Doing a business may be an easy task, but building a brand needs a lot of efforts. One of such important effort that can help you in building brand exposure and reputation is public relations.
Now let me discuss the aspects that relates to building good and continual relationship with the ‘public’, those group or groups of people whose opinion has direct effect on the functioning of your business.
In order to transfer your idea into action and to build a robust business around your investment and hard work, the best mantra you need to learn is – ‘how to get close emotional bond and good will from the ‘public’ around you including your existing and potential customers. Such Mantra is known as the Mantra of Public Relations (PR). If you can’t earn good will and rapport from your target customers and other relevant public, all your hard working and investment might be spoiled.
Meaning and Objectives of Public Relations
What is Public Relations (PR)? The simplest answer is – it’s all about the best possible way to keep best relationships with and to earn goodwill from the people around your business. It’s a deliberate, planned and sustained effort to influence opinion positively and to establish support for an organization or activity or service or product. It’s the management function to gain acceptance for your business. It’s the art and science of convincing people that they should adopt a certain attitude in favor of your business. It’s the technique of creating positive atmosphere around your effort.
Three important objectives of PR are:
- to attract attention,
- to win believe and
- to impart understanding.
Most importantly, PR is a two way communication. To create the air for good Public Relations, you not only need to tell about you, but also you should sincerely hear the complaints, suggestions and feedback from the relevant public collectively as well as act reciprocally.
Importance of Public Relations
Why PR is so important for a business? It’s the only aspect that can solve up to 75% of hindrance in the way of the growth of your company. It’s the first step through which you can sustain your business on the planet, earn good understanding for you from the public, pursued the public to be with you, get support whenever you need, gain brand reputation by the influencers and get your customers to purchase your products and services. You know the value of rapport and goodwill in your day to day life. In your everyday life you definitely need good relationship with people around you – in your neighborhood, at your office, at the market, in the government offices where you need your work to be done, at the railway platform or on the way of the journey to your destination. Good relationship and goodwill in a business is hundred times more important than that in our day to day life. It’s only the people’s faith on you that can bring your business to the right track.
Who are the people or the public with whom you need to keep relationship? There’s no doubt that your target customers are your primary public. But those are not all. Depending upon the size and nature of your business the list of public for you might extend to too many folds. You may divide them into two categories – internal and external. Your employees are your internal public, while your customers, suppliers, investors, bankers, competitors, local community organizations, government officials and the media and influencer groups are your external public. You have to keep rapport with all of your public with equal importance but mainly to influence your customers directly or indirectly. To gain good faith from your customers, you have to handle all tires of public with considerable good amount of managerial skill and competency and through some chosen strategies.
How to promote Public Relations? To promote PR you need some carefully chosen steps to follow continually, track the effect regularly and modify your steps whenever needed. It’s a continuous effort. It needs some state of art management skill.
PR Strategies and Techniques for Branding
We’ll discuss in details on how you can apply PR strategies to effectively improve your brand’s exposure and reputation. Before proceeding further, you may divide the components of any PR campaign into four groups having few elements in each:
- the Public
- the problem
- the Message
- the Media
- the Message
- the Strategy
Group A and B comprise the processes of identification. Group C and D consist of the strategies. First two groups involve research, analysis, planning and programming, while next two groups entail actions, feedback and assessments.
Group A: The Public, the Problem and the Message
Since each one might not be your public, you need to carefully identify who are your public and why they are important for you. Whom you need to convey a specific massage? It depends upon the size and nature of your business and also upon the situation and time.
Please note that a PR campaign is in many ways different from a marketing campaign. It is not about selling your product; rather it is about paving a road for long term mutual relationship (which may indirectly help you in growing your market or building a brand reputation or resolving a issue). Hence, while selecting ‘public’ for your PR campaign it might not be only your customers, it may be the local community or the media or the online influencers or any other group of people. You may divide your public as primary and secondary to easily identify. While identifying your primary public, you should be careful enough for the decision makers, the surroundings and the influencers. In a case while your potential customers are your primary public, the influencers may be in the position of secondary public, but they have strong impact upon your primary public. Identifying the right or near to right public for your PR campaign requires some research based data. You need enough demographic, geographical, psychological, social and cultural aspects of the public. (To know more about how to identify right public, subscribe our newsletters.)
Once you have identified your target public, you need to identify the issue you want to deal with. In other words, you should have handy definition of the problem you want to solve with a specific PR campaign. The problem may be many like retaining your existing customer, bringing back your old customers, delighting your returning customers, creating new customers or promoting a new product or exhibiting your social responsibilities or gaining good faith from your investors. Note that you can’t solve all the problems in a single PR campaign. You should choose a single or related few.
Formulating an effective message is somehow a difficult task, but it’s the pivotal wheel around which your entire campaign rotate. Right message to the right people at right time and in the right direction is the sole instrument behind many success stories. A message of your campaign is the key content of your campaign and it’s the real king. A right message implies to a right story with a right theme, right components and right composition. The story should be positive and based on factual data analysis. The theme of your message must be interesting, engaging and seem to be highly beneficial for your target group/public. Composition should be brief, simple and beautiful. The components might be few words or a graphic or an image or slides or a video – everything needs to be uncomplicated or clear and concise but artistic.
Group: Media and Platform
Once you have identified (a) your target public, (b) issues you need to deal with and (c) the theme of your message to deliver, you will search for best media and platforms for your PR campaign. Here, the word ‘best’ have minimum four aspects – easily available, very economic, largely accessible and highly effective. Depending upon your strength and budgetary allocation, you may have options for various levels of availability and cost, but high effectiveness of the campaign will be definitely your main focus while selecting you media and platform.
Media is the broad category and can be divided into many but importantly into three, such as, print, electronic and digital. Platforms are components of media. When we are talking about print media, the platforms will be newspapers, magazines, booklets, banners, brochures etc.; and while we are talking about digital media, the platforms will be social media like Facebook, search engines like Google, web tools like WordPress etc.
Since the adjective ‘best’ is concerned for choosing media and platform in terms of reach, access, budgetary minimization and effect, the first credit goes to the Digital Media. There are various reasons to choose Digital Media like websites, social markets, and search engines etc. for the need of effective PR campaign. Three foremost reasons are – (a) it’s the cheapest mode of PR, (b) it’s easily available, (c) it has wide accessibility, (d) it’s the only mode for real time interaction beyond the limit of space, (f) it’s audience specific, (g) it can generate brand reputation and trust, (h) it’s the round the clock channel and (i) technically target oriented. No other media like print or electronic media has equal advantages of digital media.
After digital media, for low cost PR campaign, you may choose print media like the newspapers, magazines or in-house booklets; but to achieve target effect, the strategies should be more specific.
Big corporate houses may choose a television channel as media and a popular show as platform. But for small and medium size business television channels are not advisable. However, they can choose an FM radio program for their PR campaign.
There are two other platforms for effective PR campaign. One is the platform that uses interpersonal communication like meeting or discussion and the other is real time event or show
Group C: Strategy, Delivery, Engagement and Evaluation
Strategy is a high level plan of action designed to achieve a long term or overall goal. Your strategy should be at the front while you are planning for any campaign. In a PR campaign, from choosing the right public to achieving the desired result, you should be strategic enough in each step. You need to have reasonable answers for each of the following questions:
Why? There should be concrete reason for conducting a PR activity. This reason may form the campaign theme.
What? Once the management is clearly convinced about the necessity of the activity, the specific goals of the campaign are to be spelt out.
Who? Choosing the right public or groups of public is to be well defined
How? Since the public might not be homogeneous, selecting proper channel for communication matters a lot.
When? Timing is an essential factor while lunching the PR campaign. PR programs must be scheduled to coincide with public interest.
How Much? The cost factor – which determines whether the PR campaign is feasible within the financial capacity of the organization, is also an important aspect you need to think carefully.What if? Uncertainty is always there and you should be ready for any unexpected situation with emergency plans.Now you are prepared with your plan for action. Don’t be hasty! You need to go through a stage of pre-testing. Deliver your PR message among a small group of public. Collect feedback or public opinion. Evaluate the effectiveness of messages on the parameter of a tested tool like SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat) analysis. Evaluation is important to determine whether the PR activity has been effective and to what extend it has influenced public opinion. Evaluation too justifies the effort, time and money spent on a PR activity.
It is worthwhile to scale the accurate effect of any PR campaign. The following diagram can help you better to understand it well.
According to this communication diagram, what takes place in ‘B’ box, or black box, is crucial for the right response among the target group. The black box is in fact human brain. The stimulus must make an impact for desired reaction or response from the target group. The aim is always to gain a positive attitude and an engaged form of behavior (i.e., Box No. 1). In other words, the situation should be such that your communication has to try and do a reinforcement job, and further build on the positive attitude and engage behavior. In such a situation your target group will respond as you desire, vis-a-vis your objectives.
Please note that such ideal situation may not always exist. The target group may be in one or different state of mind and/or situation and, therefore, different strategies and actions may be required to move the target group from where they are into the positive and engaged situation.
|Positive but disengaged (Box No. 2)||Facilitation of understanding in the target group|
|Negative but engaged (Box No. 3)||Propagation/education of the target group|
|Negative and disengaged (Box No. 4)||Confrontation of the problem of the target group|
The desired sift within the four sections of the complete black box will be ultimately determined by the nature of message, the sharp focus of the words and pictures of the message in the media selected.
Group D: Redesign, Implementation, Achievements, Revaluation and Continuity
If everything OK with your pre-testing stage, you may go for full fledged implementation of your campaign. In case, there is some problem, you have to go through redefining each aspect of your campaign. You may need to redesign your plan again and again till an achievement has not been assured. Even after you have achieved your desired goal you should reevaluate the campaign, strategy and result at certain interval. Please note that no strategy is permanent, but PR campaign is an inevitable continuous requirement for any business or organization.
Some people believe that PR has little relation with brand image. They assume that branding is an aspect of marketing. But that is a pure myth. In fact, the ultimate goal of any PR campaign is gaining brand loyalty that gradually helps businesses building strong brand influence.
Marketing strategies have limitations that can be supplemented through effective PR campaigns. In fact, if you have strong PR effects, you don’t need to spend more on marketing. Good will is really powerful.