I find that public relations isn’t a term that many businesses easily identify with. From speaking to many business owners over the years, many understand it’s an essential part of the marketing armour but they’re not exactly sure what it is, why they need it or how to best use it to attract new customers.
But PR has never been more essential to supporting your sales pipeline than it is in today’s digital world, and I’ll explain why.
We live in a world where there is an abundance of information which means there’s a real scarcity of attention. Attention has become the valuable resource every business needs to successfully capture from their customers in order to grow. The more attention they can capture, the more valuable they become in their customers’ eyes.
Of course, it needs to be the correct attention which is where a highly skilled PR professional or PR company comes in. A strategic PR pro will advise on the best stories, tactics and channels to generate powerful and compelling content that positively resonates with the right people.
They will take this authentic content to manage and build familiarity around your brand so customers and prospects come to recognise your company as a valuable and trustworthy resource that can help them.
The PR tool box
Some companies associate PR purely with press activity. While using traditional media (TV, radio, newspapers, online news platforms, trade & regional media etc) to build brand awareness and credibility is certainly a fundamental part of any PR strategy, it’s certainly not the only tool in the box.
The media is one of many communication channels – arguably one of the most influential and powerful ones – that PR professionals use to reach and engage with your target customers.
“Our website traffic has gone through the roof,” “Hits to our MD’s profile page has rocketed” and “We’ve seen a significant spike in visitors” are phrases we hear regularly from clients after they experience exposure in their target media.
Having the media endorse and share your insight, expertise and stories whether that’s news, customer case studies, thought leadership articles, market research, white papers, guides, tips and advice etc, are all great ways to demonstrate the value of your business and connect with customers and prospects.
But then aligning your press activity alongside other PR activity for a multi-channel, totally joined up communications approach suddenly makes your PR strategy ten times more powerful.
Traditional media, social media, digital – like podcasts, webinars, videos, vblogs etc..- compelling website content, internal communications, awards, issues management etc. are all essential channels through which great content, developed by PRs, is shared to touch the hearts and minds of your customers, employees, stakeholders and other key influencers.
Emotion impacts decision making – so tap into it with content
It’s about communicating great content that builds a connection with your customers – it recognises the challenges they face, the questions they need answering, and even flags the things they perhaps weren’t aware could be an obstacle.
As many studies have shown such as Harvard, emotion is a necessary ingredient to almost all decisions so it’s about sparking that emotion through your PR messages as well as the channels you use.
It’s this content that resonates with your customers and prospects, capturing their attention and building the trust and confidence in your brand in a way that makes those sales doors open easier.
Always have a constant flow of content
But it’s important to have a constant flow of thought provoking content going out through the multitude of channels your customers and prospects consume and trust, including their favourite news sites, the social platforms they scan, and the websites they review, so your company remains front of mind. You not only spark an emotion but you become a familiar support to them; a brand they start to recognise and relate with.
Familiarity then brings comfort and reassurance and, with the right content going out, elicits trust – all of which positively affects a customer’s purchasing decision. Furthermore, reports have shown that people will be willing to pay more for a brand that they recognise, feel confident with and that delivers the right feelings and emotions compared to an unrecognised competitor.
But switch off that regular content and the opposite effect occurs. For example, if a prospect visits a website or a Twitter platform that’s not been updated for a while they are likely to assume the company is out of touch (or out of business) and likely to look elsewhere.
94% of B2B buyers research online first, moving themselves down the sales channel
This is especially true in the digital world we live in today where 94% of B2B purchasers and 88% of consumers conduct some form of web research before buying with people taking themselves further down the sales channel than ever before. By the time the majority of customers are ready to buy, most will pretty much know what they want from the online research they’ve done.
They’ll have read their trusted news and trade magazines, exchanged advice on social media, checked your social media platforms, and reviewed your website – all as part of their information and evaluation stage to finding a reliable and trustworthy solution that fits their needs.
Having a significant and always on online presence (rather than doing ad hoc PR and marketing campaigns) is therefore a necessity for virtually all businesses today especially in the B2B world where staying front of mind is key during what can be a long and complex sales process (where contenders can easily be discounted or forgotten along the way).
‘Own’ your own media channel
The advantage is that today, in a digital world, businesses with the right PR support, can not only get the endorsement of powerful, highly influential third party media channels (TV, national newspapers, online news sites, industry trade media etc) which have large and loyal audiences, but they can also ‘own’ their own media channels.
Social media, podcasts, videos, websites etc…these are all channels through which companies can build an audience and retain it through the content they create, even when a prospect isn’t ready to buy.
But, to do this, content needs to be regular and going out in a joined up way, across all the right places, and the right times. It needs to be material that has a value beyond just a product, such as expert tips, advice, insight – to illicit trust.
Again, with attention so scarce, being present in all the places your customers and prospects consume, ensures that your business stays front of mind so when your customers are ready to buy, you have a ‘seat at the table’ – right near the top!