Hiring a PR consultant is like going to the doctor. Nobody ever actually seems to do it until it’s too late. For many companies, the trigger to retaining a publicist is often bad publicity. For sure one of the skills that all good publicists have in their armoury is the ability to fix the unfixable. However, it makes more commercial sense to position your brand in such a way that you are unaffected by negative press.
There are a million reasons of course why you might consider that your business doesn’t need a publicist. Maybe you are only a small company with a low profile. You may think that PR is only for celebrities. Perhaps you already have a marketing department and feel that you don’t need a publicist? All valid excuses. Yet when looked at in more detail these excuses actually become the very reasons that make a publicist necessary.
Smaller companies frequently need to do something out of the ordinary to make their brand stand out from the crowd. If you are small right now yet have pretensions to be big in the future then a publicist will certainly help you achieve your goals. If your profile is not as great as your competition then how will you ever be able to get yourself noticed? Even the best marketing department can only do so much. Marketers are salesmen. Give them a product and they will come up with a reason why the consumer needs it. A publicist, on the other hand, is not in the business of peddling goods. Their job is to build and then maintain reputations.
Evaluate what is really important about your brand
What PR consultants do really well is to dig deep into the psychology of a brand. What makes your company tick. What motivates you. What underlying ethos does your company have that sets it apart from the competition? A good PR consultant will take your company’s mission statement, deconstruct it and then put it back together in such a way that it becomes the driving force behind everything that you do. They will then convey this message to the influencers whose job it is to convince the end-user. Effectively publicists create communications strategies designed to improve your company’s position in the market place and highlight your USP.
What is important of course will vary from business to business. A logistics company may have a large fleet of modern serviced vehicles that operate throughout the UK and Europe. A high street travel company may invest heavily in providing industry-leading sales training. A family-owned hotel in the Sussex countryside may pride itself on offering 5-star facilities and customer service that compares with more established brands.
Put your brand in front of the people that really matter
Influencers, who are they? What do they do? Can they really sell your products or services and help your business grow? Well, the truth is that influencers may not be who you think they are. If your idea of an influencer is a reality TV star or ex topless model then think again.
The people who are most likely to have a say on how your brand is perceived are journalists and bloggers or online affiliates. Experts in their field whose opinion is valued within their sphere of influence. People who have taken time to establish a reputation, either by virtue of working for a respected publication or in their own right.
A publicist will actively seek out relevant influencers or as is most likely, will already have them in their contact database. Remember, any form of third party validation usually carries more weight than advertising alone.
Mitigate negative situations
It is an unfortunate fact of life that from time to time things may go less than smoothly. In this day and age where information is disseminated so quickly and easily a company needs to act fast when the proverbial hits the fan. This is where a good publicist really earns their fee.
Can a kettle really look like Hitler?
Thinking quickly and having the ability to turn a negative into a positive is a quality that every publicist needs. Nothing illustrates this statement better than JC Penny’s ‘Hitler kettle’. In 2013 a group of Reddit users noticed how similar a billboard ad for a new kettle was to the former leader of Fascist Germany.
For most companies, even the slightest hint of anything to do with Adolf Hitler is a PR disaster. Many left-wing newspapers, for example, refused to run the story. JC Penney was mocked mercilessly on Twitter and other social media platforms. However, publicists for the company turned the situation around by not taking themselves too seriously and replying to criticism in a self-mocking tone that showed character and went down well with customers.
Generate valuable new clients for your business
Communications is not all about keeping existing customers or staff informed. A strong communications strategy can also be used as an effective acquisition tool. One of the ways that a PR consultant does this is through social media advertising. By creating and disseminating strategic ads on various social media platforms a good publicist can put you directly in touch with your target market.
Obtain honest and valuable feedback from existing clients
If there is one important area where a PR consultant will really prove their worth for your company, it is by taking a genuine interest in your customers. Unlike some other jobs within a business, the PR consultant can largely gauge his or her success by how a customer thinks about your company. For this reason, customer engagement and feedback is a key part of their role.
Market research can help any company judge how customers feel about their business. Soliciting regular feedback and really engaging with customers is a great way to understand how effective your marketing and sales strategy is performing.
An effective market research strategy should be an important component of any modern business. Releasing a new product or service into the marketplace requires that you understand that marketplace.
Manage your events program
If you really want to engage with your customers why not put on an event. Fan engagement events at sporting venues or in city centres are a great way to reach out to your audience. Similarly, trade shows, networking events or internal communication events such as workshops or AGM’s are part and parcel of a publicists role within your company. Hosting an event is a terrific opportunity to get the press involved or if it is someone else’s event then to be around the press with a view to getting your company noticed.
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