Lemonade stands are practically a rite of summer as many enterprising young people take to the nearest sidewalk, with what for some, is the first of many entrepreneurial endeavors. Earlier this year, there was even the story of 11 year old Mikaila Ulmer, who won a contract with Whole Foods for her lemonade business, placing her drink on the shelves of 55 stores throughout the country.
I’m sure when you see lemonade stands, you don’t automatically think PR. But, consider the following parallels:
There’s a hook. There’s nothing better than a glass of cold, refreshing lemonade on a warm day– which explains why we don’t often see lemonade stands in the middle of winter. Just like lemonade stand hosts know the weather is their golden ticket, public relations professionals understand the need for a solid news hook for their story. Without a tie-in to an overarching theme, current event or compelling datapoint, your pitch can easily make its way into the black hole of a reporter’s email inbox. The right hook or angle can be the difference between a reporter pausing to digest your pitch or tossing it in the trash.
It’s opportunistic. Kids often decide on a whim to host a lemonade stand, provided the conditions are right. They see it’s hot outside and seize the opportunity to make some extra spending money. Similarly, there is a big element of opportunism with public relations. Staying on top of your client’s industry trends and finding interesting news nuggets that relate to your client’s point of view can help you sell a story or interview without a lot of pre-planning. In many cases, opportunistic media relations can yield important placements simply by leveraging what is already in the news.
It starts small. Unless it’s part of a much larger-scale event, lemonade stands are usually a modest production. The hosts gather the necessary ingredients and supplies, make the lemonade and start selling. If it goes well, hosts are more motivated to sell for longer or do it again on another day. Similarly, the most effective PR campaigns I’ve seen are scaled appropriately. When we onboard a new client we start by focusing on one or two main goals, likely building thought leadership or focusing on penetrating a particular news outlet. Once we’ve gotten up and running, we then think about ways to expand the reach and frequency of our clients’ messages. The trick is to leverage momentum and established credibility as an expert.
Resourcefulness is key. Anyone can sell lemonade, but what makes one stand more successful than the next? The stands that offer different flavors, sell baked goods or donate a portion of money to charity will typically outperform the basic stand. The same is true in PR. It’s all about figuring out how to make your news angle/expert/point of view stand apart from the rest. It’s about knowing a reporter’s beat, writing style and how to best communicate with him/her. It’s about researching your pitch and crafting an opinion piece in a way that will pique the interest of the reporter. In these ways, resourcefulness can be the secret ingredient to success.
It’s focused on traffic. Most successful lemonade stands are positioned in a highly trafficked area. After all, the more opportunity to reach sweaty, thirsty people, the better chances of making a sale. PR professionals need to adopt a similar mindset when it comes to pitching news angles, byline articles and expert interviews. The more eyeballs an article or segment receives, the more wide-reaching and impactful the piece will be. There’s a reason why outlets with high circulation numbers are at the top of most PR practitioners’ media lists.
So– the next time you pass a lemonade stand, perhaps with your drink, you’ll also be struck by inspiration for your next big company media campaign.