How can I use PR for my business? Many companies, large and small, struggle with this question. Extravagant events and elaborately choreographed product launches come to mind. Yes, public relations can be that, but good PR casts a much wider net – improving your reputation, brand awareness and thought leadership in the marketplace.
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) says, “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” And, “At its core, public relations is about influencing, engaging and building a relationship with key stakeholders to contribute to the way an organization is perceived.”
It’s a broad definition, but a succinct reminder and effective mindset to have before you decide to create your own PR strategy. Two-way communication is key – tell your story effectively, so that your target audience will listen and respond in kind.
I recently attended the Nashville chapter of the American Marketing Association (NAMA) luncheon with guest speaker and strategic brand consultant Lindsay Jamieson. His topic? “Debunking the Myths About Brand Storytelling.”
The well-attended event included a wide variety of marketing, advertising and communications professionals representing many different industries. And Lindsay did an excellent job of helping attendees get back to the basics of storytelling – something that is used across strategies, tactics and channels – from press releases and media pitching to social media and TV commercials.
Main takeaways? We are all story addicts. From the time we are babies, half of our waking hours are spent daydreaming. Then we go to sleep and craft stories. We may leave the nursery, but we never stop pretending. We learn better with a good plot, invested in an appropriate setting that provides a juicy narrative with emotional meaning, overcoming whatever obstacles or conflict gets in the way, eventually triumphing in success.
From a business perspective, your story may be how you solve a problem for your customer. Tell a story that helps your client see himself as the hero – so your protagonist lives his own story through your assistance. Make your product or service his accomplice.
A great example of this is Microsoft’s 88 acres, a story about energy-saving software implemented at their 500-acre corporate offices. Doesn’t sound like a riveting tale. However, within the first two days it was posted to the corporate website, it attracted 150,000 page views and more than 800,000 retweets on Twitter, according to CISION. It also received key industry media interest, with many publishing the story online. Most importantly, the publicity garnered had government organizations and major retailers asking how they could buy the energy software.
We are driven more by emotion than rational thinking – by wants more than needs. Make your prospects aspire to your product or service.
Before you think, “Well, that’s Microsoft – a household name,” know that the company only posted the long-form story on their website after failing to receive initial media interest. By publishing on their own media channels, using chapters that humanized the software through employees’ day-to-day tales and personal investments in its success, and including short videos and strong imagery, they won the eyes of the media and ultimately increased sales.
The “father” of public relations, Edward Bernays, understood this concept perfectly: We are driven more by emotion than rational thinking – by wants more than needs. Make your prospects aspire to your product or service. Features and benefits are necessary, but they shouldn’t be the lead. Your brand’s story should focus on aligning attitudes, intangible benefits, values and cultural nuances.
And your story can, and should, be interesting – every organization has its own history and personality. Use your own narrative to position your business for a two-way relationship with your customers.