How to use PR as a marketing tool

Most business owners do not realize that because we live in an information-overload society, it is much more urgent to get their brand in as many places as possible.

by Louise Harris

When business owners discuss marketing, they usually talk about generating sales leads, social media and networking. They rarely every mention public relations. They usually don't see a value in advertising in newspapers or sending press releases. They want sources they can track. “This ad on Facebook sent us 20 people who were interested and of those 20, 15 converted to closed sales,” owners will say. You might not see a value in public relations because the results are indirect. The financial gain usually can't be tracked or attributed to PR. However, it should be a part of every business owners' marketing plan. Business owners can put numbers to press releases if they think carefully. Here are the reasons why public relations is a powerful tool for marketing.

Brand Awareness and Name Recognition

Most business owners do not realize that because we live in an information-overload society, it is much more urgent to get their brand in as many places as possible. Researchers have found that people need to see and hear a brand name 14 times before they will remember it and another seven times before they will buy that brand. It is not effective to post 21 times on Facebook or LinkedIn. The brand has to be seen or heard in other places too. For example, you could post on LinkedIn and also advertise on Google. Or, you could talk about your brand in meetings and in online forums. The way to reach a lot of people quickly is getting a story in a newspaper, on radio, in an online publication or in a trade journal. Public relations is the way to succeed in getting your story before many people. If entrepreneurs want to be featured in a trade journal, they have to send press releases and have a public relations strategy.

Increased Revenues

Public relations is an indirect sales tool. Although someone might purchase a product by seeing an ad in the newspaper or a story on television, it probably would not happen like that. More often than not, PR increased brand awareness, which led to more sales. However, business owners can attribute increased revenues to public relations. Consider these scenarios. A nonprofit offered a program for students and sent a press release about the research that the student had received while volunteering. The local newspaper ran a two-page article complete with pictures and quotes from the student and nonprofit executive. This amount of coverage is not normal for a local paper. The nonprofit started to receive thousands of dollars in donations because of that article, which wouldn't have happened if the press release wasn't sent.

Another company provides cleanup services of crime scenes. It had moved from one office in California to another office in another city. The move allowed the company to offer its services in a wider area of California. The owner sent a press release. The local television station came to the new offices and ran a feature on the company. That exposure increased the number of people calling her and when the owner wanted to start a podcast about true crime cleanup, the owner had 3,000 people interested before she even launched, which brought her advertising dollars to her show. And, another press release convinced the local paper to run a story on the podcast. That meant, one company got featured twice – once on television and once in a paper.

Relationships With Journalists

To have a public relations strategy, business owners have to build a relationship with journalists. The easiest way to begin that process is to send press releases regularly. Journalists will begin to see the same company name over and over again and get to know the company through the releases being sent.  This relationship improves the chances that local media or trade journals will run a story about it. The more free press generated reduces the amount needed for advertising and other marketing. It is important to let someone else talk about the brand instead of the entrepreneurs all the time.

Announcements

Often, business owners live in their world, venturing out for coffee or networking. However, they can be part of the world outside their offices through public relations. With PR, they are able to announce their news. For example, if the prototype has been created, and the company needs test subjects, companies could send a press release announcing that to trade journals, online publications, and possible investors. Grand openings of store fronts should be announced through press releases. Even if a company has launched as a software-as-a-service firm, it should tell the world it has opened its doors. These announcements will generate publicity that social media posts can't do.

When a company posts on social media, only a handful of people on the friends' list will see it when it needs to be seen. However, if a trade journal runs the story, many people in their industry will see it and act on it. A story on radio or television will bring the idea to people's minds. It will be the first step toward brand awareness and increased revenues. However, many new business owners fail to announce that they are, in fact, in business.

Having a PR strategy is an important part of an overall marketing plan. It also is an inexpensive way to let people know about the company. The returns could be greater than companies imagine.

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