Why is public relations important for your business?
Sadly, a true fact is many people in business label PR as free advertising. Typically, this comes from people unconnected with PR and marketing, usually a million miles from anything to do with communications. PR is neither advertising, nor free.
PR can, in fact, provide arguably the biggest return on investment - if executed correctly.
Not to be confused with advertising, PR can help your business in many ways - ultimately increasing sales. It’s not some ‘dark art’ but at the same time, it requires expert understanding in order to be effective. The basis of PR is to use intermediaries and 3rd parties to communicate to your audience and increase the likelihood of them using your services or buying your products. These 3rd parties may be influencers themselves, they may be media outlets or they may be well respected individuals in a certain sector or industry, regardless there are no guarantees and your lack of ultimate control makes PR very difficult.
But get it right, and you drastically reduce the chances of failure.
PR can be a bit messy.
If you want cut and dry numbers, guarantees on impacts or demographics, then go with paid advertising. You won’t just get to create your exact sales message, you’ll get to say when, where and it’s placed and have the control of how much budget to dial up or down. However, consumers and prospective customers also see through advertising with as little as 22% of businesses surveyed in 2017 saying they were satisfied with their ad conversion rates (Econsultancy 2017.) It’s common knowledge, the constant bombardment of digital advertising means more and more people are turning to ad-blockers to filter out the noise. In order to get the attention of prospective customers, you have to stand out, you have to be organic. The best PR is when someone doesn’t even realise they’re reading a placed message - it might come from a respected industry figure (influencer) or it might form the basis of a report informing people of something editorially interesting (a survey and article relevant to their lives) for example.
PR is important for your business for some clear reasons:
• Public relations is personal.
Rather than using the generalism of market research at a macro level, PR speaks to people as individuals. It appeals to them and is relevant and contextual to the world they’re in. This connection with customers on a deeply personal level is so important for winning the hearts, minds and ultimately wallets of customers, something advertising just can’t do.
• Public relations builds brand credibility with your audience.
Because you’re operating with intermediaries and not directly to customers, you piggy-back on the trust and credibility they already have. You’re relying on them to filter out the noise and irrelevant messages that direct advertising can sometimes have. You’ll get credibility by-proxy, something that cannot be bought. Does credibility ultimately leads to success? You decide….
• Public relations is laser-focused.
With ad spend, you’re able to calculate to a very detailed value impact and response. It’s a bit like running an experiment over and over, tweaking ever so slightly as you go. With PR, it’s less scientific, as you’re relying on your 3rd parties to interpret your message in the way you intend to their audience. This means ensuring there’s less room for error. It means really knowing the problems of your audience and where your own business’sservice-offering cross. You inevitably drill-down to the exact ‘thing’ you want to get across, resulting in a very clear, well-defined message.
• PR isn’t free advertising and anyone in your business who thinks it is should be forced to spend a week shadowing your PR team to give them an understanding of what’s involved.
It’s time consuming and it’s labor intensive. It’s being constantly plugged into your target audience and spotting any opportunity to connect your brand and message to their lives.
Your PR team is arguably the most ‘tuned in’ to your customers, and if you’re able to deploy them with the autonomy they require, you’ll be more influential and far more highly regarded than you otherwise might be.