Don’t you just hate it when you open a magazine and one of your competitors is featured and you just know that they will get customers from the publicity? You ask why were they featured and not me? The answer is a public relations program.
Public relations (PR) is an extremely efficient method of communicating with a target audience – and it doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. Business owners can choose from a variety of simple and cost effective activities that will help achieve their business objectives.
The reason that PR works is that it provides third-person credibility not obtainable through paid advertising. In fact, it is said to have 10 times the impact of traditional, paid advertising, placing you above your competitors as the “top of mind” choice for customers, investors and business partners.
Some common features of a PR campaign can include:
Key messages – are designed to ensure that the target audience hear and remember the most important aspects of the business. Key messages are, in essence, a description of a business’ competitive advantage, and are commonly known as elevator statements.
It is best to have no more than seven key messages. Once developed, they should be incorporated into all oral and written business communications.
Target audience – knowing your target audience is one of the simplest ways to achieve your marketing communications goals and save money.
When defining your audiences, really drill down to specifics. For example, rather than “all small businesses in the north shore area” it should be, “businesses employing up to 10 staff, located in the suburbs of Neutral Bay and Mosman etc, in the industry areas of marketing and business consulting etc”.
Study the various segments of your particular market and develop strategies to reach each one.
Although developing a comprehensive media plan can be difficult, you can start with a few easy steps. Think about which media outlets your target audience gets their information from. Make a list of each media outlet and the journalist and start reading/watching. A well-defined media program which reflects the target market and includes realistic activities will be more likely to succeed.
The most important element about media releases is not so much the quantity of them, but the quality of the stories, and ensuring they are written for the target media. Media release topics can include the work your business is doing, issues and trends in your industry, launch of new product, new office opening or a new contract win.
Contributed articles and editorials
Many publications are stretched for resources and welcome contributed articles, as long as they aren’t heavily branded by the business. They are also a very effective generator of sales leads as articles position the business as an industry expert.
Social media has never been more significant than now, with the growing importance of blogs, podcasts and social utilities as a source of information. Blogs are ideal for businesses as they allow products and services to be marketed to readers through the information provided in posts. They also improve organic search engine rankings. The powerful viral effect of social networks and online communities builds on traditional PR strategies to have a positive effect on the brand.
Customer case studies
Case studies provide ideal opportunities to leverage business successes and reinforce the business’ key messages through “story telling”. They provide audiences, including journalists, an idea of how the business’ products actually work through the perspective of customers.
Targeted sponsorships are an excellent way of building brand awareness in key markets. However, it is recommended that any sponsorship is very targeted. Two of the most effective sponsorship opportunities are industry awards and conferences.
Advertising can be one of the most effective ways of generating sales leads and building brand awareness. It also can be the most expensive! One way of avoiding dedicating huge budgets to advertising is using vertical market publications, such as industry association and trade publications. It is possible to negotiate free editorial if paying for an advertisement in many of these publications.
These are just a few of the many ways to improve the communication channels between your business and customers using PR. These activities will increase sales leads, improve brand awareness and, ultimately, lead to business success.
—Catriona Pollard is Director of CP Communications (www.cpcommunications.com.au)
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