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Crafting the Perfect PR Strategy

An interview with Virginie Simon, founder of Simon&Co
Posted: 17th April 2024 09:02
The complex world of public relations and communications often requires a diverse set of skills and tools to conquer, with one industry or market requiring a very different strategy to the next. Exceptional PR strategies develop strong brands, which in turn capture their audience’s imagination and often act as a catalyst for measurable growth and long-term success. But PR comes in various forms and sometimes the short-term focus isn’t growing your brand, but instead stabilising it – or perhaps saving its reputation – and so finding a specialist with the versatility to hone in on these specific requirements is key.
Developed in Switzerland, but with further representation in London and Madrid, Simon&Co is the complete package when it comes to PR and communications. It’s led by founder, Virginie Simon, who has operated in the industry for 17 years and developed an exceptional track record in crafting communications strategies, handling business change, and pulling brands out of a PR crisis. We spoke to Virginie in more detail about how her and the wider team at Simon&Co help their clients build audience trust, the common PR mistakes that brands make today, and the key differences between proactive and reactive PR.
What are the main benefits of developing a PR strategy?
A PR strategy is aimed at improving your reputation, launching a product or service, managing a change or a crisis or simply boosting your brand awareness. It is fundamental to support the company’s growth. To make sure that you’re developing a meaningful strategy, learn how your market is evolving, what are the different audiences and targets and which are the best communication tools you can leverage to reach them.
What are the most common mistakes clients tend to make before reaching out to you?
One big mistake would be to try implementing some actions without having a clear strategy. Most companies function in an opportunistic way, meaning that they try to make the most out of small opportunities without seeing the bigger picture. Most of the time, it’s either not sustainable or not well managed and planned. I would say that this is understandable as PR and communications are unfortunately mostly seen as a cost centre. Even if it can be tough to measure the impact of a PR campaign, we know that PR is essential to support a company’s growth.
Another mistake would be the opposite. By being too proactive, for instance contacting various journalists without a clear pitch and storytelling to feature in key media, is counterproductive. Media relations have changed a lot and require specific competencies.
What are the key considerations you take into account when developing a strategy for a client?
The first step to consider is researching the environment and knowing your target audience. Then, think about your resources as they will dictate the type of actions you will be able to implement.
What steps can you take to help clients to reach, engage and build trust with their audience?
This will depend on the type of audience, but in general I would say that you need to understand who they are. What are those people's behaviour patterns and values? How could you reach them? Be transparent – this doesn’t mean that you have to tell them everything – but never lie, and try to build long-term relationships with them. Choose quality over quantity.
Can you share a case study example of an effective PR strategy you have implemented this year?
I supported a national startup specialising in vegan meat to launch a new product. For this purpose, we had to find a way to not be too marketing-orientated, as journalists are looking for fresh stories that have a deep meaning. If it’s too marketing-orientated, you will never raise their interest. In this case, we decided to partner with a Michelin Star chef to create an entire menu with that product. The journalists were invited to an event to discover the story of the start-up, meet their CEO and, of course, taste this incredible menu. We could target different angles to attract local, specialist, lifestyle, and business journalists, and we had enough visual content to support them in filming videos and taking great pictures.
What tools are available to help companies monitor the effectiveness of their strategy?
There are several tools we can use depending on the type of PR strategy. For instance, if we talk about media relations, we usually calculate the estimated PR value. This metric is based on the advertising price multiplied by 2.5 as the outcome consists of the result of a journalist’s work. This means that it has a very different reach and impact than advertising does, as it offers added-value content and a great referencing on Google.
What is the difference between proactive and reactive PR and how do you tailor your approach accordingly?
Proactive PR involves anticipating and creating opportunities to generate a positive image and reputation. This approach is focused on building long-term relationships with journalists, key opinion leaders, customers, politicians, etc. To me, this is the best way to conceive PR, even if sometimes events occur and you have to respond to them in a reactive way. The more you work on your strategy and messaging, the more consistent you will be and the more prepared you’ll be for any event that occurs. On the other hand, reactive PR is a more opportunistic approach in the sense that it consists of responding to external events or issues. In this case, the best strategy is always to monitor your environment to make sure that you can jump in on relevant topics.
What are the biggest PR trends to watch in 2024?
Mental health. It can seem disconnected to PR but it actually isn’t. We have been through a lot during the past years, from the pandemic to major restructuring and layoffs. Those big changes have direct implications on the employee’s mental health. I was shocked when, 12 years ago, I had to manage my first big crisis communication project and saw that employees’ mental health wasn’t taken into account. It might seem cheesy but I do believe that employees are the primary ambassadors of a company. If you hear people talking in a bad way about their job and their workplace environment, you will immediately get a bad picture of it – no matter the salary or the amount of privileges they might receive. I am proud to be a partner of Ensa and Pro Mente Sana in Switzerland, offering mental aid and first aid courses to people and companies as I do feel they are useful on a human level.
What is the best piece of advice you could offer to a prospective client?
This is a tough one. I would tell them to pick quality over quantity, and to never lie. Transparency doesn’t mean telling people everything, but we live in a very small world so work on your messages wisely.
To explore in further detail the breadth of PR and communications services offered at Simon&Co, please visit or contact its Head Office in Lausanne, Switzerland directly on +41 (0)21 552 1525.

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