The Importance of Public Relations As Part of Your Marketing Mix

What is the importance of public relations? Most small businesses do not invest in public relations (PR); however as a small business owner, you need to commit to a PR program for your business growth. What’s the return on investment for public relations? Building a stronger brand identity will result in more awareness and credibility for your business and its products or services. Higher awareness will help you to gain market interest and market credibility.

What is a definition of public relations?

PR is about using communication tools and strategies to build relationships with various “publics”, such as the business community, customers, suppliers, media, government levels and more. Traditionally this is done through press releases, radio, television, newspapers and magazines. In today’s digital online environment however social media and social networking have become part of an integrated public relations program. PR can influence people’s perceptions and opinions.

Your PR plan needs to focus on building awareness of, and image for, your business and its products and services by:

  • Producing stories and articles for media outlets (both online and offline); Making connections with local media;
  • Monitoring relevant media channels (such as social media monitoring) for public comment about your business, your marketplace and even your competition;
  • Developing a crisis communication plan and managing crises that arise and threaten your business and/or product image;
  • Getting involved with the community and target market through special programs and participation in events;
  • Developing a social media plan to connect with online social networks (there are more than 300 but the main networks are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn); including social media news releases, blogs and forums.

Most public relations plans focus on first identifying the challenge, then building the objectives of the campaign, next building the communication tactics and messages, and finally monitoring results and revising as necessary. This work needs to be ongoing: first one challenge (such as brand recognition), then another challenge (such as brand credibility), then another challenge (such as new product introduction), and then so on.

In today’s digital environment, PR campaigns can be rolled out very quickly, and the impact of the campaign can also be very quickly measured. Public relations will help you launch social networking programs. Learning how to use PR in your small business is key: social media and social networking provides you with low cost communication channels but you still need to learn what to say, and how to say it or you can hurt your brand identity.

Successful small businesses focus on a mix of public relations, social media, online and offline advertising, direct marketing, and personal selling as part of their marketing efforts for building their brand. Strengthen your marketing plan by adding PR to the plan and ensuring that you build measurements into the campaigns: you need to know what works, and what doesn’t work in communicating with your market and with your public.

Maximize Your Company’s Exposure With Public Relations

Don’t be afraid to admit it, but for many people PR means “press release.” However, what it really means is public relations (PR) which sometimes is a misunderstood marketing concept. PR activities differ based on the branding and image you want for your company. Large corporations usually employ public relations professionals and/or secure external PR firms. Small to mid-sized business might not be doing any public relations activities – but should they really go without?

It turns out developing a strong public relations strategy is a critical part of the marketing mix and can be essential to the success of many small to mid-sized businesses. There are The 3 P’s that I recommend:

1. Promote news via press releases and a proactive approach to the press
2. Participate in trade shows and conferences
3. Pursue editorial opportunities in relevant publications

Promote News for Maximum Exposure

Press releases based on relevant and timely news can gain your company valuable exposure on many web sites, social media, blogs, videos, and other areas. However, your news will yield hundreds of impressions with your target audience if executed with a press tour before the release date. And if you have already created key words linked to your web site (via search engine optimization SEO), you can quickly draw customers to your web site. Your press release, collateral, messaging and web site need to be consistent and have a call to action.

Participate in Conferences and Leverage your Personal Brand

Public relations professionals can also help research worthwhile speaking opportunities at conferences and trade shows relevant to your industry. As a speaker, you usually don’t pay other than personal expenses to speak or contribute to a panel. In addition, you can do personal and company branding while gaining access to prospects and partners. Plan to contact conference representatives about 6 months in advance of an event. This exposure also helps you gain personal branding by being viewed as an “industry expert”.

Pursue Editorial Opportunities and Become an Industry Pundit

Another activity a PR professional can pursue is finding relevant articles in the publications your customers and partners read. Usually you can find an editorial calendar on the publication’s web site and articles in which you might be able to contribute content. Your public relations representative can “pitch” the reporter and many times as a next step, get the reporter to agree to interview you (or one of your customers) while referencing you as a “source.” In some cases, the reporter might write an entire article dedicated to your company. Always position yourself and your key executives as “industry experts.”

Take the Next Step with Public Relations

These public relations activities – The 3 P’s – can propel your company to the next step and increase its exposure and revenue. External PR firms and your internal marketing resources can explore these activities. Although there are more than the three activities listed above, you can confidently say that you know that public relations is not just a “press release” – but an important vehicle in the marketing mix and a next step strategy which will give your company maximum exposure.

Marketing Strategy – Creating Value Through Public Relations

Public relations (PR) is one of many keys to successful business management. In addition to conveying value to the public to include the media, PR entails managing internal and external messages, which may enhance or diminish a brand. The following outlines how the public relations piece fits into the big (marketing strategy) picture.

Big Picture Small Pieces

There is a comprehensive approach to owning and operating a business. Finance, accounting, management, marketing, legal, information systems (technology), and economics are tools which all contribute to the success of a venture. By far however, marketing is the most popular business function.

Marketing Defined

The marketplace is comprised of buyers and sellers who want or need a product. In order to bring exact or prospective buyers together with the appropriate sellers, companies must create a healthy marketing mix.

Marketing entails efforts used to create value in the marketplace and obtain a return for that value. The core of marketing centers on four Ps: product (good or service), price, placement, and promotions. However, consumers and business owners alike are most familiar with three of five aspects of promotions (or marketing communications): advertising, public relations, and sales.

All told, marketing campaigns should center on properly priced and placed products. Subsequently, all promotional efforts such as public relations should reinforce or support a company’s short and long-term goals by product. Balance between the creative aspects of marketing (cool, fun, compelling, engaging, eye-catching, and trendy) and science (facts, figures and measurement controls) helps to ensure success.

PPR 101

Despite economic decline, there appears to be no lull in demand for PR professionals or publicists. If anything, demand is likely to increase.

The primary role of a publicist is to manage public affairs (relations) or external communications. In addition to keeping communication going between buyers and sellers, publicists build relationships on a company’s behalf; create and/or maintain a good corporate image and damage control negative publicity. Glamorized for their ability or need to access high profile, celebrity or exclusive events, being a publicist is hard work. In fact, it requires more work than most realize.

Celebrity publicist and owner of Divadends Entertainment, ChiQ Simms, agrees that being a publicist is no easy task “As a publicist, it is my job to ‘earn’ media coverage by supplying information that is factual, interesting, timely and newsworthy,” Simms says. One not-so-glamorous aspect of PR work is the issue of crisis management. According to Simms, a crisis is, “any situation that threatens the integrity or reputation of a brand and its executive team.” Issues such as a legal dispute, theft, an accident or domestic conflict and natural or manmade disasters are crisis, which may devalue a brand or its image. Even how a company acts or fails to respond appropriately to a situation can lead to crisis. Usually, a situation reaches crisis status because of adverse or negative media attention. For this reason, Simms notes that a good publicist will always create a standard crisis communication plan. “It is imperative that a crisis communication plan, a crisis management team and a company spokesperson are all a part of a company’s PR objectives,” Simms advised.

Through her Professional Public Relations (PPR 101) panel-oriented seminar, Simms collaborates with various entertainment media (print, online, TV, radio, bloggers, etc.) and PR professionals to help attendees understand how to garner national publicity as well as how to address crisis. After attending PPR 101, it is immediately clear that publicity is not automatic. It is also clear that PR should be managed independently from all other marketing functions. Says Simms, “I have to conduct countless behind-the-scenes conversations and build relationships that lay the ground work required to get a client’s message to the public-especially the media. It is an ongoing labor-intensive process.”

In addition to conducting research on a variety of media outlets (for example, the 2009 Writer’s Market lists 3,500 publications in the U.S. and Canada who hire journalists), publicists must repeatedly create or revise content and pitch coverage concepts before, during and after news happens. Publicists must also remain in a constant state of prospecting, even while managing a promotional event such as a celebrity red carpet, press junket, radio or TV interview. Idea or lead generation and high conversion of leads to preferred results is what gives each publicist their edge.

Today’s global society, blogging communities and technology (iPhone and GPhone) keep publicists and other marketing professionals on their toes. Easily out-numbered, the proven method for creating value through public relations is having a narrow message and being able to execute a detailed marketing plan.

Perhaps the most important thing to note is that consistency and integrity balanced with timing are vital. With enough lead time, a schedule, a reasonable budget and a detailed brand-driven marketing strategy, which includes a solid communications plan, a publicist can build awareness, drive demand for a product and, subsequently, increase sales.