Want government contracts? You need PR

There is a significant value of investing in public relations strategies, programs and tools when seeking government contract work. It isn’t just about churning out proposals; filling out forms.

Government contracting is a complicated process, and successful business development is key to creating the relationships that will open doors to winning contracts.

Between 1950 and 2000, the public-relations industry’s emphasis was on the “public” portion. It was all about telling your story, and the media outlets to do so were limited.

From the start of this century, it has been all about “relations”. This is due in large measure to the Internet and the incredible rise in social media.

Telling the story is still key, don’t get me wrong, but in the end your relationships with the media, customers and stakeholders will win the day.

Here are useful tips to drive government business:

Seek a public relations expert. Expert counsel can assist with using “words that work” in preparing proposals. In addition, when asked to make an oral presentation by a contracting official, a PR professional can assist with building the presentation to include message development, non-verbals and materials.

Think like a reporter. Do your homework, i.e., investigate current and future issues; that relentless pursuit of the story.

Have a good story … then TELL it! Good practices coupled with good PR results in greater business by being visible.

You need a great message! Your message must be directed to a targeted audience and a PR pro can develop the message so that it’s a benefit and relevant to the government audience.

The strength of government relationships. The face-to-face relationship building though memberships, associations and networking at local activities can be instrumental in gaining government business. Your PR expert can navigate the course for you; chart where you need to be seen and heard.

A PR consultant can help a company from being considered a “novice” business. He or she can assist you with avoiding these mistakes:

• Don’t market to every federal agency that MAY be a potential customer. Instead target the top few agencies.

• Don’t bid on every contract. Pick and choose those that you can effectively manage. (Companies have gone out of business “winning” contracts they cannot perform.)

• Do not try to be all things to everyone. If a company goes outside of their core competency, they will likely lose focus and confuse buyers and program managers.

Give it to the pros. You go to a doctor when you are sick. You seek a lawyer when needing legal advice. So, ask for assistance and do not attempt to conduct PR practices on your own as the communications and networking landscape is more complicated than ever.

Do not be inconsistent. Pleasant persistence pays. A PR professional can assist you with the strategy and tactics for staying in touch regularly. Remember, taking time to touch base is important today in the fast-paced and high tech world in which all of us live and work. In my view, it is impossible to give a “warm” handshake in an email.

Public relations experts can position stories in proper print, electronic and Internet locations. This effort will showcase your company’s value for contracting officials to gain and build trust. Traditional and new media can work together and your expert can be your guide.

Your company needs a crisis communication plan — before the crisis! The government looks favorably on a company that is savoy enough to plan for a crisis. This effort showcases the fact that your company understands the value of a comprehensive and managed approach to handling a crisis.

Michael B Perini, ABC is president of Perini & Associates, a full-service public relations and marketing firm in Woodland Park. His firm, partnering with Gain-Stovall Inc. and Rockford Gray, has conducted seminars on this topic sponsored by Colorado PTAC. Reach him at mike@periniassociates.com.