There is no single greater value to a company than having people talk about it. Where advertising sends a fixed message that you pay handsomely for, public relations creates an objective conversation about your company or brand for a fraction of the cost. Advertising lends little to no credibility to your brand, whereas editorial is independently verified by a trusted third party and is a thousand times more valuable.
If you’ve pondered the reasons why you might need a PR firm, or talked yourself into reasons why you don’t need a PR firm, here are five good reasons why you definitely do.
1. Compete with your competitors. There has never been a more consumer-driven economy than the one we are in now, and the maze is larger with social media and the many digital outlets available to write about your company.
Your competitors are out there. You see them in the news and on social media for a reason; they’re working the public relations better than you. As Barbara Corcoran, celebrity business mogul on Shark Tank, opined at an Inc. conference, “If you’re not being quoted in the press, you’re losing market share by losing limelight.” It’s that simple.
2. Building brand recognition. First, let’s be very clear that building a brand is a marathon and not a sprint, which means that you should start the race as early as possible. The long-term effects of media visibility grow over time, in fact, years, and this creates amplification.
Good public relations works in conjunction with other elements of your overall marketing strategy, which might include social media, events or charity tie-ins. This is how brands grow, with layers of conversation about their product over many years. When you look at the changes the company makes, let’s say over a three-year period, which is a good time to measure, there will be a trajectory. And if that trajectory trends up, you’ve done something right.
3. Stay relevant. One of the worst things a company can do is hire a PR firm for six months and then let them go because they achieved a singular goal. Staying relevant means that editors and writers are always hearing about your brand, so if you stop talking, then you are no longer relevant.
A good PR strategy will include a multi-tiered process with different ways to create a conversation. This might include creating thought leadership opportunities to give credibility to your executive staff, which means placing bylined articles on subjects your staff are conversant in. This could also mean creating videos or podcasts on peripheral but relevant subjects to garner attention and conversation around your leadership and company.
4. Bridge the language with journalists. Many companies, particularly startups, believe that they can whip up a pitch and send it out or pick up the phone and talk to an editor and that should do the trick. While I will be the first to admit that publicists are not re-inventing NASA Transfer Technology Portals, there is a definite language journalists speak. It is one of short verbiage that is to-the-point and compels them to read further in the email. They’re looking for any reason to hit delete and unless you know how to prevent that, you will have zero traction.
Another important component is language and writing. Be honest with yourself: Are you a good writer? Do you have a great command of the English language? Editors in particular will hit that delete button at the first misuse of a word, a misspelling, or when they get to that awkward or mangled sentence. Finally, good PR is all about sales and publicists are by nature of their profession selling (your story) each day.
5. Increase your ROI. The bottom line is different for different types of companies. For an online cookie company, fashion apparel line or beauty brand the ROI might be straight up sales. But sales is not the only measurement of ROI, it can be traffic to your website, more engagement in social media, referral business, or even speaking engagements for senior staff. And be wary of one-hit wonders in public relations. Getting a client on the TODAY Show is a huge win, often lightening in a bottle, and it can increase sales exponentially overnight. But this is not even 15 minutes of fame. ROI happens over time and is cumulative in that marathon you are running.
Often a company will convince itself that since sales are up, there is no need to hire a PR firm. Name one major brand that doesn’t have a PR firm or dedicated public relations person in-house. There isn’t one. There are a few reasons for this. First, large companies understand that things can go bad and they need to be prepared to react to negative media, which will ultimately affect sales and trust in the brand. Conversely, when interesting or powerful news surfaces that is relevant to what they do, they know that they need to be part of that conversation. Finally, if you remove the PR from the equation you are no longer relevant, you are not building brand recognition, and you are certainly not standing up against your competitors.
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Paula Conway is president of Astonish Media Group in New York City. She has written for The New York Times, In Style, Good Houskeeping and is currently syndicated in the New York Daily News. Follow Astonish: @astonishmedia