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Mastering the Art of Consumer PR

Meredith Klee

Director of Communications @ AdRoll

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Do you need more exposure for your business? How about a larger audience? You can accomplish both goals by engaging in a solid public relations (PR) program. Consumer PR is the way a business communicates with the public — whether that’s getting their message out to employees, customers, or key stakeholders via the media.

Initially, PR was focused on increasing brand awareness through placements in newspapers, radio, and television, but with the rise of new technologies and ways of consuming media, the days of press releases and scheduled press conferences are falling by the wayside. There's now more opportunity than ever to get your message out to the public; however, that also means there's more noise and competition than ever before. But you don’t have to be a major brand with a large team and deep pockets to pull off smart consumer PR. With the right PR tactics and methods in place, small brands too can reach mass exposure and publicity. 

How Modern Consumer PR Changed Its Focus

Since social media makes it possible for companies to engage with their target audience directly, consumer PR has become a way to connect with all audiences in real-time, not just through planned, traditional media.

Specifically, there are several ways in which consumer PR can activate more engagement:

· There’s a unified focus on omnichannel marketing: Since people are often active on multiple social media platforms, companies now have an expectation and opportunity to connect with their audiences where they are. From engaging with media via Twitter DM to identifying and working with influencers through social platforms, consumer PR has become a more integrated part of the overall marketing machine.

· Interesting stories are key: Modern consumers are extremely sensitive to companies pushing their products to them; the hard sell doesn't work. No one wants to hear a company talk about how great they are; they want you to prove it to them consistently. Demonstrating value and leading with a compelling story — whether it's through customer testimonials, unique insights, or day-in-day-the-life access — can make consumers feel more invested in your brand.

· Authentic interactions are critical: Consumers crave authenticity in all marketing and PR. Jaded by decades of dishonest marketers and scams, consumers now only work with companies they trust, and to build that trust, communication has to be swift, transparent, genuine, and thoughtful. An official public statement or announcement can now be communicated in minutes via social platforms, and often this is the number one place consumers go first.

The Difference Between Consumer PR and Marketing

Often, people confuse PR with marketing. That’s understandable since the two live under the same roof. However, while the primary goal of marketing is to increase a company’s revenue, consumer PR is more focused on increasing a company’s reputation and brand awareness.

Though marketing and PR have different purposes, you don’t have to choose between them. In fact, you should blend marketing strategies and consumer PR tactics to enjoy the highest return on your investment (ROI). There should be one cohesive message that everything ties back to — one mission that communicates a vision. 

This is especially important since approximately 60% of millennials demand brands to be consistent across all channels, whether it’s your website, social media, or something else. When marketing and consumer PR are aligned, audiences will hear one coherent message and be more inclined to buy. Customers are more apt to sing a brand's praises and spurn organic word-of-mouth if they have a clear understanding of their brand values.

How To Develop a Consumer PR Strategy

Since modern marketing and PR are focused on empowering customers to make informed purchases, marketers need to develop a strategy that is focused not just on their brand but also on their customers. So, how do you develop a winning plan for increasing your business publicity? Here are four steps to developing a winning consumer PR plan.

#1: Define Your Goals

The most critical part of the plan, your goals serve as a guide for all of your consumer PR activities and help you determine whether you’ve failed or succeeded. Some common examples of PR goals include:

  • Maintaining a positive reputation
  • Increasing customer loyalty
  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Supporting marketing campaigns
  • Building investor confidence
  • Managing brand perception during crises

#2: Know What’s Newsworthy

Just posting on social media or pitching journalists isn’t enough. Having a consumer PR plan in place is pointless if you are pitching bloggers or media outlets with evergreen, vague, and non-newsworthy stories. Here are some common opportunities to generate timely publicity for your business:

  • Corporate news
  • Company launch
  • Product launch
  • Data or research
  • Response to a news event
  • Partnership
  • Funding or investment
  • An upcoming event
  • Customer insight
  • Seasonal tie ins

#3: Understand Your Angle

Most of us are always looking for a good story, but we’re not going to look too hard. With distractions and notifications increasing every day, you need to make sure that stories are relevant to audiences if you want them to resonate and drive action. In journalism, this is referred to as the “angle” of your story. Your angle is the reason why your story is interesting. Always tie back to the big why — why should they care, why now, why is your company or customer the best at what you’re doing? Tell people how your story affects them.

#4: Perfect Your Pitch

Once you have a newsworthy story that’s relevant to a target audience, it’s time to pitch it via email, not over the phone. Often, journalists and editors won’t have the time it takes to listen to someone's story, so this makes email a better arena to give your pitch. A pitch is when you describe a potential story and its relevance to a journalist or editor. When you’re pitching your story, it’s important to be concise. The best pitches consist of a simple introduction of you and your story, along with a few reasons why it is relevant to their readers.

In addition, make sure to only pitch publications that are interested in your type of story. If you’re announcing a product launch, for example, you shouldn’t pitch journalists who cover political events. Tools like JustReachOut and MuckRack can help you easily find relevant journalists, and sites like HARO can even tell you which reporters are looking for sources for stories right now.

Another important aspect of pitching a journalist is having an electronic press kit. Press kits consist of materials that help journalists learn more about you, your company, and its background. Good press kits also include high-quality professional headshots for journalists to include with your story, as well as a fact sheet or list of frequent questions. The more information you provide to journalists, the easier it will be for them to write your story.

Several Consumer PR Strategies for Consideration

Although there are a lot of stories to tell, here are some examples of successful strategies that may resonate with your own business.

Support a cause: As a business, one of the most effective ways to generate publicity is to support a worthy cause through donations or partnerships. According to the Edelman TRUST BAROMETER, 80% of customers believe that businesses should play a part in addressing social issues.

For example, the Kentucky-based bourbon company, Maker’s Mark, partnered with the One Warm Coat to drive awareness and support for giving warm coats to those in need. As a result, Maker’s Mark gained more than 40,000 new followers across their Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter channels.

Make It personal: Good or bad, the experiences customers have with employees or on social media will affect their perception of a brand. One way to gain an edge is to personalize emails, products, and services to specific audiences.

A popular example of personalization is Coca-Cola’s “Share A Coke” campaign, which originally started in 2014. By inviting people to share or customize their soda with their friends based on either the name, endearment, or nickname, Coca-Cola increased sales to record levels.

Lead your industry: Establishing trust is a critical component of all modern campaigns. Customers want to work with companies that are involved and respected in their industry. Because of this demand for trusted expertise, business leaders are now investing in strategies that promote themselves as “thought leaders.”

Becoming a thought leader means providing informative comments and opinions on trends and events that are happening within an industry. Teaching courses, giving presentations, and writing blog posts are popular ways by which people establish themselves as trusted experts within their industry.

Build your community: Similar to thought leadership, companies also get involved with their local communities. By donating time, facilities, products, or money to improve your community, a brand can demonstrate goodwill and trustworthiness, making customers more likely to buy from them and recommend to those in their personal or professional networks.

Here are some ideas on how you can get involved in your community:

  • Serve on a community board or chamber of commerce.
  • Volunteer at a local homeless shelter.
  • Donate your products or money to support a local charity.
  • Participate in local festivals or parades.

3 Ways to Measure Your Success

As with other efforts to promote your business, it’s important to measure the effectiveness of PR. In the early days of consumer PR, there weren’t a lot of ways to determine whether any campaign was successful, but now that marketing and consumer PR interrelated, it’s not only much easier to measure what you’re doing, but also much more meaningful to short- and long-term planning.

Here are three ways you can measure your effectiveness:

#1: Press Mentions and Impressions

One way to measure your success is to track the number of times your company’s name appears in publications (print and online). To be clear, you should only count press mentions in publications that are viewed by your target customers. As you gain a large number of mentions by relevant publications, you can be sure that your consumer PR efforts are paying off. A great tool to do this is Google Alerts.

You can also use impressions to measure the effectiveness of your campaign. To calculate the number of media impressions within a certain period, multiply the number of mentions by the number of readers for each publication. For example, if a company is mentioned in a Forbes article and Forbes has 6.4 million readers, that counts as 6.4 million impressions. One thing to remember about impressions is that they do not indicate customer engagement.

Website traffic and leads: Another way to gauge success is to measure traffic to a website. Before you start a campaign, check the current traffic, then check it after the launch of your next campaign. Seeing spikes in traffic is a good sign that your hard work is paying off.

You can also use the number of new leads to assess the success or failure of a campaign. After your campaign has launched, and even after it’s ended, ask new customers how they heard about your company. If they mention a relevant publication, you know your consumer PR plan is working well.

Social engagements and mentions: Tracking the number of comments, mentions, and discussions about your company will help you understand how prominent your company is in the minds of customers. Tracking which reporters follow you, mention you, and reshare your content is another great way to see how your relationships are paying off. Assessing social engagement may also help you discover areas for improvement, since customers, competitors, and media frequently comment on social channels such as Twitter and Facebook.

Personalize Your Consumer PR

Mastering the art of consumer PR is vital to survival in today’s competitive market, especially for small businesses, and can help maximize all the amazing things you’re doing internally if done right. Don’t take a spray and pray approach, be thoughtful about the narrative, mediums, and tactics you use. Personalization is key, as is knowing your audience and what matters to them. By developing a solid consumer PR plan and using proven strategies, you can increase awareness for your business and build a great brand.

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