Historically, PR has been a bit of a black box in terms of how much it “helps.” That’s because the success of a PR campaign has been incredibly difficult to measure with any accuracy, until recently. We now have access to PR data that does for PR what AdTech tools have done for the measurement of advertising. In that sense, PR is the final marketing frontier.
Not too long ago, marketers and advertisers could roll out entire campaigns without knowing how to analyze the results. But today, a prerequisite for working in marketing and advertising is having a solid understanding of data analytics. Thanks to the expansion of the PRTech ecosystem, PR is following suit, and we can see exactly how a story in TechCrunch is impacting a business on a granular level.
Despite this advancement, PR is sadly still the first department to feel a pinch when the purse strings are pulled tight. But if I’ve learned anything since starting a PRTech company, it’s that PR can’t keep the ballroom lit if someone is always flicking the on/off switch.
Here are some of the obvious and not-so-obvious reasons companies of all sizes should be investing in PR now more than ever.
1. Great content inspires trust, creates credibility, and builds brand awareness.
Think of it this way: PR is one of the very best ways to define your brand as told by a person a potential customer might actually trust. Everyone knows that when they are fed a retargeting ad, the goal is to get them to spend money. But when a journalist features your company in the news, potential customers have an opportunity to learn about your offerings in a way that doesn’t prompt them to take immediate action.
It’s the equivalent of establishing a friendly rapport with a new coworker before asking them to complete a project for you by end of day Friday.
2. PR fuels growth.
In order to grow its user base, Slack worked with a PR firm on an ultimately effective PR blitz which invited potential users to “request an invitation” to use the app. The power of media prevailed, and Slack gained 15,000 new users within two weeks.
Now, Slack is somewhat of a household name for anyone who works in tech. When you set hyper-focused goals for PR, you can capitalize on its power and give traditional marketing a run for its money.
3. PR is a powerful lead generator.
Strategic PR is a significant driver of high quality, top-of-funnel leads. When analyzing our customer data, we’ve seen owned media (blog content, self-published LinkedIn Pulse articles, etc.) perform as effectively as earned media at lead generation.
And when earned media does lead the charge, it can drive meaningful action. One of our customers found that website visitors driven by earned media not only come to their site but also engage with their brand in meaningful ways (by making a purchase, playing a video, and so forth). With the right combination of data and attribution, you can see exactly which leads are moving down the funnel and converting to customers as a result of PR.
4. PR is the key vehicle for brand transformation.
When an industry goes through a disruption, every company in that space must change their narrative in order to have a fighting chance. The mattress industry is a perfect example of this.
When Casper, Tuft & Needle, Purple, Leesa or any of the other dozen “sleep companies” that have popped up in recent years started making mattress shopping a breeze, veteran mattress companies were forced to change their narratives to remain relevant.
PR is the key vehicle for shifting narratives and providing a new lexicon for how the press and public should be talking about a company or industry.
5. PR is the most effective tool for reputation management.
We all watch along uncomfortably when large companies handle crises poorly, which is exactly why crisis communications and reputation management are so important for companies of all sizes. If something goes wrong and your company must respond quickly in order to save face, your PR team is on the front line.
In this sense, again, PR shouldn’t be treated like an on/off switch. If you need to correct misinformation about your brand, a journalist is exponentially more inclined to trust new information if they already have an established relationship with you.
6. PR is an excellent tool for recruitment.
Early stage companies in particular can drive significantly more qualified candidates into their pipeline when they’ve already secured coverage in respected news outlets.
Think about what you do when a recruiter from a company you’ve never heard of sends you a message. You check out the company’s LinkedIn page, spy on the profile of the founder/CEO, and Google the company name. Gleaming content and third-party acknowledgement of what’s unique about your product are validation for candidates looking to make a quick decision about whether or not they will humor the recruiter.
In November of 2016, we saw a spike in interest on our AirPR jobs page driven by both new and old content.
7. PR outlasts advertising.
PR has the potential to be even more powerful than marketing in the sense that PR content is permanent and essentially dateless, while advertising is temporary and short term. Once you stop paying for an ad, it goes away. But when an article about your company is published, it’s there forever, waiting to be found again and again.
I’ve experienced this long-tail effect of PR firsthand. Some of the content written by members of my team years ago continues to drive traffic to our website today. Here’s an example of content from 2013 and 2014 that still drives traffic to our site and garners engagement:
PR’s Bottom Line
Frankly, if you’re not embracing public relations as the next marketing frontier or viewing it as a long-term strategy, you won’t scratch the surface of leveraging it as effectively as you could — and your competitors might beat you to it.
A version of this post published on the Nasdaq Blog MarketInsite.
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