The value of awareness, credibility and reputation

Xanthe Vaughan Williams, director and co-founder, Fourth Day PR, explains why PR may be the key to business growth.

Most channel companies are well aware that the ability to communicate value in a competitive market is essential to survival and success. Less obvious to many is exactly how PR can help you to achieve this. Awareness, credibility and reputation are incredibly difficult to measure – but these are the things that PR builds and they are all vital to catching the eye of investors, attracting employees or increasing your sales.

PR isn’t about articles in magazines – it’s about influencing your audiences indirectly, so that they hear about you often, through a variety of channels. A successful PR campaign will mean that your potential customers, employees or investors not only remember you, but that they feel positive about you. There are a number of elements to achieving this, and you can build up a programme over time. It’s well worth investing time into getting the basics right, so we’ve put together some steps that should help.

  1. Align your PR goals with your business goals

Before considering what a PR campaign might entail, think about what you actually want it to do. Are you trying to attract funding, be taken more seriously by the market, recruit a specialist team, build a partner network or simply sell more stuff? Confirming these objectives from the outset will also help you to pinpoint who you need to engage with.

  1. Understand your audience

According to your goals, now build a profile of your highest priority audiences in order to understand what they care about and how best to engage with them. You’ll be looking at job titles rather than individuals, but you may find that there are some common traits in the type of media they consume, and the specific pressures that they are under. Try and work out what is likely to catch their interest.

  1. Get your story straight

Keep it simple. Try and boil your messages down to a small number of key points that you can refer back to in all of your communications. This doesn’t mean slogans or sales headlines – it’s about the ideas that you most want your audience to take away. Is your offering all about speed? Customer service? Your green credentials?  For each message, try and find the intersection with what you already know about the customer. How can you tell a story that will interest and engage them specifically? A strong story, preferably featuring a human they can identify with, is the ideal. Then you need to back it up with stats.

  1. Spreading the word – how to get started

If you’ve studied your target audience sufficiently, you’ll be in a good position to know whether or not your news announcements are likely to resonate with them. For the most part, unless you are growing so fast that you constantly have more major news, it may be best to focus on comment, opinion and customer stories. A PR agency will be able to help you build relationships with journalists so that you are quoted in articles, while creating your own content can help to build your reputation as an expert in your field. Just make sure that any articles you publish are neutral, informative and well written. Always integrate your PR and marketing content so you make the most of any white papers or reports.

  1. Going wider

Simply focusing on a strong media profile goes a long way. If someone researching your company online is greeted by a host of positive articles, your credentials are assured before they even reach your website. But don’t forget other channels. Social media, speaking at events, and participating in podcasts and panels can all play an important part in the mix. Industry awards can also boost your credibility even if you only make it to the shortlist. Take a holistic view and don’t regard these activities as separate from your PR strategy.

  1. Prepare for a crisis

Chances are you won’t ever need to handle a crisis, but disasters can happen. A well-prepared PR crisis plan is indispensable in handling negativity, heading off unfavourable stories and managing unexpected events. It’s not about waving a magic wand or brushing things under the carpet, rather engaging with stakeholders in order to limit damage and come out the other side with reputation intact.

  1. Find out what works

PR isn’t a silver bullet and not every initiative will work the way you want it to, so keep a tight watch on what does and doesn’t work. Have visits to your website or engagements on social media increased after a campaign? Can you track how the perception of your company has changed? Anecdotal reports of heightened brand awareness often come from within a company, so ask questions – not just in the sales and marketing teams, but in product and service development too.

PR is not an exact science – a huge article in a national newspaper doesn’t necessarily translate to sales. On the other hand, that customer you thought had found you on Google may turn out to have discovered you in a trade magazine article or seen you speak at a conference. Measurement helps you focus on the goals and adapt the approach if one activity is performing better at garnering results than another.

Investing in a well-constructed PR campaign that aligns with your business goals will never be time wasted. Even the act of fine tuning your messages will bear dividends for your business overall – consistent communications across your organisation are invaluable regardless of department. And as you build your reputation, your business will grow with it.

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