Marketing. Talk about a loaded term! If you ask different people what marketing is, you’ll receive various answers. To some, it’s strictly about driving sales. To others, it’s about crafting brand awareness and a compelling brand personality. Overall, it describes how companies attract and retain clients or customers, from banners on a website to content marketing with blogs to advertising on a podcast and everything in between.
One faction of marketing is public relations (PR), but PR is distinct from the rest of the marketing mix in that — yes, you will invest in PR efforts, but no, you will not specifically pay for anyone to say anything about your organization. Unlike traditional advertising which is very focused on self-promotion and overtly selling products or services, effective public relations is about creating experiences, telling stories, and building a media relation to create organic brand ambassadors: the public! With this in mind, what is the role of public relations in marketing?
Maya Angelou falls less into the category of marketing guru and more into the category of transcendent-role-model-for-every-aspect-of-life. HOWEVER, one specific tidbit of her wisdom can help explain why the work from public relations specialists is so important:
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
This sums up public relations in marketing perfectly. PR is the part of marketing that is all about how brands build trust and rapport with the media and the public to form community relations (there’s a reason “relations” is in the name!). While other areas of marketing and advertising pay for the opportunity to showcase their products or services, a PR tactic showcases the company as a whole to build connection and loyalty with their target audience.
The Strategic Management of a Campaign
Let’s say we’re PR experts that are part of a beauty company launching a new eyeshadow that is very sheer and just adds a little bit of sparkle. Luckily, our organization believes in integrated marketing communication, so our traditional paid marketing activities and public relations strategy are working together.
The marketing team will spend money on advertising through various media channels — on social media, on search engines, on a podcast or radio show, on television or in print, etc. The PR strategy will certainly align with aspects of the larger marketing strategy. It’s important to be aligned on messaging and the target audience to raise brand awareness, but the tools and public relations specialist goals of strategic communication will be different.
The PR team at our beauty company will start with media relations. The public relations professionals will pitch to the media and tell a compelling story about embracing natural beauty in 2021. Sheer eyeshadows naturally fit in this story because they help people have fun with makeup while enhancing, not masking, their natural features. If all goes to plan, the media will be compelled by this story to write articles including the eyeshadow, called earned media coverage.
The PR team may also hire a makeup artist to be an ambassador. When members of the media are looking for tips on the best everyday makeup looks or lipstick tricks for upcoming articles, the ambassador hired by the PR experts will share expert advice while representing our company. Notice that none of the topics the media covered were “why sheer eyeshadow from this beauty company is the best ever.” By having an ambassador or influencer serve as a resource on all things makeup, the brand is establishing trust with consumers that will result in longer-term relationships than a single transaction. Remember, people will never forget how you make them feel.
Effective PR can be as simple as a brand ambassador providing beauty advice, or it can be an elaborate social media contest, or an event to give influencers a chance to try out new products that they will post on their own social media channels. or it can be a speech from the CEO at a conference. Whatever provides a brand with publicity is PR —there is no cut and dry PR tactic, definition, or method.
Better When We’re Together
All facets of marketing work best when they work together. In mutually beneficial relationships, each facet — PR, social media marketing, content, PPC, sales, web development, etc. — doesn’t need to have unlimited budget thrown at it to work well.
By deploying each PR tactic strategically, they fill in gaps and each reach different portions of the audience. Adding PR into the mix is a surefire way to balance short term sales-driven goals with creating long-term brand enthusiasts.