What is the point of PR?
One of the things I love about working in corporate communications for an agency is that clients are always putting you to the test with tricky questions. A couple of weeks ago, one asked me the trickiest I’d had for a while. Not that it was complicated or difficult to answer, but it required some careful consideration.
They challenged me to convince them PR was important for their business. You can imagine the consequences if my answer came up short, so here’s what I said.
PR creates a voice to shape your reputation in the UK by promoting positive stories and responding to negative ones. If you don’t speak through PR, others will speak for you and shape your reputation. In fast moving sectors, you have to fight for your share of voice otherwise your brand will be seen as less interesting or successful by customers. This will affect perception of your products and potentially damage sales.
PR gives you greater opportunity to explain the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of your business behind the ‘what’ compared to other aspects of marketing because it is story driven. For example, why is your latest product great? How have you managed to create a market leading solution? Why is your company a great place to work? You have scope to really promote the advantages and benefits offered by your company, putting them into the context of what audiences might find most valuable because PR works through the whole range of owned, earned and paid-for media channels.
PR also drives coverage from commentators – media, analysts or bloggers – that customers respect and turn to for advice. In the UK, positive editorial coverage is significantly more influential on customers than paid-for coverage. You can also create campaigns that draw customers in (e.g. play, consume content, give feedback) and give them rewarding experiences that become something they share through social media – turning them into active advocates.
At a corporate level, PR allows you to humanise the brand by profiling people leading and working in the business. You can demonstrate how you help to make life better in the UK and build positive sentiment – looking after your employees, helping young people gain skills, celebrating our cultural heritage or enabling businesses to succeed and grow. Brands that are authentic, make a positive contribution and get involved in causes important to people in the UK enjoy better reputation and favourability. PR is the key to turning activity into credit.
Without PR, you rely on product experience and paid-for media to define your relationships with customers. This weakens the relationship and you risk losing them more easily to a competitor with a newer product or a better deal on price. A lack of appreciation for your business or brand will restrict your ability to attract new customers, mean your competitors are able to build stronger partner relationships and make you less appealing to the best talent that can help your business win in the market. If you face an issue of crisis that threatens your reputation, you will find it much harder to minimise the impact and maintain confidence.
Did I manage to convince them? So far so good.