If you’re an avid reader of the Abel Communications blog (of course you are), then you’ve probably noticed a few consistent themes. A key theme is that PR is so much more than media relations. While important, media relations is a piece to a much larger puzzle. To drive coverage, we’re often working with clients to conceptualize and develop content, programs or events that are newsworthy.

If your organization’s end goal is to build brand awareness, inspire action and cultivate a relationship with your audience, there are a multiple ways to do that. We’ve found one of the most impactful tactics is developing strategic partnerships.

This could come in the form of championing a non-profit, partnering with an association or group, or supporting a startup. The key to a successful partnership is aligning yourself with a company, organization or influencer that has similar (or complimenting) values and forming a relationship that is mutually beneficial.

If executed properly and leveraged to its fullest potential, strategic partnerships can:

Expand your reach

Whether it’s connecting with event attendees, tapping into more Facebook fans or generating more leads, a solid partnership will expand the reach you’d be able to achieve flying solo. Making these connections enables you to share existing resources, leverage networks and expand the scope of your efforts.

For example, we worked with our client Medifast to establish a presence at the inaugural Light City festival. Medifast partnered with the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore to lead attendees in an Illuminated Yoga class as a kick-off to the upcoming Waterfront Wellness series. The partnership exposed Medifast to the more than 400,000 people who attended the weeklong festival, while also maximizing its existing sponsorship of the Wellness series.

To be successful in expanding your reach through co-branding campaigns, it can’t just be beneficial to the two partners, it should also appeal to the consumer. Maybe that’s through a giveaway, exclusive access or a product enhancement.

Our client, UnitedHealthcare recently sponsored a $10,000 Community Care Award for a small business to implement an idea that improves the health and wellness of Richmond. To connect with the business community, UnitedHealthcare partnered with BizWorks, a nonprofit small-business incubator, and RVA Works, a public-nonprofit partnership of Richmond’s Economic Development Authority.

To promote its annual Beard Off Challenge, we also connected our client Ulman Cancer Fund with UrbanStems, a growing flower delivery service and influencer brand, to create a Flower Beard with challenge participants, Diamondback Brewing. This partnership exposed their big fundraiser to thousands more social fans and followers in a fun way. DuClaw Brewery also shared their support for the nonprofit through their own Beer’d Off Challenge to other Maryland breweries.

Garner media attention

In order to get news, we counsel and help clients to create news. An anniversary, a new hire or conference alone are not what typically grab major headlines. Consider connecting with a partner to tie business news to a larger story in order to get more coverage.

For example, during Take Shape for Life’s Go Global conference, health coaches worked with local soup kitchens and women’s shelters to provide healthy care packages to thousands of homeless women. The initiative gave media a great story to cover and a reason to talk about the conference.

Another way to get attention from press is to involve them directly in a campaign.

During the STXreme Internship contest, sponsored by the global sporting goods brand STX, writers from the top lacrosse publications were invited to participate as judges to select the finalists. Not only did the contest result in tons of media coverage and social engagement, it created buy-in from the writers and nurtured the relationship with media.

Expose your brand to a new audience

An ongoing PR program reaches and influences your core audience (current or potential customers, key stakeholders and the community in which you do business.) But there may be a scenario in which a company would want to reach a new audience or new market. Cultivating a relationship with brands or organizations that has already captured the attention of that audience will help you more quickly connect with them and establish credibility.

Civic Works’ Baltimore Orchard Project wanted to get the word out about the access to healthy, sustainable foods available in the city. To do this, we worked with the non-profit to create Mulberry Madness (timed around the bloom of Mulberry trees in the city.) The annual event partners with Hampden area eateries to incorporate Mulberries in their dishes, and more importantly, raise awareness of the cause.

A successful PR program is driven by the end goal and supported through a mix of tactics. A good partnership maximizes your marketing efforts, provides value to your customer and achieves results. Building and nurturing relationships is a critical value your PR partner should provide. If you’re looking to identify the right partners or leverage an existing relationship, contact me at jfast@abelcommunications.com.