PR strategy: the essential steps for your brand’s success
For the owner of a startup, creating buzz around the company and the brand is not just a possibility: it is a duty.
And the words of American public relations executive Ronn Torossian, founder of New York-based 5W Public Relations (5WPR), in this regard leave no room for doubt:
“Good public relations builds bridges between your startup and the outside world, opening doors and opportunities that might otherwise remain closed.”
Doing public relations is a great way to increase interest in your brand and the loyalty of your customers, and to increase, in this way, your turnover. But what exactly does “doing public relations” mean? To make a long story short, you must, first of all, define your brand personality and then, based on that, build (and maintain) a positive image in the eyes of everyone who interacts with your company, from consumers to suppliers via investors.
Easy to say, but practice is another matter: you need to put together a comprehensive and effective PR marketing plan that takes into consideration the goals you wish to achieve and the communication channels you intend to use for your public relations. If you have no idea how to build one, this is the right guide for you.
Defining the objectives of the PR strategy
Before we get to the heart of the matter and analyze, on a practical level, how to define the goals of a PR marketing strategy, you need to know precisely what we are talking about. Do you know what PR means?
This acronym stands for “Public Relations” and refers to a set of activities that aim to develop the credibility of a company or organization, sustaining its image and reputation in the eyes of its public (or, more accurately, its various audiences).
Unlike pure marketing and advertising, whose primary goal is to promote products and services, PR is intended to promote, in the first instance, the company and the brand. Even within the narrow field of PR, however, the goals can be different, and the first step in putting an effective PR marketing strategy into practice is precisely to establish its precise purposes.
Improve brand image
To do public relations effectively you must first, as already pointed out, define your brand identity and personality. Having a full understanding of what you want to communicate and how you want to be perceived by consumers helps you improve your brand image. In fact, this is generally one of the main goals of a PR marketing strategy.
Increase product awareness
Especially in the case of a startup (innovative and otherwise), increasing the notoriety of your product or service is a priority goal. Public relations are valuable allies in this regard because, through them, you have access to different audiences and can rise to become a leader in your target industry.
Using pr visibility to publicize the offer
Although public relations, unlike pure marketing, does not have as its primary objective to directly promote the sale of products or services, improving the perception of your customers through it can directly or indirectly increase your sales. For this reason, you should not rule out advertising your offerings by taking advantage of the privileged visibility offered by public relations. The important thing, however, is that you make sure your message comes through loud and clear and is consistent with the company’s values and mission.
USP and Target: how to differentiate from the competition
Regardless of what your specific goal is, to build and implement an effective PR Marketing plan you absolutely must know how to identify your USP and how to clearly differentiate yourself from your competition. Unique Selling Proposition (or, again, selling argument), refers precisely to that element presented by a company as a distinguishing feature of its products or services, which allows them to be distinguished from those offered by competing companies.
Identify the unique selling proposition
To identify the Unique Selling Proposition you must leverage your strengths, that is, those elements that make your brand and your products or services valuable and unique to your customers. Make a list of your strengths and remember to be as specific as possible. Not only that: monitor competition, so you can understand the positioning of other brands and the market space where you can fit in and excel.
Once you have identified your USP, put it in black and white by formulating an unambiguous, clear and simple concept. This concept should be the cornerstone of all your communications. Writing your USP also helps you better define your positioning statement and clarify all the elements around it, starting with the target audience.
Identify characteristics and needs of the target audience
Identifying the target audience means, first of all, identifying the characteristics, needs and interests of each of the company’s stakeholder groups, whether they are employees, customers, suppliers, investors and the media. In this way you can find an effective message aimed specifically at each of them and choose the most suitable channels and content to convey it.
The recipients of a PR marketing campaign can be divided into two categories:
- internal recipients, such as employees and contractors;
- external recipients, such as customers and the media.
For each group you have to consider a few factors:
- demographic data (such as age, gender, income and education);
- psychographic data (such as lifestyle, values and interests);
- behavioral data (such as preferred brands and desired benefits, channels used, and propensity to buy);
- organizational data (such as role and hierarchical rank).
Communication channels: the steps to reach the target audience
Having a clear idea about your Unique Selling Proposition and the target audience you want to reach is not enough to make your PR Marketing campaigns really effective: in fact, as already mentioned, you also need to know the best way to reach the recipients of your messages.
Choose the right communication tools and channels
Obviously, with rare exceptions, different communication channels and touchpoints (this word identifies the point of contact between the brand and the audience) are provided for different target audiences (and for different objectives).
The most common touchpoints for companies are:
- the press office;
- social media;
As you probably already imagine, the press office is a key resource for media relations. You should know that these relationships can take many forms: from press release to interview, via press kit or press conference.
In this regard, it is crucial that you keep in mind that while with advertising the media space is purchased and is therefore guaranteed, with public relations the space has to be “earned”: it is the media that publishes the news when they deem it interesting and valuable to their audience. Especially for a startup, the “secret” to getting the media to talk about you is to find a curious and compelling story that acts as a “hook” to capture their interest.
Social media is a great channel for marketing (and, thus, promoting your products or services), but it can also prove strategic for public relations (and, thus, promoting a positive image of your brand). On social media, for example, you could show the lighter side of the company and/or reveal its “behind the scenes.” Not only that: these platforms are also a particularly good virtual place to respond quickly to customers in case of disruption and to better manage any reputational crises.
Corporate events can be of various types: whatever their nature, they are in any case valuable opportunities to introduce the company to your target audience, capture their attention and convey a positive image of the company itself. For a company with a local character, for example, it can prove very useful to organize open days at company locations.
Finally, a common example of sponsorship is Influencer Marketing: influencers are people who have a large following and a very strong relationship with their followers, such that they affect their purchasing choices and, more generally, their attitude toward a company.
Monitoring results and metrics used
As always, in the case of PR marketing it is essential to track the results of the operations performed so that the strategy can be refined as best as possible. Obviously, the metrics to be considered depend on the communication channel used, the operation performed and the objective behind it. For example, when it comes to media relations, a key metric is the articles or citations obtained.
That said, the ultimate goal is always to sell: you would do well, therefore, to never lose sight of metrics such as the number of new leads acquired and new sales generated.
Digital branding strategies
Digital branding deserves a separate paragraph in this guide dedicated to the best PR marketing strategies. Once again it bears repeating: no, we are not talking about digital marketing. While the latter, in fact, has as its primary goal to attract the attention of potential clients and convert them into customers, digital branding uses digital channels for the purpose of positively influencing consumers’ perceptions when they think about the company, focusing on the company’s values and distinctive features. In this way, digital branding makes it possible to establish stronger and longer-lasting relationships with customers, stimulating their loyalty.
These days this has become a necessity, and even more so for startups: the Content Marketing Institute said 77% of marketers believe a strong brand is critically important to their growth plans. 89% of marketing leaders prioritize Brand Awareness. And that’s not all: a Reuters report stated that 82% of investors exclusively choose companies that have a strong brand identity.
Now that you know how important it is to take care of digital branding, all you need to do is find out how to do it. In order to make your digital branding strategy effective, it is useful to draw up brand guidelines: this is a document that collects within it the main guidelines of corporate communication, so that these are clear to all the people involved in the company and so that communication is always consistent on all digital channels and at all times. Remember: inconsistent content risks making the company’s image inauthentic and, in this way, compromises the effectiveness of the message.
Each piece of digital content should, then, be developed according to the goal you propose to achieve. On the objective also depends the channel to be used: the website, for example, is ideal for providing readers with information about the company’s products or services, while the blog is a more suitable platform for offering potential customers content that can comprehensively answer their every possible question, need or desire. The newsletter serves to build customer loyalty, while social media is great for engaging your audience: If you want to do PR marketing in a really effective way, remember to alternate between more purely commercial content on these platforms and more informative or emotional content, making the most of all the tools at your disposal (videos, photos, infographics and call to action).