When asked which businesses get best value from PR, the simple answer is those that believe in the benefits of communication. Every organisation, whatever its size, needs to communicate with its audiences. These could be employees, stakeholders, customers or all the above.
As an agency, it is our job to meet with our clients and to recommend tactics that will help them to speak to each audience in a way that will resonate. The message will almost certainly remain the same, but the tone of voice and medium will differ.
PR is about earned and owned content. That is, coverage in newspapers and online, along with content that has been specifically created for that business and posted to a website or across social channels.
Both have benefits and that is why creating a PR strategy gives clarity and focus. When I first started in the industry, I was told it was like spinning plates. I much prefer now to think of it as a kaleidoscope. It’s a sequence of colours that when pulled together in the right way creates a picture that attracts and holds attention.
Believing PR will deliver a return on investment
Before appointing an agency or employing someone inhouse to deliver PR, a business must believe in its value. There are no guarantees when it comes to earned coverage. Copy will be drafted and sent to a publication and it is then up to the editorial team to decide if it will secure space or not.
Even if a journalist decides that content isn’t right for them on this occasion, the copy can be repurposed and posted onto a website or shared as a LinkedIn article. This then becomes owned coverage. It belongs to the organisation and has been shared as a news piece for this purpose.
If you are considering investing in PR for your business but you don’t really believe it will deliver, don’t bother. Any agency or professional can rationalise how and why PR works, however if you are already coming up with an argument to the opposite, it’s a waste of time.
PR does take time and commitment. It isn’t as easy as most people believe, and it requires a team approach. The businesses that get best value from PR are those that work with their agency and consider them an extension of the marketing function. It is not those that have a ‘we told you so’ attitude when things don’t go quite as well as we would have liked.
Making an investment to deliver a return
Like any other specialism, PR requires investment. It is a toolkit of tactics that continues to evolve as the way we communicate changes. Maintaining an understanding of this, while also remembering the value of traditional methods, is our job.
There is a lot to learn when you work in this industry and it is not for the faint hearted.
What we need from our clients is the willingness to invest consistently. This is what delivers the strongest results. A rolling programme of activity that can shift and change depending on what is happening in the sector and within the client’s business too.
PR is very adaptable and that is what makes it such an exciting industry to work in. It is also what gives us greater opportunity to achieve results and to enjoy long-term partnerships with the brands we support.
Practicing what you preach
When we work with a client to create a PR strategy, it always starts with objectives. We then build up a programme of activity around what the brand wants to achieve and identify some key performance indicators.
This means we have a plan and a set of measures in place to work against. At Open Comms we recommend six monthly reviews which give us the chance to come together and to review the performance of the strategy we have in place. This also allows us to share further recommendations to shift the focus if necessary.
What is important is that our clients’ practice what they preach. As such, we are very specific about setting realistic objectives and honest messaging. The last thing we want to do is to create a false impression of an organisation. It doesn’t help them or us. What we do want to see is an improved profile, increased share of voice for all the right reasons and a positive uplift in sales.
If we have a story to share, we make sure the facts are checked and the organisation is creating a personality that is authentic and that can resonate with the right audiences, in the right place and at the right time.
Building a brand
This comes with time. You achieve this overnight. It takes resource, investment, commitment and willingness to learn, adapt and change.
Having a PR programme in place will directly impact on how quickly a business is able to build a brand. The more you communicate with your audiences, the more they will know about you and the quicker they will decide whether to purchase your products and services or not. Engagement in the right places will give them numerous opportunities to hear about and from your business.
PR is about influence and that comes with education. Honestly, transparency and openness are all key ingredients to a successful programme that will deliver a return on investment. Starting out with the assumption that it can be used to manipulate, unfairly coerce or misguide is setting the brand up to fail.
There is an integrity that comes with PR and a responsibility of agencies and inhouse teams to meet with a code of conduct. Being aware of this from the outset is advisable.
Delivering an experience
Once a PR programme is in place and is delivering consistent results, it will be complemented by a customer experience. This gives a two phased approach to brand engagement. The customer will read about the business and its products and services. They will then make the decision to purchase. This is then complemented – or otherwise – by the shopper experience they have. If one doesn’t fit the other there is a problem.
This is why PR, marketing and sales teams work together. It ensures that a business gets best value from PR and what it can achieve. Aligning the products with the needs of the customer, based on feedback achieved through PR, is just one example.
Embarking on a journey
We are often heard explaining that PR is a journey and not a destination. The goal remains to secure consistent results, but the end game is like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. The goalposts are forever moving with PR and this must be appreciated if businesses want to get the best value from their investment.
Communicating in the right way with audiences will change an organisation for the better. The benefits will be apparent, and they will become more visible over time. Far from being a magic wand, PR relies on the use of tactics over a period of time. It requires a senior team or board to commit, believe and then achieve.
Those companies that are willing to give their all to a programme of activity are also the businesses that will get best value from PR.
Going right back to the start, when asked what businesses get best value from PR, it is those that:
- Believe in PR as a necessary specialism for business
- Are willing to invest in consistent brand communication
- Practice what they preach and create content that can be trusted
- Have a focus on building a brand over time
- Deliver an experience for staff, stakeholders and customers alike
- Are willing to embark on a journey that will evolve over time
For further information about how Open Comms approaches PR for its clients, please contact a member of the team.