You want your business to thrive. You know you need to cut out any unnecessary expenses and strictly invest in essential services that will drive revenue, but still, questions remain. Which costs are dispensable? Which will increase your profit? When should you invest in which form of assistance?
The difficult answer is that it all depends on your particular business and circumstances. To make matters more complicated, services like public relations are surrounded by misconceptions. Furthermore, with many options for professional services to choose from, it can be especially challenging to determine the best time, if any, to seek PR assistance.
As the CEO and founder of a PR firm, I’ve learned that to understand when to commit funds to PR — and when not to — you first have to understand what PR is and what it isn’t. PR is not advertising. You won’t have direct control over the content that is put out, and you’re not guaranteed your story’s placement. It is a specialty subcategory of marketing that exists to maintain the public image of individuals, startups and corporations through earned, or unpaid, media, such as broadcast news segments. Consider using PR for your business in these situations:
1. You need to earn trust.
In the age of “fake news,” people are exceptionally skeptical of what they hear and read. However, research-based studies, such as the “Edelman Trust Barometer” global report, show that individuals are more likely to trust earned media sources over social or paid media. Paid media, such as advertising, is clearly designed to persuade, while earned media is more widely viewed as an objective endorsement.
PR leverages this perceived objectivity to promote and build positive images. If you feel that your particular business is already high in public trust and excels at maintaining its image on its own, but struggles with translating public perception to sales, you likely have priorities outside the scope of PR to focus your efforts on. However, when you’re looking to establish credibility, PR is a helpful area of marketing in which to invest.
2. You need to share an accomplishment.
When a business is first establishing itself or reaches a new milestone, an effective way to share the news with the world is to invest in PR. Without the necessary contacts or industry pull to get your story out there, your accomplishments might not gain the recognition that they are capable of and that you require to achieve your goals and grow your business. PR exists to use media outlets and relationships to share news about your business.
If your most desired news sources have already covered your accomplishments effectively, you do not need to invest in PR, as it’s a service you are already receiving. Nevertheless, when you do something worth sharing, PR can help you receive the attention you deserve for it.
3. You need to spread awareness.
PR can persuasively deliver a story to a large audience, or a target group, to enhance an image and drive demand for a product a service. As data reinforces that major media outlets have a vast reach, if you are looking to spread the word about your business, investing in PR can help. PR agencies can connect businesses across industries with the ideal news professionals to help their particular stories achieve maximum exposure. Strategies can also be crafted to attract particular target groups by focusing on the media outlets that they frequent.
However, it’s essential to be sure you and your business are prepared for the level of attention that PR can bring before investing. Don’t drive up demand if you cannot handle the increase.
4. You need to make the most of a limited budget.
If you are looking to market your business on a low budget, PR is one cost-effective alternative to other types of marketing. Paid media, such as advertising, can be an effective but costly endeavor. Alternatively, PR strictly uses unpaid media, significantly lowering the expense. At times when you need to promote your business on a budget, PR can achieve results and save funds.
But keep in mind that though PR is more economical, it is not the same as advertising. So, if you have the money to spend and stand to benefit from a more creative direct line with consumers, PR is not a replacement for advertising or more direct marketing.
5. You could have a crisis in the future.
If the time comes that confusing news threatens your relationship with the public, PR can combat bad publicity to protect your reputation. PR professionals use expert experience in media to conserve your business’s positive image in the face of complicated issues. They can help you to avert a crisis and carefully manage difficult times in the public eye in ways that other marketing services can’t.
If you have a proven track record of maintaining a low public profile and there is no reasonable need or sufficient indication that this should change in the future, PR would not be a worthy investment for you. However, in moments that your image or reputation is a serious concern, an experienced PR professional might be able to help.
What time is it?
The success of your business is contingent upon your ability to make promising investments in necessary times. While the various types of marketing services can be difficult to differentiate from one another, each one might be the best fit for different businesses in different phases, and the worst idea for others.
Think about your particular budget and goals when deciding the mix of options. In times that your business is receiving the desired publicity on its own and your priorities fall completely outside of PR’s proven capabilities, make an investment that better suits your needs. In times that your business is in need of outside help to improve its image, PR is an area of marketing to consider.