For this post, I thought I would challenge what the role of public relations is, with the objective to provide a thoughtful perspective on what value PR plays within an organization.
To start, the objective of public relations or PR is to raise awareness of a company, non-profit group or any other organization. Why does this matter? Well, to start, it is a lot easier to sell products or services if your audience has heard of you. Simply stated, no one wants to buy from a stranger. Public relations overcomes this sales hurdle by creating stories about the organization that will be viewed as interesting, or at least interesting enough to be read about by your target audience.
Note that this methodology must be applied with the sole objective to engage your audience. If other people find out, that is fine. But, you must be careful to not waste limited resources reaching individuals that will never be part of your buyer’s purchase lifecycle. This philosophy must be applied religiously to every opportunity for contributed articles, guest blog posts, speaking engagements and award opportunities.
My Audience Already Knows Me
I have spoken to some business owners who state that their target audience already knows who they are, and they know all about their company’s product or service. If this is the case, why spend the investment to reach out to them again? The reason why this investment makes sense is that it is going to help you to continue to best serving your market segment. Just because a customer has heard of you doesn’t mean they will continue to purchase or renew their existing services with you on a consistent, never-ending basis.
The Risk of Complacency
Imagine this scenario as a theoretical a case study. A new competitor enters your market. What do you think will be the first thing they do to introduce themselves to your customers? Odds are some sort of PR campaign, including announcements, special offers, grand opening day parties, etc. They must make this investment as they are coming into your market as a “disruptor,” which must be announced in order to be effective.
Now let’s say that you haven’t been investing your own PR campaign. Maybe funds have been tight as you have neglected this activity for the past year or so. Maybe your website and social media channels are a bit out of date too, falling into the category of something that could be deferred for a year or two.
Unfortunately, you are now a sitting duck for this new competitor to come in and eat your lunch. Once they begin making noise, you will be caught off guard. Assuming you move quickly and start to invest in getting your PR program back on track, it will still take time. Days, weeks or even months will pass before you are able to first get your routine changed to re-focus on this topic. You will be in “catchup” mode for some time. Every month you are behind is a month where you are at risk of losing customers. Think about it … what is the opportunity cost that someone might come into your market and try to steal market share?
At minimum, it might make sense to at least keep a few programs running, even if funds are tight. This way you still have a “toe” in the water, as a steady “beating of the drum,” to remind the market and your audience of current customers and prospects. This activity states that you are still there, and are actively reaching out to them to continue to help better address their needs with your product or services. Seems like a good investment and an even better business strategy decision that can be easily incorporated into your marketing communications strategy.
Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.