Like anything in business, the minute somebody says to you “all you’ve got to do is, X,” you know there’s a whole lot more to it. Securing economic incentives is no different.
There are many companies out there selling their service capabilities with economic incentives. That’s not a bad thing as economic incentives are a powerful way to fuel your business growth and offset workforce development costs.
At the same time, when a consulting area becomes “mainstream,” there are always going to be a blitz of “experts” claiming that they can help you. However, it’s really important that you understand what you’re getting into and how it can backfire if it isn’t managed well.
To put it simply, economic incentives have the potential to significantly help your company. They also have the potential to create a media public relations firestorm that you’ll be dealing with for years to come. That being said, we’re going to go through 5 ways to prepare yourself for the PR requirements of an economic incentives request.
#1 – Plan the Work, Work the Plan
It might go without saying, but planning is the first step to a successful PR campaign. Here is a quick 10 point checklist that you can use to get started with your public relations planning.
At the end of the day, the most important part of your public relations campaign is knowing who you are trying to reach and what message matters to them. This requires an understanding of the local community. Surveys can be very helpful to get started in pinpointing the local hot-button issues and formulating a message that resonates.
Even something as simple as going to local coffee shops and asking the patrons what issues are important to them or what matters to them when it comes to the local community. You’ll be surprised at how much information you can gather this way.
#2 – Get Comfortable in Front of the Media
For most companies, their first appearance petitioning to the local city council is their first time in front of the media, ever. It’s possible they’ve had some experience, but it’s likely been a while since they spent time in front of a camera. Preparing for a public appearance, including leveraging an experienced and prepared company spokesperson, with media present is no joke and it’s a requirement if you’re going to be presenting a request for economic incentives.
Practice makes perfect, so spend time practicing your presentation. The best way to prepare to be on camera is to know how you look on camera. Video record yourself presenting and then make improvements based on what you see.
#3 – Know Your Outcome Ahead of Time
If the public presentation is the first time a local city or county council is hearing your proposal, you’re almost guaranteed to lower your chances of success and possibly delay the approval vote for months. You want to make sure that your proposal is a slam dunk before you ever go to that hearing by facilitating collaborative discussions to address possible objections or questions related to the requested project incentives.
The best way to do this is the build relationships with city council members and other local economic development leaders to get your proposal in front of them long before any public hearing. You want the hearing to be a formality, not a liability. If a public hearing goes bad, not only will you jeopardize the economic incentives, but you could be dealing with negative press for years after the fact.
Your economic incentive proposal needs to be a win for the community and clearly look that way in public. If your request is denied because you didn’t prepare well enough, the public will perceive that your request is only self-serving and not a win-win that includes the greater good of the community.
#4 – Purposeful Press Releases
According to AllBusiness, one of the fastest ways to lose public interest is with press releases.
Like the boy who cried wolf, if you send out press releases every time there is a minor development in your business, people will stop listening. And when something really important occurs, editors will already be in the habit of hitting delete when they see a press release from your business. Do not try to make stories where they do not exist. Some publicists actually do this to look busy and justify their billing.
Make sure your press releases are purposeful and meaningful. It’s far better to release a few announcements that matter and generate real public interest. Quality is much more important than quantity when it comes to press releases.
#5 – Work With an Expert
If you’re trying to navigate your economic incentive request alone, the chances are great that you’re going to swim into troubled waters. The reality is that the world of economic incentives is complex and constantly changing. Procurement of maximum level economic incentives involves many different skill sets, including public relations experience, tax credentials, an advocacy foundation to leverage during negotiations, financial analysis knowledge, and overall ability to build and foster strong working relationships with government and community leaders.
It’s extremely rare for a mid-market company to have a corporate affairs employee, who have all of the necessary skills to effectively navigate through an economic incentive request. There are other options, however, such as hiring an experienced professional to help connect the dots for the key aspects of the company incentive request.
These seasoned experts are going to work to avoid the very problems that this article is explaining while also leveraging their experience to help a company achieve a maximum level incentive benefit. Basically, this person will become a fractional head of PR for your company during this company petition process. These individuals will take the guesswork out of approval protocol and application paperwork, including working through any “fine print” items which could create unexpected surprises along the road towards final incentive benefit payouts or offsets.
To sum up this article, we recommend:
- Not under-estimating the public relations diligence that is a crucial ingredient for typical incentive requests,
- Don’t go at it alone – leverage internal and external experience so that your company can successfully achieve maximum level incentive benefits.
Following these simple steps could save your company a bundle while also preserving your business reputation in the community. After all, it’s up to you to be the best corporate financial steward that you can be!