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Grow: Mia Wedgbury

Bold moves make for good PR Add to ...

We've all asked ourselves: What would we do differently if we knew then what we know now? Imagine the companies you'd have invested in, or the opportunities you'd have pursued.

Hindsight is 20/20. But a successful PR campaign is about making bold moves today, not about waiting to see how things pan out first. Generally speaking, journalists don't want to hear about a great thing you did months after the fact, or after finding out about something just as good from a competitor.

That's why it's so important to understand where you fit in your industry. This knowledge will tell you how to position yourself to your audience when you have something to say, and when it's time to make your move. It's especially critical now. Given the recent economic turmoil, some larger companies have been distracted with financial results or internal matters, which is something smaller, nimbler organizations can use to their advantage when looking to get media coverage.

It starts by playing to your strengths. First, hold your organization up against the backdrop of your industry. Are you growing at a time when competitors are still shrinking? Do you have a unique angle on a product or service that the bigger (and more bruised) competitors lack, and that bodes well for the future? Now is the time to speak up. Reporters are always on the lookout for success stories, but especially those from within industries widely perceived as troubled – think automotive or tourism.

You can also try falling back on your résumé. Perhaps you're a veteran who has spent years working at the bigger industry leaders, and now you're on your own. Use that experience to your advantage. Your insights automatically position you as an industry spokesperson and will carry more weight with reporters than the opinions of someone who is fresh on the scene, especially if you've lived through other recessions.

Maybe you're one of the lucky few who avoided being hit by the recession altogether. Why not extend your luck a bit further and brag to a reporter? This is even more effective if your business is truly offbeat or niche, or it operates out of public view.

I've met a few incredible entrepreneurs who came this close to losing everything over the past 18 months, but who, through a sudden flash of insight or hard work, not only muddled through but actually revived their business. This is definitely the type of person a business reporter wants to hear about.

Remember the best practices I've been discussing since day one – sell your story, not just yourself or your product. Ask yourself “so what?” before engaging a journalist. Your business may be doing well, but there are millions of small businesses in Canada who might say the same, so step back. What does your story mean in the context of your industry as it stands today, and where's it going? Making it into something bigger will help your chances of getting attention from a reporter who hears lots of pitches every day.

Don't sit on a good story that's begging to be told. Wait too long and you'll either let someone else steal your thunder or you'll miss out on a great opportunity to raise the profile your business.

You'll also end up with one more thing you'd do differently years down the road.

Special to the Globe and Mail

Mia Wedgbury, president and co-founder of High Road Communications, operates Canada's largest public relations agency focused on technology and digital lifestyle. The company, which has been recognized as one of the best workplaces in Canada for two years running, has offices in Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal and San Francisco. A seasoned PR expert with more than 18 years of experience, Ms. Wedgbury has directed global brand positioning programs, handled crisis communications, managed international product launches and developed PR strategy for companies across the entire tech and lifestyle spectrum. In 2006, she also helped the agency launch the High Road Connect practice – a social media, Web 2.0 and marketing services group – to help companies transcend conventional communications. Ms. Wedgbury's clients include Microsoft Canada, MSN, Canon Canada, Disney and LG Electronics.

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