For many startups or small businesses, there is a misconception that if you have a good marketing strategy, you don’t need a public relations (PR) strategy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The purpose of PR is to establish a relationship between your company and your audience. While that’s also true for marketing, the focus there is on conversions. PR’s connection to the audience is a matter of visibility, creating a positive public perception of your brand, and letting your target market know what you’re about without the intention of pitching them for sales.
A PR strategy can help boost your marketing plan by fostering trustworthiness as a brand, but a marketing plan will not act as a good PR strategy in the event there’s a crisis or other bad press. The two are not interchangeable.
The beauty of an effective PR strategy is that you control the message the public receives. Sure, there are instances where the news about your company is out of your hands, but the more you put out there, the more you shape the awareness of how your company operates. You may not always have final say in how the media portrays you, but if a journalist is using your press release as a foundation for their own story about an event you’re hosting, a product you’re releasing, or a location you’re opening, you’ve picked the starting point of their perspective. Also, journalists are busy people, and they don’t necessarily have time to rewrite what’s already been provided. The more you give them, the more your words will make it into the final published piece.
Media exposure is an extremely valuable asset for any company. Favorable mentions of your business go further with your target audience because there’s a neutral third party reporting on you. Word of mouth, customer reviews and opinions, and newspaper or online articles about you establish more trust with your audience than if you were saying the same things. The media doesn’t have a stake in promoting your brand, so if what they’re saying is positive, it must be true, right? PR events such as local fairs, product launches, and other public-facing events help you shape public opinion through the media and can spark editorial coverage from event attendees. It’s an opportunity you can’t afford to ignore.
Manage and Recover From a Crisis Faster
No one wants to think their company will be in the public’s crosshairs or step on controversial landmines, but it does happen. Even the biggest companies with savvy PR teams working a long-established brand step in it sometimes. Just ask Pepsi. Companies are run by humans, and humans make mistakes. A good PR plan can help you mitigate any sort of slap to your public image, whether that’s a data breach, food-borne illness outbreak, lawsuit against you, or social misstep that makes you look tone deaf. Position your business to handle these (hopefully) rare events, and you’ll weather them better and faster than if you’re scrambling in the moment to control the narrative. With the speed of social media, it’s likely you won’t be able to stop bad publicity, but you can at least keep the jagged edges as smooth as possible so they don’t cut so deep.
Exposure is Leverage
Media exposure is one opportunity that can’t be bought. So when the chance to publicly engage comes up, having a PR strategy in place will make your delivery of information about your brand smooth and effective. You’ll be prepared to answer questions from journalists or news reporters, and you’ll present a composed image to your audience. You have your business handled, and that means you’re positioned to manage any pain points your customers feel with aplomb and confidence. People need to know they can trust you to solve their problems, and if you appear scattered or behind the curve, they’ll look elsewhere for solutions.
Digital Media has No Expiration
News stories stay online long after they’re timely, and they are well positioned to fill in the gaps in your company’s story. Search engine visibility relies on quality articles and content that contains a consistent message. If you’ve got a history of good PR in the media, your SEO ranking will benefit, particularly when links to articles from third party sources accumulate over time. This will absolutely benefit your marketing strategy, attract customers, and help you grow your brand into a competitive, reliable source of information.
PR is Good Business
You can’t buy good PR, so for the amount of money and time spent, it goes further toward raising awareness than more costly marketing campaigns. Editorial coverage, in particular, is no cost to you, but the trust it establishes is priceless. Having that connection with your audience puts your brand front and center, and it’s trust you didn’t have to pay for.
Another benefit of a good PR strategy is that you can delegate those duties surrounding media exposure to others in your company. As your business grows, there will be a point where one person cannot handle it all. Having others capable of following a plan and sharing the load will free you up to run other aspects of your business that are more sensitive and hands-on, so you don’t burn out or feel burdened by being a one-person-show. A PR team, whose job it is to build audience relationships, will be better equipped to study how that relationship is faring, so the conversation happening between brand and buyer won’t falter in times of rapid growth when your focus is elsewhere.
PR strategies are opportunities for your target market to get to know your brand without the weight of a sales pitch hanging over their heads. Consumers today are too savvy not to spot a sales strategy (not even just gimmicky ones but all of them) from a mile away. Most people, when they realize they’re being exposed to a company’s brand without the pressure of a sales push, react positively. It’s kind of a, “Huh, I did not expect that. Tell me more,” moment. If you can pull that conversation off often enough, when it’s time to implement pieces of your marketing plan, those customers are more likely to listen, less likely to be annoyed at the intrusion, and will already have a positive sense of your brand that will keep them engaged. You’ll have successfully driven public perception into the positive realm with your carefully executed PR strategy. Nice job!