I have spoken multiple times in my articles on how a real marketing tool that you can use to establish your company as a brand instead of a simple business is generating positive PR on a consistent basis.
No, thinking that your product is the best product in the market at this specific moment doesn’t guarantee you will outperform sales or even survive.
The market doesn’t care what you think as a producer but only cares about the volume of overall demand you are able to generate: that is, how many customers believe you are the best at solving a specific problem and how many of those customers ultimately purchase your service.
When I talk about problems, I do not mean just a technical problem, but a range of different issues that might be related to social status. For example:
Think about the different brands that operate in the automotive industry.
They all solve basically a simple problem, which is allowing the driver to reach a specific destination over land more quickly than going on foot or horseback.
However, driving a Ferrari is completely different than driving a Toyota. Indeed, they target completely different customers.
The owner of a Ferrari is not only interested in reaching a destination in the quickest way possible; he also aims to differentiate himself by affirming his social status.
Although a dissertation regarding the automotive industry is far more complicated than this, let’s get back to PR and how PR is the real marketing tool that helps you become a brand.
If you have had the chance to read The Fall of Advertising and The Rise of PR by Al and Laura Ries (if you haven’t, do it now), you realise that most companies do the exact opposite of what is written and proved in this book.
Indeed, the majority of new businesses (startups) and SME still firmly believe that the quickest way to sell a product is by massively investing in advertising while they balance any single penny that might mistakenly go into PR.
Let’s go to the basics:
“If you want to launch a new brand today, you need a message that gets media attention. Without publicity your new brand will fail no matter how good the product or how good the service. It’s not enough to have a better product or service. You need a better PR idea.”
(The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR by Al & Laura Ries).
Why is that?
People tend to believe what other people say about you rather than what you say about yourself.
Think about Tripadvisor: there are countless restaurants that have closed or changed names because a single well written, credible review was given more weight than a well written but not credible answer by the owner.
If you start spamming Facebook timelines with your ad that says what a revolution your product is bringing to the world, people will not care about it unless you have plenty of third-party endorsements (starting with likes and comments which, by the way, are not paying the bills).
Getting media attention is what allows you to be perceived as relevant and credible if that media attention is positive.
As Al Ries would say,
“Advertising is not believable because consumers perceived it to be biased. Advertising is the voice of the sellers. To the prospective buyer, advertising has no objectivity. (The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR, by Al & Laura Ries, p. 75)
Or even better,
“PR has credibility, advertising does not. People believe what they read in newspapers or magazines or what they hear on radio or see on television.”
(The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR, by Al & Laura Ries, p. 85)
“What build brands are media messages. The more messages, the more favourable the messages, the stronger the brand." (The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR, by Al & Laura Ries, p. 99)
Once the purpose of PR is clarified, we will need to clarify the role of advertising in a well defined marketing strategy.
The role of advertising is to defend the brand from the competition. It isn’t to build the brand.
In order to defend the brand, advertising should reaffirm the values the brand stands for, rather than giving those values a secondary position or not mentioning them at all in order to give priority to an artistic conceptual framework that doesn’t actually relate to the brand itself.
Let’s go back to the last quote I mentioned by Al Ries:
“What build brands are media messages.
The more messages, the more favourable the messages, the stronger the brand.”
This quote reminds me how wrong the purchasing process is when it comes to PR.
The average company, once all available free publicity has been exploited, tends to get media coverage randomly during the year.
Entrepreneurs know that they need to be featured, but they do so mostly to show their family or friends that have been mentioned here and there as if it were a matter of prestige rather than an important opportunity to get their message out where the potential customer is.
Using military terms, we cannot define a PR campaign as a single mention in a newspaper or a three-day radio feature.
A proper campaign is a long term process involving coherent, consistent messaging to your target audience through the media.
What most companies call a PR campaign is what I call a PR BLITZ: a single or brief apparition that will last very shortly in the mind of the few who were exposed to a specific message.
It has been scientifically proven multiple times that the human brain should be conceived as a box with limited storage, and what stays in that box is what it is most relevant at the moment.
If you want to be a brand rather than a business, if you want to dominate rather than compete, the best way to achieve your goal is to be relevant at any moment.
What do I mean by that?
A PR campaign is a medium-long term strategy that allows you to build a weekly if not daily relationship with your target audience.
Being relevant one day is useless when throughout the year you still have 364 days.
A strategy that PR agencies use to sell their own services to entrepreneurs is leveraging the power of newsjacking.
They try to sell you a position on media related to what is editorially hot at the moment.
For many it’s an opportunity to get visibility while they are usually hidden in their office doing their job. It’s their time to appear as experts who have something meaningful and educated to say on a particular topic.
However, newsjacking is a PR blitz.
To be successful you need to plan a PR campaign, which is a medium-long term media plan.
If you do not get consistently mentioned in the media, you convey two specific perceptions:
Thus, especially if you have a small budget, your medium-long term PR campaign should suggest allocating your budget cleverly in order to get consistent media coverage throughout the year. For example, if your PR budget is £60,000 a year, investing £5,000 a month instead of £30,000 for two weekly campaigns a year might make more sense in terms of building your brand credibility.
What matters isn’t the urgency of the agency in closing the deal but your urgency to be featured where you MUST be featured to get the visibility you need in order to scale your credential and amplify your worthiness in the eyes of consumers.
Indeed, what you want is to use your PR campaign to build that credibility that allows consumers to be more aware of the added value you represent, in order to get their hands to move their money from their pocket to your bank account.
PR isn’t direct marketing. But closing the sale is what you want.
Creating a PR campaign isn’t easy, but here are a few questions that might help you figure it out:
Until you have answered these questions, do not process any payment.
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Founder and Managing Director at POWER BRAND. PR that Sells for Startups and SMEs,
How to turn your content into a PR advocate
Why you should write a book from a PR perspective
How to use PR to disqualify your competition
How to get media coverage by giving the media what they want
Brand Positioning. Broadcast PR. Brand domination.