Episode 10

Published on:

16th Nov 2023

S3 E10: How to Amplify PR Wins with Amanda Hill

Public relations and marketing communications have evolved significantly over the past decade, requiring a shift in how we define and measure success. In today's landscape, it is crucial to frame success in terms of business outcomes rather than expected PR wins. By understanding the results that matter to an organization and aligning PR efforts to those goals, we can create strategies that drive real impact.

Amanda Hill, CEO of Three Box Strategic Communications, emphasizes the need to understand what counts as "success" for the client's organization and how PR wins can be amplified to help reach those outcomes. She highlights the significance of reaching the right people at the right time through the right channels and discusses the value of thought leadership and amplification in developing an effective PR strategy. Amanda advises PR and marketing teams to plan ahead, present content in a fresh way through each channel, and combine metrics to showcase the full impact of PR wins.

About the Guest

Three Box CEO Amanda Hill, MBA, APR, is passionate about leveraging marketing communications to drive impact for brands. An experienced strategist, she has led national and international campaigns for Fortune 500s and up-and-coming organizations. Amanda’s industry expertise and millennial leadership has been recognized regionally and globally, including being named a "40 Under 40" by the Dallas Business Journal and PRSA Dallas. Aside from her husband and their two sons, she's most proud of building an award-winning team at Three Box, recognized as one of Dallas' top agencies and Forbes' Top PR Firms in America.

About the Host

Abbie Fink is president of HMA Public Relations in Phoenix, Arizona and a founding member of PRGN. Her marketing communications background includes skills in media relations, digital communications, social media strategies, special event management, crisis communications, community relations, issues management, and marketing promotions for both the private and public sectors, including such industries as healthcare, financial services, professional services, government affairs and tribal affairs, as well as not-for-profit organizations.

PRGN Presents is brought to you by Public Relations Global Network, the world’s local public relations agency. Our executive producer is Adrian McIntyre.

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Adrian McIntyre:

From the Public Relations Global Network, this is PRGN Presents. I'm Adrian McIntyre.

Abbie Fink:

And I'm Abbie Fink, vice president/general manager of HMA Public Relations in Phoenix, Arizona and a founding member of PRGN. With public relations leaders embedded into the fabric of the communities we serve, clients hire our agencies for the local knowledge, expertise, and connections in markets spanning six continents across the world.

Adrian McIntyre:

Our guests on this biweekly podcast series are all members of the Public Relations Global Network. They discuss such topics as the importance of sustainability and Environmental, Social, and Governance programs, crisis communications, content marketing, reputation management, and outside of the box thinking for growing your business.

Abbie Fink:

For more information about PRGN and our members, please visit prgn.com. And now, let's meet our guest for this episode.

Amanda Hill:

Hi, I'm Amanda Hill. I'm CEO at Three Box Strategic Communications. We're an integrated marketing communications agency based in Dallas, Texas.

Abbie Fink:

One of the first questions I always ask a client when I'm getting ready to onboard them is, what is going to be the win? What's going to be success? So that we have a better understanding of really of what their expectations are.

And even before we can talk about what we're going to do about it, we have to understand what they're going to think has been a successful PR strategy. So, Amanda, as you're thinking about where we're going to go with these successes, what do you talk to the clients about first before we even get around to how we're going to manage what those wins look like?

Amanda Hill:

I think that's really a good question to ask clients. I think PR and marketing communications has changed so much in the past even 10, 15, 20 years. And so I think it's important to help clients frame success in business outcomes rather than expected PR wins.

That's something we can get into here in a minute. But I think asking them what outcomes matter to your organization, what really drives success for not just your marketing and PR efforts, but the global, bigger organization. And from there, we can talk about what are the PR wins that can be amplified to help you reach those outcomes.

Abbie Fink:

Right. And it really has to be more than just the article on the front page of the local daily newspaper. I often say that that may not actually be a win, right? If the things we're trying to talk about, the key messages, the audiences aren't in that space, then it's nice to hang up on the wall, but it really isn't going to work in terms of expectations.

So thinking about that, what are some of the things that might be considered a win from a PR perspective, and what should clients and organizations be thinking about besides the big banner headline, you know, the nice photo that appears in the local daily?

Amanda Hill:

Something that we talk about as a team at Three Box is reaching the right people at the right time through the right channels. And those channels change all the time, and the right people are really juggling lots of different channels that they pay attention to.

So that's something that we need to pay attention, you know, we've got to really look at who do you want to reach? Where are they consuming messages? And then we can build a strategy around a PR program that's going to reach them at the right time.

We've got to think about, put ourselves in our audience's perspective, think like them, and then build a plan that is customized to reaching them, even if it's not in a traditional way.

Abbie Fink:

What are some of the channels that might be considered?

Amanda Hill:

Traditional media, earned media, is still solid. Thought leadership is also really valuable. When I say thought leadership, that's really speaking opportunities, keynotes, or panel presentations, award programs, and then amplifying that through your, what we call owned, your owned channels. Promoting it on your website, your social media, your email campaigns, things like that.

What we find is that each individual strategy can be useful, but it's finding that right mix in a toolbox for your specific brand that's really important.

Abbie Fink:

I love the word amplify or amplification, right? It's the initial purpose, and then what do you do to expand upon that and give longer shelf life to that particular entity. So wherever it starts, where else can it go?

What are some of the strategies in thinking about that, that we can use amplification or other channels to create a longer shelf life for that initial win based on, again, the agreed-upon goals and objectives that we set for the client.

Amanda Hill:

First, I think it's important to note why amplification is important. Communications, marketing and PR teams internally, and even on the agency side, are busier than ever.

And I find that our client teams are trying to do more with less.

And amplification is really efficient. It's taking a win that you've put energy into, and then just repackaging it for different channels so that you're reaching that audience at the right time, in a place where they want to consume your messages.

So that can look different depending on what your PR win is. But let's say you have a media hit, right? So that's pretty traditional PR. You work as a team to secure that newspaper article or that broadcast hit. When you have that article come out, there's lots of different things you can do with it, right?

Some things that we recommend, and that we actually work into an amplification plan: Social media strategy. When that news outlet shares the piece on their own social media, sharing it from your brand, from the news outlet, via your brand's social media, tagging that outlet, engaging with their audience in the comments on their post and on yours. That's one way to amplify that news article.

Even if you did nothing else, you took the reach of your news article by not just their print edition, but let's also include their online reach, right? You amplify it with their social media that they've shared through their channel, and then you've amplified it through your own.

So we take what, when I first started in public relations, was one way to reach an audience. Now we've amplified that just by making one add to your workflow. You now have four different channels, if you will, where you've reached an audience in a different way. Does that make sense?

Abbie Fink:

It does. And what can the life cycle be, right? So that's kind of an immediate response. The article appeared or the news story hit. They amplified it. I amplified it. But there must be some opportunities for that same story to live on again, right? They're either revisited or repurpose it.

We can create a shelf life, right? A little bit longer life cycle for a particular ... so after that initial win, what's some of the other things that can happen along the way that keep it front and center, assuming that it's got that ability to be continued on?

Amanda Hill:

The real answer is, it could be infinite, depending on that hit and your team and your brand. There are lots of ways to be creative about it.

There are the immediate ways to amplify. But think about, if this is … let's say your organization won a major industry award. There's the immediate sharing the news through your own channels, but are you including that on your website? Is that something that could be part of your company marketing? Is it something you fold into your recruiting materials that you promote with potential hires? Are you integrating it into a future email campaign or a newsletter that goes out?

There are lots of ways to share those opportunities and repackage it. I think if you have a solid content calendar for your marketing, and you have regular communications touch points, just think about, how could I package this particular win in a new and fresh way, of course, but how could I fold that into those opportunities next month, three months from now, six months from now?

Sometimes that makes sense. Sometimes it doesn't, but it's always worth looking at where can we fold this into our existing channels for longer shelf life.

Abbie Fink:

And one of the things that I think as PR practitioners now, we are making good headway with executive leadership around the role that a strategic communications plan and implementation can have on your business strategy, and directly impacting revenue and bottom line.

And I see another opportunity for that PR win to really impact the business in a sales function, that becomes part of your proposals for new business. It becomes a packet in your capabilities brochure, right? It's a PR win, but it really, used correctly, can truly impact the business, the bottom line of the business, when others in the organization see it as a valuable component of their strategy as well.

Amanda Hill:

Absolutely. You know, I think something that hasn't changed in PR, while lots of things about PR have changed, it's still important to have that third party validation, right? To have someone other than your own leadership team or your own employees talking about how great your organization is. That third party validation matters. And so I think when you receive that, whether it's through thought leadership, or a client testimonial, or a great media hit, repackaging that and using and amplifying it in different ways is just getting more shelf life out of that third-party validation. It is still valuable. It's just doing it in a new way.

Abbie Fink:

And they all kind of create this circle, right? If you get a really fantastic news story or a thought leadership piece printed, it becomes the content for the award program, because it's, again, testimonial type content. The award recipient becomes a bio-information, right? You can see how this really becomes a nice circle of creating that further amplifying.

But there's got to be some things that might challenge us in this process as well. We definitely know that there are positives in doing this, but are there any things that might trip us up a little bit, anything we should be aware of if we're, as you said at the beginning, there's so many places to reach people now. There's multiple channels, there's audiences at different times accessing it. So what are some challenges or drawbacks or maybe better said, some things we need to be aware of when we're talking about where else can this go?

Amanda Hill:

I think there are really two things that I would be most cautious of. First is to make sure that when you're repurposing that win, you're presenting it in a fresh way through each channel, right? You don't want to copy and paste the same thing and post it. What you use for social media amplification needs to be different than what you use in an email campaign or on your website.

We used to say that it took seven touch points for the audience to really move from your brand awareness to some kind of action. Lately, I've been seeing eight to nine touch points. So you're reaching new people through amplification, but you're also reaching the same people multiple times. So you want to offer them something new with each amplification so that they don't see it and think, oh, you just are copying and pasting over and over, right? So that's the first thing.

And then the second thing, which really could tie into that, is I would really challenge marketing PR teams to plan ahead as much as you can. That helps you to make sure that the channels you're using are appropriate, that the content is fresh, but have a plan going in. I think that this idea of just picking random things off the shelf and, oh, we'll share here, here, and here, I think that that strategic approach is still really important. Now, whether you amplify it in one channel or five, that doesn't matter. But just know where you're going and why before you get started.

Abbie Fink:

Well, and certain channels play better with what we're trying to do, right? Not everything belongs on Facebook or not everything belongs in the newsletter, right? There needs to be some conversation around what the win is and where is it best purposed.

And as I hear you talking about that, thinking about a win in the singular is not an efficient strategy. It's what do we do, again, to further that? So a lot of that is a plan and a conversation and helping to understand why we want to be considering these things.

As we are advising clients or as market internal teams are thinking about it, what should we be looking for? What is some of that advice that you might offer that says you've got this by definition, this is a win. What do we do now? What is some of the advice you offer up?

Amanda Hill:

So typically with what we might consider a PR win, you have a little bit of runway where you know it's in the works, but it hasn't published yet or it hasn't come to fruition. Take advantage of that time. I think even if it's 30 minutes, we've done amplification plans for clients literally in 30 minutes where we gather the team around and say, Okay, where do we want to amplify this? What makes the most sense, how do we want to stage it in terms of timing? So it doesn't have to be months in advance, but put a little thought into it beforehand. Have your game plan ready.

That will also allow you to prepare your content in advance so that you're ready to go as soon as it goes live for the things that are time sensitive, of course. So I think that's an easy thing to work into your workflow that will really amplify the success of that PR win.

And then one other thing I would mention is, think about that win—as you mentioned, Abbie—it's a holistic win. So what are the metrics with those amplifications that you can combine to present the full picture of impact for that result, right? When we think about merchandising the PR win to the C-suite or to your leadership, it's important to show them, “Hey, what started with this one opportunity really reached the audience in this broader way because of a few extra steps that we took.”

For leadership, and understanding the value of marketing and PR, that's going to speak their language of what's the real value and the real impact of this work. So I would really encourage a broader view of success, especially as you're presenting it to your leadership team.

Adrian McIntyre:

Thanks for listening to this episode of PRGN Presents, brought to you by the Public Relations Global Network.

Abbie Fink:

We publish new episodes every other week, so follow PRGN Presents in your favorite podcast app. Episodes are also available on our website—along with more information about PRGN and our members—at prgn.com.

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About the Podcast

PRGN Presents: News & Views from the Public Relations Global Network
Leading a business effectively in today's fast-paced and interconnected world requires expert guidance and a strong communications strategy. The Public Relations Global Network is here to help.
PRGN Presents is the essential podcast for international business leaders, non-profit executives, and those who hire public relations, marketing, and communications firms. It provides an exclusive look into the ever-evolving world of PR and communications, featuring experts from the Public Relations Global Network, “the world’s local public relations agency.”

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In each episode, you’ll hear PR professionals and industry experts share valuable insights and perspectives on the latest trends in public relations, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), media relations, crisis management, investor relations, stakeholder engagement, executive thought leadership, and strategic communications.

About your host

Profile picture for Abbie S. Fink

Abbie S. Fink

Abbie S. Fink is president of HMA Public Relations in Phoenix, Arizona and a founding member of the Public Relations Global Network. Her marketing communications background includes skills in media relations, digital communications, social media strategies, special event management, community relations, issues management, and marketing promotions for both the private and public sectors, including such industries as healthcare, financial services, professional services, government affairs and tribal affairs, as well as not-for-profit organizations. Abbie is often invited to present to a wide variety of business and civic organizations on such topics as media relations, social media and digital communications strategies, crisis communications, and special events management.