PR can improve a brand’s recognizability, but it won’t help you sell your warehouse stock
When people approach me to help their businesses, they are often seeking to improve their recognizability, establish their personal brand, and help with building their HR brand. But in addition to these requests, I receive many inquiries about using PR to contribute to direct sales, and even to engage in government relations.
The reality is, PR will not be effective for everything.
In this article, I’m going to discuss which business objectives can be achieved by PR on its own, which ones require a joint effort between several departments, and which ones cannot rely on PR at all.
Myths about PR
“PR directly promotes sales growth”
While PR can indirectly contribute to sales, there is no way to directly link PR activity to sales KPIs. PR articles are all about offering an audience an aggregation of useful information, from experts whose opinion they value. In such articles, a brand’s name is only mentioned once (or very rarely twice). What’s more, 90% of such content is published without active links to the company website. Fundamentally, we don’t pay for media publications in PR, so we don’t have any right to heavily promote a brand.
A company’s founder may raise an objection to this: “Just one mention and no link? That’s a waste of money!” And it’s true that if you want direct sales, you’ll be better off hiring a targeting specialist or a blogger relations manager. In addition to their salaries, you will also need to allocate extra budgets for marketing activities, but in return you’ll be able to measure every incoming lead using specialized code (UTMs).
As a PR specialist, I can’t tackle the issue of direct sales on my own, but it’s no problem when working together with a marketing department. So if your goal is more extensive — to increase your brand’s recognizability and, subsequently, improve sales — you should consider hiring a tandem of PR and marketing specialists. Together, they will create a strategy and decide what key messages should be broadcast in the media, social media, and offline advertising. You would also need to build a loyal community around your brand, and that’s best done by a team of PR and social media marketing specialists and a community manager.
“If PR improves a brand’s recognizability, it must improve sales as well”
This is true, it might do so indirectly; when your target audience learns more about your company, its mission and its reputation, demand for your product will grow. But you must also be prepared that after reading about you in the media, your potential client will want to learn about the quality of your product, compare it to others, and study reviews and that they will only make a decision when they’re satisfied. The times when publication in a glossy magazine served as a foolproof endorsement to buy are no longer with us. Today, people prefer to make decisions based on their own experiences. So, make sure that you are ready to reap the benefits of PR: gather your reviews, polish your landing page and social media, and triple-check your product. Your PR person will take care of the rest.
“PR helps to establish relationships with government entities”
Sometimes, I get requests to build relationships with government members (senators, department heads, members of political parties, etc.) or to help with an election campaign. When this happens, I recommend contacting a political strategist or a government relations (GR) agency. This kind of PR has a different profile and therefore requires a different set of instruments. A ‘regular’ PR specialist can definitely start working on an election campaign, but without knowing the nitty-gritty of politics, this work will likely resemble a lottery, if not Russian roulette. I believe that such risks are not justified, and you should engage a specialized professional.
What business objectives PR really can achieve
PR develops a company’s positioning and communications strategy
Even before any work starts, a PR specialist must study the market: its capacity, consumer problems, existing solutions, principal players, and local and global trends. It’s important to understand the specifics of a client’s business and monitor the media space. Based on the information gathered, the PR specialist can then write a communication strategy that includes the company’s positioning, key messages, and storytelling, in the context of the company’s goals and SWOT analysis. Having this communication strategy helps the client to understand what themes to focus on and which channels to use.
PR increases the product or the expert’s recognizability among the target audience
To build a speaker’s personal brand, a PR specialist must analyze the target audience, assess the company’s medial potential, and prepare a PR plan. As part of this, it’s important to manage client expectations.
For example, for many entrepreneurs, a sign of success is when somebody tells them: “We read about you in X publication.” However, clients often want to be written up by The Wall Street Journal, even when they are at the MVP stage, and don’t yet have a finished product. To mitigate this, the PR specialist must ensure the client understands the realities of their current media potential, explaining the kinds of things a business needs to do to find itself on the pages of a top publication.
One point of entry to business media may be a story about raised investments. That being said, managing expectations is still important here. Each publication has its own entry “threshold,” so a startup that raises $1m in investments can’t expect to have the story covered by top media outlets.
PR increases the company’s investment attractiveness
There aren’t that many media outlets geared towards investors, but when done well, PR can be highly effective at attracting investment. To catch the eye of a potential investor, an experienced PR specialist will work with multiple media outlets covering a variety of business, technology, and venture investments.
A good PR specialist knows what figures or project criteria to emphasize in the publication for this purpose. For example, if the company is still doing a seed or Series A round, it’s important to stress the market and team’s potential. For larger companies, investors pay attention to the startup’s financial performance and the founders’ plans.
Incoming requests from investors should be considered a measure of success. Entrepreneurs often ask me to introduce them to venture funds and help with fundraising. One such introduction led to a chain of meetings that brought $2m in investments into a logistics project.
PR attracts the attention of potential employees
HR branding plays an important role in the hiring process, especially when a company is looking for top managers or highly in-demand specialists such as developers, programmers, product managers, and UX/UI designers. If the market views the company as slow and inflexible (even if it’s in the process of transformation), the company will have a hard time attracting young employees focused on leadership and technology.
To mitigate this, a good PR specialist can use the media to “reshape” a company’s HR brand in the eyes of candidates and set up an incoming flow of employees. Often, it’s enough to publish just a few “dispatches” from the office or a founder’s column on employee motivation.
I remember how we looked for new employees for VOIR app’s Cyprus office: we shared the story of relocating the whole team from Russia to Limassol in top tech media. The column — entitled “Our whole team took one plane, while investors were downing sedatives” — helped us to fill two vacant positions in just two days. One person didn’t even have to be relocated because he already lived in Cyprus.
When to expect the results of your PR
When you achieve your objectives will depend on your company’s size, metrics, internal activities, and even the industry. On average, it takes 3–4 months to ramp up, and the first results become apparent approximately six months after the start. However, there are some unique cases when the incoming flow of interest and collaboration requests starts after the first month or so.
How to understand whether you need a PR specialist
To avoid wasting your time and money, ask yourself the following questions:
- What business objectives do you want to achieve?
- Are direct sales your key objective? If the answer is “yes,” it’s best to consult with a marketing specialist.
- Are you ready to dedicate time to making public appearances and talking to the media? PR demands engagement from the company founder/key speaker.
- Are you ready to wait for 3–4 months to see the first results? The time frames are always different, but this is a reliable, average timeframe.
If you think you’re ready for PR but can’t make up your mind about making it a full-fledged part of your corporate structure, talk to an independent consultant. The consultant will analyze your company, objectively evaluate the risks and prospects, and map out the vectors of your growth.