Mention public relations to the average person, and what comes to mind is a news release, and, perhaps, something about a firm involved in a crisis. There’s a lot more to it, which is why you should consider public relations for your business.
Public relations helps build and maintain customer loyalty through a variety of communications tools, according to Scott Seroka, Vice President of Seroka, a marketing, interactive and public relations firm in Waukesha, Wis. These include feature stories, sponsorships, media interviews, and speaking engagements.
You must be committed to a complete program, he says, because results won’t happen over night. An occasional news release just won’t cut it. And, don’t stop just because you’re starting to see results. Likening a public relations program to a ship at sea, Seroka says that it takes awhile to build up momentum, but then the program starts paying dividends. You must maintain your efforts to keep your benefits coming.
To develop an effective program, the public relations specialist must get to know your firm, your products and services, your strengths and weaknesses, even your competition. “I need to know your pains; what keeps you up at night,” Seroka says.
Think of a public relations specialist as a strategic partner. As an outsider, this person can bring a perspective that a company official may not have. The business person must be open to new ideas, however, as change is necessary.
Market surveys may be used to determine perceptions about your company, brand, and products. Questions asked include, “Do you understand us?” and “What do you think of when you hear the company name?” That second question is especially important because it gets to the heart of your branding efforts.
With this knowledge the practitioner can write and pitch the kinds of stories that produce the results you need. Typical goals include changing misperceptions and affirming positive views, Seroka says.
While it is difficult to place a dollar value on public relations efforts, Seroka says certain indicators tell you that the program is working.
For example, you may experience a surge in hits on your website or calls and queries–even sales–after an article or interview appears. In addition, a follow-up survey months later will show a change in attitudes, awareness, and perception.
Public relations, which complements other marketing efforts, gets to your core mission as a business person, Seroka says. You went into business with the desire to offer something no one else does. Public relations helps you communicate what it is about your firm that is different and why people should buy from you.