Public relations is the unsung hero of the marketing world. That’s because readers or viewers know that when a newspaper or TV station runs a story, it’s because they believe it has merit; they were not paid to run the story. When used as part of a marketing campaign, public relations can be very effective in reinforcing a company’s brand.
The advantage of advertising is that you control the message. The advantage of public relations is that you gain credibility, but the downside is that you don’t control the message. This is the part of public relations that frightens clients and to be perfectly honest, it frightens me too. Over 20 years in the business has taught me there is no way to control reporters, so don’t even try. My job is to influence how the media covers a client’s story. And I am a pretty good influencer.
When I placed a story in the Chicago Tribune for a client who makes furniture, they saw an immediate spike in sales. That’s easy to track and easy for the client to see the result of the investment they made in public relations. On the other hand, a positive story about a client may pay dividends (new business, new patients, new customers) weeks or months after it runs. For instance, let’s say I place a story on a local TV station about a client who builds custom homes. Six months later, Mr. and Mrs. Smith are ready to build a new home and contact our client because they remember the TV story. This makes it difficult to track the “cause and effect” of public relations.
In its simplest form, public relations is anything outside of paid advertising that gets the client noticed. While the news release is familiar to most people, it is but one of many tools I use to tell a client’s story in the media.
In my next post, I’ll hit a few of the lesser-known tools of public relations, using a client’s recent public relations campaign as an example. Stay tuned…