and they have worked with many of the industry's editors before, so many key relationships are already in place.

Another idea is to offer industry advice to the business editor of the local newspaper. Editors who are working on construction-oriented stories are often more than happy to have a reliable source readily available to interview. Be prepared to offer solid, newsworthy information. Editors are happy to write about what you are doing, but they are not interested in blatant promotion.

 

Imagine approaching a potential new customer. Sharing that your construction company was featured in a publication helps to legitimize your services and showcase your unique abilities.

Establish Healthy Relationships

No matter what tactics you use, a successful PR campaign comes from forming relationships with editors and other influential people in the media. Editors are more likely to write about people they are comfortable working with and often contact people they know for story leads.

By putting effort into a PR program, companies of any size can improve their images and gain top-of-mind recognition, which could eventually lead to more sales. It is a proven marketing strategy, but if you are not yet convinced of PR's value, consider the last time you ate at a restaurant because the local newspaper highlighted its cuisine. Even though the article did not present a direct sales pitch for the restaurant, the story influenced positive emotions in the minds of readers. With a concerted effort, there is no reason you cannot highlight your construction projects in the same manner.

Construction Business Owner, January 2011