As manufacturers and other organizations continue to consider less costly alternatives to traditional advertising, one that invariably comes to the top of the list is PR. But before discussing this further, we must clarify two things.
First, advertising still has power. For instance, many marketing professionals say that a new product launch must start with advertising and then, over time, be transferred over to PR. Advertising first gets the news out and then PR takes over, telling end-customers why this new gizmo is important to them, how it can help them lower costs, etc.
Secondly, and contrary to what many people think, PR does not mean “spin,” or putting a good face on an unfortunate situation, even if it means fudging on the truth. While I am sure this happens, in general today, PR is about telling the truth. Explaining a situation or clarifying a set of circumstances, with the goal of keeping an organization’s reputation intact.
PR . . . helps create an image about an organization, in other words turn a company into a brand.
So, now that we are clear what PR is not about, let’s discuss what PR is about. Among the key takeaways are the following:
Branding: If you read our blog about McDonald’s and how they took advantage of PR to build the company, then you learned how PR helps brand a company. Advertising can only do so much when it comes to branding. PR, on the other hand, helps create an image about an organization, in other words turn a company into a brand. What McDonald’s did, and was one of the first organizations to do this, was to show how the company gives back to the community through efforts like starting the Ronald McDonald House. Consumers liked this and soon liked McDonald’s all the more.
Getting the News Out: Probably one of the most traditional forms of PR is simply getting the news out to editors and end customers. One of the goals of providing these items to editors is the hope that they will want more information, even an article about this story, written by a PR pro. However, press releases are not as powerful today as they once were. We must now be our own press release service, and the way we do this is by making sure our news is prominently posted on our company websites.
Reach the end-customer: One of the benefits of PR is that it can tailor your message to the end customers you are trying to reach. A trade publication will have advertising from scores of different advertisers. But an article written by a PR professional and placed in a trade magazine – one that specifically focuses on your end-customer – is now talking directly to them. All the advertising clutter has been cut so your message can shine through.
Case Studies: Today, most publications charge to post cases studies, however these are less expensive than regular ads. When a PR pro writes a case study, the objective is to first address an issue that many end-customers must grapple with. From here it shows how the situation has been handled – and handled successful – by your product or service. Once again, your company is talking directly to the people you are trying to reach.
Personalization. This then leads to another key takeaway about PR. Let’s say several educational, how-to articles have been published in leading trade publications under your company byline and read by your end-customers. What’s happening is you and your company are now becoming thought leaders, and a household name. You and your firm have now established a personal relationship with the people that might select your products or services, and that is something no ad can ever do.