The Below is a Guest Post from Melanie Parncutt
There’s one particular Bill Gates quote that has continued to resonate with media professionals, in which the Microsoft founder said, “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations.” It’s high praise of the efficacy of the art of PR from one of the most important business minds of the 21st century. It’s also a telling indication of just how effective a campaign can be in drastically altering the course of a business’ trajectory.
Public relations, in simple terms, is the management of a person, business, or brand’s public image. For smaller companies, it’s mostly about trying to secure press coverage, but it can also be about creating the right kind of buzz, and knowing how to protect against and navigate crises.
When people pursue PR for the first time, they often assume it’s interchangeable with marketing or essentially serves the same purpose. But crucially, PR is not something that directly translates into sales, and even the most viral of campaigns don’t guarantee a direct correlation to extra dollars. Instead, the priority of PR is establishing brand credibility by securing coverage in the media, which translates into something more valuable: consumer trust.
Below are four key reasons why PR is important when scaling your business.
PR Establishes Credibility, Solidifies Your Brand
One of the hardest things any growing business faces when starting out is establishing credibility in the public eye. How do you prove to a complete stranger that you are worth trusting, and — eventually — putting their hard-earned money into? It’s a hard sell, but one that becomes far easier once you have press and media featuring you, or referring to your employees as expert sources. If you can prove that your opinion is trusted in thought leadership publications like Entrepreneur or Forbes, then that’s an indication know your industry. As Powderkeg writes, it’s your “stamp of approval”.
This goes hand in hand with establishing an authentic, strong brand image. Having a clear, consistent brand story across the board also helps your employees to be confident in your brand image, who will grow more comfortable in sharing their expertise as thought leaders. Additionally, if you can identify a story that makes you different from the competition, PR will help you pique media interest, which in turn gives prospective customers a reason to connect with your company on an emotional level.
PR Boosts SEO, Drives Web Traffic
Have you ever tried Googling yourself or your company? If so, did you like what you saw? Are there similar businesses ranking higher, or is there even anything to see at all?
When you’re dealing with prospective customers or clients, you can be sure that they’ve probably Googled you, maybe even just to look at reviews. Although, nothing says “trustworthy” more than a glowing page one of search engine results, full of highly-ranked publications. It’s also an opportunity to increase the number of backlinks your site has in other publications, which helps earn a higher domain authority. That way, when a prospective customer is conducting a Google search for the service or product you product, you’re more likely to rank higher in the results they see.
Not only this, but PR professionals are experts at spotting potential opportunities for brands or businesses in markets they might not have considered. It could be that there’s a particular story angle that will resonate in a different country or industry. Algorithms and elusive variables create alternative search results in different locations, but aiming for breadth as well as depth in specialist PR campaigns will help to improve your online presence across the board.
Word of Mouth Marketing
Word of mouth (WoM) is the holy grail of marketing for any business, and it’s always going to carry more weight than traditional advertising. WoM inevitably becomes the most trusted source of information, because it usually comes from family or friends. A 2018 report found that 83% of Americans say WoM marketing is more likely to make them purchase something. However, it’s something that can be tricky to manufacture, but it can be encouraged by creative PR campaigns and favorable coverage. This is something that can spread like wildfire on social media, and you’ll often hear media teams say that all it takes is one viral event.
The most important thing to note here is that a good story is the best way to get people talking, as humans are naturally drawn to narratives more than anything else. As they say, a story changes minds and wins hearts. We react to stories because they make us feel and communicate in a naturally intuitive way. They serve as a “collective sensemaking process,” according to Liz Neeley, former executive director of Story Collider. PR helps you dig out and celebrate the stories you might not have seen yourself. You might also find that it is actually more costly being boring than it is to invest in developing your brand story.
Storytelling is More Economical Than Digital Marketing
Marketing, of course, has its place in every business. And while there is certainly a way to find the intersection of marketing and storytelling through PR, the strategies for each one are different.
The greatest value you get from media relations is that the stories you help publish will be available online to reference forever, whereas marketing is usually a temporary campaign that will soon get buried on social media or removed from websites. A good marketing strategy will use a story, but PR is about getting other people outside of your own team to scream and shout about it. This creates organic media coverage, which can then be picked up by other outlets and republished to gain you greater coverage of your story. Marketing might earn you sales as intended in the short term, but storytelling through PR helps set the foundations for long-term success.
Furthermore, investors care about a brand story more than your snazzy videography skills or attractive website landing page. “Stories are engaging, compelling, and persuasive; it is far more interesting to hear yarns of how a fund manager met with the CEO and toured the new factory, rather than discuss probabilities and uncertainty, which are almost always more relevant considerations in an investment decision,” one author writes at Behavioral Investment. Where you could spend months trying to pull together impressive figures for your pitch deck, words and stories are always going to stick more than numbers.
In a market where an estimated 90% of startups fail, PR helps you find your edge, and then shouts to the world about it. Nevertheless, it’s important not to wait until you’re down to your last dollar to start working on your PR.
The Above is a Guest Post from Melanie Parncutt
Melanie Parncutt is a publicist at Otter PR in St. Petersburg, Florida. In Baltimore, MD, Parncutt studied writing, technology, communication, and design with a focus on leadership studies. She has extensive experience in public relations, marketing, and advertising including media planning, content writing, and marketing, ghostwriting, corporate partnerships, and broadcast productions.
She has worked with clients in over 10 different industries. She enjoys clients who are actively making a difference in their community and driving innovative change. Parncutt has developed strong media relations experience working with journalists from around the country. Some of her clients are contributors for the Forbes Councils and Entrepreneur Leadership Network and others have been featured in Fortune, USA Today, MarketWatch, LA Weekly, Tech Times, NY Weekly, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, CBS TV Miami, and more.