Saturday 23 September 2017

Use PR to your advantage when building a brand

It's often the simple lessons that stand us in good stead. It's a mantra to bear in mind when it comes to public relations.

Many astute business people can master the skills for effective sales, distribution, compliance, managing complex relationships and controlling cashflow.

But what about the more subtle techniques for building your business? And, specifically, what about the ability of PR to help build your brand and drive sales?

As Irish businesses continue to achieve record – albeit under pressure – export figures, understanding how to build and differentiate your brand is essential.

When entering a new market, it's all too easy to splash cash on sponsoring local industry awards, placement of ad-hoc ads and the execution of small-time marketing efforts that offer little cut-through and certainly no lasting business uplift.

With the constantly changing social media landscape, there have never been so many ways for businesses to communicate with their markets.

However, when it comes to attracting media attention, be it online or offline, the same rules still apply. Investing in an agency that understands the media landscape is always advisable, but if you wish to investigate PR opportunities yourself, here are some simple steps:

1) Be clear on your communications messages and objective in terms of how unique they are. When assessing your chances of appearing in a publication, ask yourself if you would read such an article with interest if it wasn't about your own company. Be honest. If the answer isn't a firm yes, then it's not PR that will get you in the publication, but an advertisement.

2) Understand the media, their positioning and the content they deliver to their readers. For instance, an FMCG exporter targeting the British market might quite reasonably assume a publication such as 'Retail Week' would be interested.

It might, but be aware that the two most important topics for the title are employment law and property. Its readers employ vast numbers and manage massive property portfolios. It's not to say you can't get exposure, but you need to manage expectations and get your pitch right.

3) Having done your prep, ask yourself how best you can sell your story. For whatever reason, PR can have a disproportionate effect on ego. Don't assume you need to speak to the editor.

Within media, you'll find that through cutbacks in recent years the likelihood of hitting the editor is slimmer than ever. The more junior reporters are as hungry as ever, with most looking for immediate online content as well as material for print editions. Equally, there may be a journalist with a particular interest in your subject.

When pitching, make sure you pitch something of genuine interest to the right person, at the right time and in a concise manner.

4) Understand the rules of engagement. You may be interviewed and even get included in the final article, though it may not be the angle you wanted.

By all means have your own agenda, but with a marketing discipline where the rules mean you simply can't have all the control, go in with your eyes open.

Remember how even the biggest names can get caught short. In a recent 'Financial Times' edition, Larry Goodman was interviewed about Silvercrest and the horse-meat issue.

In my opinion, the article was not the foundation on which to build a successful crisis PR plan.

It's always easy in hindsight, but you can be sure the FT journalist was more than happy to report Mr Goodman questioning 'the validity of DNA tests' and how he criticised 'tabloid sensationalism'.

Always consider what the final article can look like and the possible context of your quotes when you are doing an interview.

5) Finally, use your PR effectively. Too many people treat it as a one-hit wonder rather than recognising how showcasing your media profile can influence customers, support sales and build your brand. If it's a good enough piece to show your mum, don't be afraid to share it with your market.

Adrian Brady is chief executive at Eulogy!, the UK's largest Irish-owned communications agency

Irish Independent

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