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Q&A: Solveig Raftery, Founder & CEO of The Firm Public Relations, on PR Strategy and Storytelling for Businesses

The Firm Public Relations & Marketing celebrates its 30th anniversary on March 1st.

Solveig Raftery, Founder & CEO of The Firm Public Relations (Courtesy of The Firm Public Relations)

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Solveig Raftery is the founder, president, and CEO of The Firm Public Relations & Marketing. Founded in 1993, the agency develops and implements PR and marketing strategies for clients in the health care, gaming, hospitality, luxury, nonprofit and real estate industries. Raftery has been honored with a Pinnacle Award as “Principal of the Year” by the Las Vegas chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

With F1 and the Super Bowl coming soon to Las Vegas, how can local businesses leverage these national and international events in their PR strategy?

Leveraging the attention of media tends to work really well when there’s a big, exciting event on the horizon. Media relations is a staple of any great PR strategy because it allows a trusted third party (media) to validate the truth behind a person or brand. When it’s done right, positive media coverage is invaluable. The big secret to maintaining a strong and relevant presence through the media is knowing how to provide interesting and timely information to writers, news journalists and other influencers who are looking to bite on an original and enticing story – preferably one that roots itself within something extremely newsworthy.

Las Vegas is lucky to host not just one, but two major sporting events that will be viewed from around the world and we can already feel our city’s energy percolating. The media is starting to latch on the anticipation for both Formula 1 and the Super Bowl, reporting high expectations for travel, sports fanaticism and even a rejuvenation of international tourism since the pandemic has subsided. Needless to say, the presence of both Formula 1 and the Super Bowl is a big deal. While it’s on everyone’s minds, local businesses need to assess if they fit into the larger story and think about how to communicate messages to their communities and stakeholders.

Maybe you’re a local business that served beer at the original Caesars Palace Grand Prix in 1982. Think about how 40 years later, you’re still standing and can’t wait to toast your longevity as they wave the checkered flags on race day. Or perhaps you’re a casino marketing executive and your charismatic, knowledgeable sportsbook director would make for a great interviewee in the weeks leading to the Super Bowl kickoff.

Those kind of story facets are compelling. They tie into current events and ought to be told through the media.

This is Vegas. We’re going to see every restaurant, bar, hotel and casino hosting special deals and promotions that are specific to the theme of each event. It’s an obvious no-brainer to join in on the fanfare of F1 and the Super Bowl. But take a look at who’s garnering true publicity from those events. Take notice of those who stand out by storytelling their way above of the clutter. That’s good public relations strategy.

And don’t forget about the power of social media, which has allowed organizations to act as their own newsrooms and reach a wider audience on their own steam. In 2023, social media stands toe-to-toe with traditional media by way of its power to influence. But guess what? It abides by the same rules. A successful social media campaign generates content that tells interesting, original and timely stories about trends and highly anticipated events.

What are the common mistakes you see businesses making in public relations and how to avoid them?

For starters, lack of consistency. Your PR efforts are ineffective if they’re not receiving a steady consistent pop. I’ve witnessed many organizations make the mistake of only engaging with their audience sporadically – a surefire way of failing to establish or maintain a strong reputation.

Sleeping on social media is a big one. While it’s a powerful tool that gives businesses the opportunity to have two-way communication with targeted audiences, it can be exhausting to keep up with. The constantly changing world of platforms and trends, not to mention the 24/7 monitoring and management, gives companies a lot of reason to flat out ignore it all together.

Also failing to be proactive. When people talk about the business of public relations, they almost always glorify the reactionary responses to major crises. Businesses should be proactive in their PR efforts by regularly engaging with their audience and establishing a positive reputation before a crisis hits.

The beauty of working with a dedicated public relations agency is that you’re outsourcing work to a team of specialists who can keep up with the latest business practices, execute on your behalf and ensure you’re planning strategically. By developing a strong PR strategy, businesses can establish a positive reputation, build brand awareness and effectively communicate with their target audience.

Solveig Raftery following the implosion of the classic Las Vegas resort Stardust Resort & Casino on March 13, 2007. (Courtesy of The Firm Public Relations)

What challenges and opportunities do you see in the media/news landscape in Southern Nevada?

It’s no secret the media landscape has been forced to evolve in the last couple decades. The advent of the internet has really shaken up how news and entertainment is fed to the masses. Legacy institutions stuck in their ways are poised to fail. That being said, this city has an amazing local media landscape that is still working hard to inform and entertain while experimenting with their content delivery, audience engagement and revenue streams.

The political landscape has also become increasingly polarized, with many people seeking out news sources that align with their political beliefs. This can make it difficult for news outlets to maintain objectivity and reach a wide audience.

The great news is that Southern Nevada's population is growing, and this provides opportunities for news outlets to reach new audiences and expand their coverage. Southern Nevada is a diverse community with a variety of cultures and perspectives, and this provides opportunities for news outlets to highlight these voices and provide a platform for discussion and understanding.

Las Vegas remains a major destination for tourists from around the world, and this provides opportunities for news outlets to cover a wide range of topics, from entertainment and hospitality to business and politics.

How do you see the PR industry evolving over the next 5 years?

In a world where consumers are inundated with information, effective storytelling has become more important than ever. PR professionals who can craft compelling narratives that resonate with their target audience are likely to be in high demand.

The lines between PR, advertising, and marketing are becoming increasingly blurred, and PR professionals are likely to work more closely with their colleagues in these fields to develop integrated campaigns that span multiple channels.

With the rise of digital media, AI and social media analytics, PR professionals are increasingly using data to inform their strategies and measure their impact.

As consumers become savvier about media manipulation and fake news, PR professionals will need to place a greater emphasis on ethical and responsible communication. This means being transparent, honest, and respectful in all interactions with stakeholders.

The PR industry is continually evolving. With the constant changes in technology, media and consumer behavior, PR professionals have to stay attuned to these trends and adapt their strategies accordingly.