We constantly meet business leaders who think effective public relations (PR) is as simple as issuing a quick press release. Or they think that landing one article in a local newspaper is going to instantly draw their company into the perpetual limelight. Sadly, PR is one of the most misunderstood and undervalued marketing communications techniques there is – a frightening thought, considering PR is the single most important way to build a brand, alter public perceptions and win “share of mind.”
If you’re one of those execs who just doesn’t get it, here are 4 key things you need to know to truly understand the value of public relations:
PR must be an ongoing effort. You can’t take the “one and done” approach to PR. Why? Because news is fleeting. Think about how many cool, unique or important things you’ve heard about in the news … and then didn’t hear about ever again? Yeah, nearly everything. There are thousands of newsworthy things happening every single day, so the only way to keep your brand top-of-mind is to keep at it – continuously push out newsworthy information.
PR takes time. Too many people think public relations will reap instantaneous results. Sure, after the launch of a PR campaign, you might see an immediate increase in web traffic or a spike in sales, but it takes years – literally years – to build a great brand / reputation. Think about a company you refuse to do business with or a celebrity you strongly dislike – you’ve probably held that perception for a while and it would take a lot of time and effort on their parts to alter it. The same holds true with any business. That’s why Starbucks executives for example, had the minds to invest 10 years into building a brand experience through public relations alone. Now, as a leading retailer with almost 20,000 stores worldwide, Starbucks is a household name and offers an incomparable “coffee experience.” Talk about a high payoff! But to see that kind of success you have to be willing to make the investment, keep at it and be patient.
PR is more than pitching news. An effective PR program goes far beyond headlines. And while media coverage is certainly valuable, news clips are only one piece of the share of mind puzzle. Want to dominate the competition? Start thinking about PR on a broader scale and connect with customers at a variety of touch points – not just in newspapers and magazines. Have a presence at trade shows, speak at and sponsor relevant conferences, host product samplings, maintain a strong social media presence, stay involved in the community, involve your employees – all of these are forms of public relations. With the help of a smart PR team you can create a well-balanced strategy that uses these venues to strategically connect with your audience, influence their perception of your brand and gain share of mind over competitors. Recognizing the value of more than just media pitching will give you a much more effective and holistic PR effort.
PR can help you manage crises. When a crisis hits, you’d better hope you’ve already been effectively managing your PR efforts and have good share of mind and strong brand advocates. It’s much easier to combat negative press if your audiences already maintain positive perceptions of you. For example, Chick-fil-A hit a colossal crisis when its President, Dan Cathy, ignited controversy by speaking out against gay marriage. The chicken chain met criticism from all angles – getting attacked on social media and boycotted by gay rights groups. Had it not been for the brand’s positive perception and established group of ardent supporters, the company might have seen a serious dive in popularity. However, Chick-fil-A is still kicking with visits, market share and ad awareness all increasing directly after the crisis hit last year. PR-oblivious companies with less-than-excellent brand perceptions would not have been able to pull out of a situation like that as easily … if at all.
The minority of execs who truly understand the power of PR and how it works are at a distinct advantage. They realize its vital impact on everything – from how employees translate the company’s brand to how public perceptions ultimately impact the bottom-line. It takes years to build a brand and win share of mind. And being frank, the execs who get it, see the results on their yearly financial statements. The execs who don’t get it are too busy spinning their wheels to know what they are missing.
Perhaps PR is so powerful because only few execs and organizations truly get it. And those that do are able to dominate their markets because no one else is effectively competing at their game. We want you to get it – start dominating your market by understanding PR and owning it.