There is a misconception amongst many businesses that getting an article in a newspaper or a big news site will open the floodgates to customers, filling the order book or driving traffic through the roof. It’s not that they’re wrong but PR is about building awareness and reputation and that doesn’t happen overnight. When used properly, PR is a powerful tool in a business’ armoury and therein lies the question, how can I use PR for growth?
1. CHANNELS – KNOW WHERE YOUR AUDIENCE IS
Let’s start with the audience closest to you. Today, every business is a media owner. We have blogs, LinkedIn pages, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram feeds. These “owned” channels must be at the heart of your PR effort. You control them and they can be the first place you start with your stories and the first place your customer is likely to look. Get your house in order as they say, and creating engaging and interesting content that features keywords and key business messages means that you’ll have a suite of strong owned channels that act as a hub for your efforts.
With your owned channels in order, you can then think about paying to promote your content so that it reaches your target audience. This “Paid” media option is a cost efficient way of getting your own content to your potential customer through social media advertising or boosting posts.
Finally, you can look to find your customer further afield within followers of other businesses, media or influencers. You look for the gatekeepers of these audiences and convince them that they should tell your story. You earn their interest and recommendation. This is the most powerful way to reach new audiences but also the hardest as you have to earn the interest of the gatekeepers before you can convince the audience. Look for other outlets that talk to your customer base and consider how you can convince these gatekeepers to talk about you.
2. TELL A GOOD STORY – THINK ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS LIKE YOUR CUSTOMER DOES
It’s a mistake to think that your brand new flibberty-widget is going to change the world because you have spent the last 10 years perfecting it. Often in business, owners are so consumed by their product or service that they cannot clearly see it through the eyes of their customer. To really truly develop PR content that will get through to the customer, start thinking like your customer does. What are their interests, problems, life experiences? What are their routines and when are you most likely to interest them in your company? What benefit or problem does your business solve? By thinking about your business like a customer, you are able to frame your sales messages in a way that will capture your customer’s attention.
Why not create a customer persona including a daily routine and see where your business naturally fits? Then create your content on your owned, paid and earned channels around that customer journey.
3. KEY WORDS, SEARCH TERMS AND TRUSTED SITES
Let’s not forget that the first place most people find answers for their questions is Google. I am amazed that even in B2B markets, companies look for the most technical of products and services with a simple search. Irrespective of how small or how technical your business is, having a good digital profile is essential, and that’s where PR comes in.
Search engines make millions of dollars every year from our desire to find things quickly so they will make it as difficult as possible not to pay to be found. Paid search is expensive and quick fix SEO is dead. As search engines look for authenticity and trust, understand which the most trusted sites are and the terms your customers us to search for your product. By stimulating conversation around your brand using these terms and on trusted sites will enhance your digital profile significantly. Plus this content will hang around, far succeeding any print article.
Think about making sure your business is being reviewed on industry sites and blogs, praised by customers in social media testimonials and on review sites.
4. A WORD ABOUT INBOUND
Like many marketing tools, PR is focused on driving inbound leads into a business but the smart firms will also use PR as an active part of their business development process.
At Cherish PR, we have helped customers use placed content and media coverage to win Industry Awards, to feature and promote products on site, to display in advertising or on exhibition stands. We have inserted media coverage into sales and investor decks and even framed pieces for shop floors and reception areas.
The most innovative clients have also shared our work with their staff, suppliers, existing client bases and ambassador networks and invited them to re-post and re-share, multiplying the impact of that one piece.
These actions are the ones that will ensure growth that far outweighs that one piece of PR in isolation.
5. MONITOR, MEASURE AND UNDERSTAND
KPIs and ROI may be buzzwords but understanding the impact of PR on the business is crucial and that doesn’t just mean immediate information requests, bookings or traffic to the site.
Understanding how or where a lead came from only gives you half the picture. Track that lead to it becoming a customer and use the learning to help your business invest wisely. Capture data from any PR driven leads and look at how best to convert them.
6. LONG TERM BRAND VALUE VS. SHORT TERM SALES
Finally, it’s very easy when talking about growth to get caught up in short term sales, but growth is also about loyalty and it’s also about value. People saying great things about your business can only positively influence your brand, creating more affinity from existing customers and increasing brand value.
So don’t be short sighted. Look at those pieces of media coverage that don’t necessarily open the customer floodgates as investments in the long term value of your brand.
Rebecca Oatley, Founder and Managing Director of Cherish PR, a London PR agency specialising in innovation and listed as one of best UK PR agencies for startups.