Many small and medium-sized businesses are entirely focused on closing sales, producing products/providing services, managing inventory costs and collecting revenue; that marketing efforts take a backseat. Unfortunately, that mindset is often to the detriment of that business.
Defining Our Terms
When we think of Marketing, most of us tend to think of Advertising and little else. There is a lot more that goes into Marketing. It also includes such things as; packaging, consumer research, product or service portfolio decisions, pricing, event management (trade shows, promotions, contests, etc.). Each of these are a skillset and discipline on their own. However; there is one other component to the field of Marketing that is worthy of consideration regardless of company size. In fact, it may be even more important for companies that are starting out or looking to expand/grow. That is Public Relations.
To be clear, Advertising is messaging the company pays to place where it hopes to attract current customers or future prospects. The message is crafted by the company and is designed to represent the company as it wishes to be viewed.
Public Relations is typically unpaid and relies upon an organic endorsement from; customers, media, experts, or partners about the company, products, service, or other elements of interaction with that company.
Stop and think about which would have more persuasive power if you were looking to make a purchase. The person yelling out how great he or she is; or someone you trust advising you to consider that company? A trusted third party will almost always be given more credibility than a braggart.
How Do I “DO” PR Then?
Among the ways to generate good Public Relations is to seek and share Testimonials. Whether it is a quote from a satisfied customer you place on your website, or a request you make to have a pleased customer contact someone else on your behalf to recommend your services, or ask permission of that customer to permit you to use you as a reference for future sales opportunities; a testimonial is a very strong device to market your company – and it does not cost anything!
Other ways to generate interest in your company is through the media. Whether it is writing for industry-specific publications, being interviewed for newspaper, radio, or TV on issues related to your business’ products or services, or being able to garner a spot on a talk show devoted to a topic where you are recognized as an expert; these are all opportunities for you to generate significant interest in your company through the lens of reflected expertise. After all, if the media views you as an expert, it is a validation or endorsement of your worthiness versus other market competitors.
Therefore, it is necessary to form relationships with the appropriate media contacts, social media influencers, or others with gravitas that speak to or engage with the target market with which you wish to communicate. Start early and offer something in return to these people (background information, even if non-attributed at first is a good suggestion). The media is inundated with people believing their story is unique or that they are worthy of coverage. Rarely is demanding coverage productive. It is more advisable to make it a relationship first and then build to the point where you merit coverage.
What is the Value of PR?
Public Relations helps define your brand or value to the marketplace you wish to target. Properly conducted, it answers the question in your key customer or prospect pool, “why do I want to choose this company over others?” It works best when there is consistency of message. If numerous previous customers comment on the customer service strengths of the company, it forms a point of differentiation versus competitors for the customer or prospect to consider. If there is one comment or reference to the company’s creativity, and another to their fair pricing, and a third referencing their quick delivery, and a fourth mentioning their product selection; it will feel diffused and less focused than if there are five mentions of one company trait or offering.
When Can I Expect Results?
Public Relations takes time to build momentum. A fair expectation is somewhere between three and six months before results will be seen. Often, the positive outcome of Public Relations is not an immediate sale, but awareness building of you, your brand, or your company. It enhances credibility. Rarely, do you see an article appear somewhere and within days sales spike 50% over prior time period. Of course, once you do appear in a major publication or on a radio or tv show with a large following, your business needs to be ready to absorb the incremental business it may generate. It would be a terrible lost opportunity if the business was unable to meet the needs of the new customers (and would create an unfavorable image of the company).
Successful PR generates trust between your company and customers. Build positive relationships with the selected media members to create THEIR trust, and then communicate the messaging they can convey on your behalf to leverage the trust they have with your target audience.