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Posts Tagged ‘Public Relations and Marketing’

Marketing Today | What’s Changed?

June 15th, 2010

Marketing has come a long way in the past decade, and much of that change can be attributed to the Internet and the ever increasing interaction that occurs on the Web. That interaction is one from buyers, potential customers, and businesses alike, and all three parties are trying to understand where they stand and what direction they are going. More important, though is the redefinition of the relationships between companies and buyers. With two-way communication taking place everyday, it’s hard to tell where marketing ends, PR starts, customer relations begins, and what really differentiates the various business categories.

An important question to ask, then, is if categorizing the business activities really matters. From a managerial perspective, it might, as part of the manager’s responsibilities is delegating tasks to various departments, but from the consumer’s standpoint, the relationship is all that matters. Despite that important fact, there is a long-standing debate over who owns what in a business; does marketing own social media? Does PR own customer relations?

An answer to that can simply be that every department is responsible for interacting with buyers and following up with them as they try to interact with you. In the past, marketing offered two options: advertising (which was often costly, inefficient, and tedious), or praying that media pick up your story and put it to print (also ineffective and somewhat hit and miss).

Now, companies can bypass media outlets and rely more heavily on the success that PR can have today with things like social media, press release distribution sites, a company’s own website, and direct communication between the company and current and potential buyers.

What comes with this new ability for companies to interact with buyers is a new sense of responsibility that needs to be adopted. Customers are getting used to the idea of companies bombarding the social media scene and are, in turn, hoping and waiting for companies to be responsive and responsible for their social media use. What does that mean? Simply that if you want to use social media, do so with the intent of reaching and communicating with your buyers. This doesn’t mean that you can send out information without replying to information being sent to you.

To have success with marketing today, you must personify your company and really work hard at fostering relationships with your buyers online who are looking for that relationship. Though companies no longer need to rely on marketing firms to do things for them, they do still need to do the things that these companies were doing, and then some. Things haven’t changed that much that customers don’t want to be talked to. The change is seen more in the way in which customers like to be communicated to. The old one-way communication tactics of the past that interrupted customer’s lives and screamed for their attention are no longer affective. With things like TiVo and DVR, customers can skip your ads and read about you online.

Stop wasting your money on advertising and invest in PR and Marketing. It will make a world of difference.

Marketing Plans | When They Work, and When They Don’t

May 19th, 2010

Marketing, like public relations, sales, advertising, etc., is a tricky area to master. As such, it’s hard to define a “formula” to use for each new marketing campaign or plan. To help you to create your own method of creating an effective marketing campaign, here are some tips:

  1. Don’t use the same plan you used last time. Your company, the environment/industry in which you operate, and your customers have all changed. People are consistently changing their tastes and worldviews, and you need to keep up. This means that for every new venture or marketing goal you set out to reach, you must create a new marketing plan. Even if all things were the same internally and in the industry, you would have to cater to your customers in a different manner when it comes to different aspects of your product or services. Know that what worked last time may not work this time.
  2. Avoid implementing without first knowing your objectives. Tactics are nothing without accompanying strategies. Your strategies must stem from your company objectives, and before you can implement tactics, you have to know the destination. While you cannot predict what the road will look like on the way there, you can map out where you are now, the desired goals you have, and the vehicle (pun intended) that will take you from Point A to Point B.
  3. Delegate responsibilities. This helps to keep everyone on the same page and also helps to make everyone accountable for the success or failure of the planning and the actual implementation of the plan itself. This can also help to encourage people to work together, enhance their strengths (or weaknesses, depending on what area they work on), and to create a collective ownership of the plan.
  4. Research, research, research. This step can help you to craft your objectives and goals and can also you to define the vehicles and methods that will be helpful to you in this marketing plan. Additionally, at the end of the marketing plan’s life, you can research where you went wrong and what went well so as to create an even better plan the next time around. Really evaluate the results of the plan to get an idea of what happened and where.
  5. Integrate other aspects of business. Marketing and PR are closely related, and with the help of the Internet, the defining line between the two is become more blurred as the months go on. That means your marketing team will need to work with the PR team to ensure things aren’t being done in an overlapping manner. For example, PR and marketing should both be using social media, and if one team hopes to use the same social media tool for a different reason than the other, there could be some disastrous results.

Just remember that marketing and PR plans need preparation and, well, planning. It’s a team effort that requires participation from everyone since there are different skill sets even within a small team.

Why Use Public Relations; What Role Does it Play for Me & My Company?

May 11th, 2010

Public relations is often seen as an alternative to advertising; I hope to change that, because it is not. While advertising and PR are often lumped together (and, again, one is often used as an alternative to the other), they are two different and separate activities that are both needed to propel a company forward. (For a start-up or for a new company looking to build their brand, advertising won’t do much good, however. Read more about why that is here: 4 Reasons Public Relations (Not Advertising) Builds a Brand.) They do, however, work well when used together as components of the company’s overall outreach program.

Though the economy is beginning to turn around, budgets for public relations still seem to be somewhat of a hard thing to come by. To get more of a budget allotted to you as the PR professional(s) in your company, you have to sell its benefits. How do you expect executives to want to give you a budget if the reasons for utilizing and partaking in PR activities are never defined? On top of selling the benefits of PR, try to tie the PR activities into other business activities, such as marketing and business development. They are, after all, becoming more and more similar with the tools and tactics available to companies online.

Public relations can be seen as a necessary evil, but it’s a rather useful activity for businesses to partake in; not only are you now able to connect with your buyers one-on-one (which was never done (or able to be done) in the past), but you can help to shape your public image. In this way, PR is crossing the lines that separated it from marketing. You can send out a press release, respond to customers, and be active on social media; these are all things that can help to shape how the public sees you. In the past, companies had to hope the media would portray them in a positive light. Now, when that’s not done, a company can respond in the attempts to remedy an issue/potential crisis or write a letter to an editor to ask for a correction.

What does this all mean for you and your company? Well, that depends. How connected do you want to be with your audience? How much do you value customer/buyer feedback? Do you want to stay up-to-date with what your buyers are looking for? PR can assist in all of this (and more). What you need to do first is to establish your needs, goals, and objectives and those of your buyers. Then, and only then, can you move forward by conducting proactive, effective, and well-planned public relations activities.

Public relations isn’t all that difficult, and more often than not it does not require the assistance of a “professional”. Doing PR correctly requires an understanding of your audience and your company, both being things that you can learn and know. From there, it requires an understanding of how to implement tactics that you’ve defined from your strategies. (For more on tactics and strategies, read ). It may make sense to hire a consultant to get you started but don’t be afraid to try things out.

Marketing and Public Relations | What’s the Difference?

May 10th, 2010

Often times, marketing and public relations get lumped into one category. While the two categories have been growing more and more similar with the Internet and companies being able to do their own marketing and PR, there are still a few differences to keep in mind. Also important to remember is the existing differences between advertising, PR, branding, and marketing. These four components of business are all interrelated and need to work together to ensure that a business is successful. In order to understand how to use each of these components, you must first understand how to identify them.

Marketing is more closely related with selling than public relations. While the ultimate goal of both marketing and PR is to gain customers and business, PR is more focused on the relationship aspect of the buying process that a buyer goes through. Moreover, PR helps to maintain the relationships with current users and new customers, whereas marketing is primarily focused on gaining new business. PR also helps to maintain and build relationships between the company and the public.

Some state that public relations is all about building relationships. While that is true, PR also has a dual purpose in a company: to help maintain relationships, as noted above. Once marketing has helped to instill recognition of a company in a buyer’s mind, it is PR’s job to foster these relationships and ensure they continue to grow in a positive manner. This can be done through communication, honesty, and engagement of those audiences.

Reading materials from other blogs to see what my take on this was, I came across a few things that made me wonder: ‘What is the difference between marketing and PR?’ Other bloggers were stating that the difference between the two were that marketing asks buyers to take an action, whereas PR does not. (I disagree.) Some were stating that marketing has nothing to do with relationship building. (I disagree here, too.)

So, what does differ between PR and marketing? I think perhaps it boils down to the bottom line: marketing aims to increase sales and overall company performance. While that is an outcome desired from having great PR, that is not what drives companies’ PR. We do PR because we want to have another side to our companies that customers can see, talk to, and engage with. This PR side of our companies is a more personified and honest interpretation of our company that does away with the advertisements and marketing seen in our other business objectives. While we would love for this tactic to earn us more business, we know the ultimate PR goal is to build relationships with our customers, potential customers, communities, and general public.

Marketing, on the other hand, is looking to convince customers of something, whether that be that our company is awesome or that our competitor is not; we are trying to force-feed customers and buyers the beliefs we want them to hold. This is more difficult than what PR does, which is to allow customers to make their own interpretations of our company (with a little help). We want to put our company in the best light, but there is only so much we can do without reverting back to marketing or advertising. With public relations, customers are given more to go off of, and can create a message or idea of their own in terms of what our company means to them.

Public relations, then, is seen as more credible than marketing. When a customer comes to a conclusion on their own, it is easier to believe and it makes more sense to them than the overdone methods of advertising and marketing. There is a very fine line between marketing and PR that is being ever blurred with the available online tools. The Internet has made it easy to perform tasks that were once labeled marketing and are now classified as PR, such as distributing press releases to the public.

When it comes down to it, customers will embrace the company they like more. Getting a customer to like your company more cannot easily be done with marketing, though it is possible. It is easier for them to like your company when they hear about you from someone else (PR), when they read about you in a newspaper article written by the paper’s staff (PR), when they see your press conference on the news (PR), or when they see the news at your awesome fundraiser event (PR).

What do you think the difference between PR and marketing is?

What is PR (Public Relations)? | PR Careers, PR’s Future, and Measuring ROI

May 8th, 2010

I was recently asked to do a short interview. Here are my answers, which I thought would be helpful to understand the basics of PR:

  1. How do you define PR? What do you believe its purpose is?

    PR deserves a somewhat long definition as it encompasses so much of what a business does in regards to the public. The definition has definitely changed in the past 10 years and entails much more of a connection between the public and the company. In the past, PR was about talking to the media, getting press clippings, and sending our press releases that no one but the media saw. Today, PR is much more like marketing, and that can be attributed to the changes the Internet has created for business worldwide.

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    Marketing entails, well, marketing, or your company. PR is about getting others to talk about your company. But, when you can submit your press release and post to your blog directly without having to contact the media, how to define that? It’s a line that is becoming more and more blurred. Some would call that marketing, others would call it PR since it involves press releases. A blog is a social media tool, which again, some people would consider to be a marketing venture and others, PR.

    To avoid picking sides, I’ll say that it is all a part of PR. You are putting yourself out to the online world and connecting with your buyers, making “Public Relations” public again. Your blog and other social media tools help to craft your image online; they also help to make it easier for others to talk about you online and to share your content.

    The only real way to define PR is to define advertising, which is the actual purchasing of space online, space in publications, etc. PR involves getting that space for free.

  2. If someone came to you and said, “I want to do PR for a career” what are some characteristics you would tell them are necessary? Why?

    - Excellent writing skills. (Or at least a network of great writes that can help you learn to write, edit your work in the beginning, and assist you in your career journey.) Writing is such a large component of PR; a press release, a blog post, a speech, these are all writing based. Everything one does in PR involves writing, so the PR professional must be very good at this task. The reputation and brand of the company or client the PR professional represents depends on this writing being good.Personable. You need to connect with the public, media, and your buyers.

    Attentive. To detail, emotions, and one’s overall surroundings.

    Understanding. This goes hand in hand with the above; don’t push a customer, understand their needs and needs of the media when you are talking to them, and be understanding of the way the company you work for or represents affects the community at large.

    Common sense. This is necessary in all aspects of business, but even more so in PR. The PR professional is the face of the company, or in other cases the “behind-the-scenes” worker helping to mold the face of the company to prepare for a speech, press conference, interview, etc. PR professionals need to watch what they say and how they say, and know that all eyes are on them and the executives they help.

  3. Do you see any similarities between the PR and journalism fields? If not, what do you see as the main differences?

    Yes; they both involve a great amount of writing. The main difference: journalists are writing on companies whereas PR is getting those journalists to write about their company/client.

  4. How would you respond to people who say that PR has an agenda involved?

    PR is agenda orientated, at least it should be; why would a company create a PR plan without an agenda? That’s philanthropy. PR is meant to advance a company and connect with the public, which is a pretty good agenda to me. It being controversial is a bit silly, as most companies do it for the recognition. Where companies can differentiate themselves is by doing things to create PR without the intent of creating PR. That’s a fine line, too, though.

    While there ought to be other reasons to partake in PR than profits or sales, that is the overall end results companies are looking for when they embark on any PR campaign or venture.

  5. What measures (if any) do you use to determine whether a PR campaign is successful?

    I’ll answer this with a blog post I did not too long ago that can be applied to evaluating the ROI on any PR activity.

    1. Google Analytics. This free tool can help you track traffic, traffic sources, and keyword statistics. This is crucial to your understanding of what is and what is not working online. You can determine if your efforts are paying off by seeing if your press releases, networking with other bloggers and getting them to link to your site, and participating on Twitter and Facebook are bringing traffic to your blog or website. Though this is the most frequently used tactic to measure the ROI of social networking efforts, there are other methods.

    2. Measuring traffic is an important way to measure ROI, but another method not used as frequently is to measure “soft metrics” that includes participation on your blog or forum, engagement with your online profiles/ social networking sites, and WOM (word of mouth). This is part of an active PR plan that monitors your online brand.

    3. Try searching for your blog, website, or company in Google. How are you faring? Having great content that changes and is linked to by other sites can increase your search engine rankings, which can result in more traffic. If they are not ranking highly, give it some time; seeing results and being able to determine any ROI takes patience. The Internet, though instantaneous in many ways, has a bit of a delay when it comes to seeing your pagerank (from Google), Alexa rating, and search result appearances. Know that creating great content and utilizing the right tools is the best way to ensure your website’s success.

    4. Conduct research and simply ask your customers what they think. This can help you to really pinpoint what your customers are feeling and what areas you can improve upon.

    5. Lastly, and perhaps in a more trivial manner, measure your followers on Twitter, Facebook, and now foursquare; for a brick and mortar company, foursquare can be a great way to measure your ROI and PR effectiveness.

  6. What are advantages of working in the PR field today?

    The Internet makes PR a more accessible field to work in, meaning that more and more people can learn and work their way up that learning curve to advance their experience and knowledge. In the past, you had to work hard to foster relationships with just the media; now, you are working to foster relationships with the media, your buyers directly, and others in your industry to help advance your PR efforts.

  7. What are some disadvantages or challenges of working in the field?

    Along the same lines, there is now more to do as a PR professional; there are more places where that PR person needs to be spending their time because the Internet has opened new avenues and opportunities for PR to be done internally, by the company, and without the help of media. That isn’t to say that media is unimportant, however; they are. There’s still a lot of value to having something like an article in the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal.

  8. Where do you see the field of PR going in the future? How do you think it will change or stay the same?

    I’m not really sure; I think marketing and PR will continue to merge, and more and more companies are going to jump on the PR and social media bandwagons because it is so easy to implement. That ease doesn’t solidify their ability to maintain it, as we’ve seen in blogging and other social media platforms, but getting things started is easier than ever because you don’t need a PR boutique/firm to do it for you; you can bypass the media, connecting with your buyers directly.

    Moreover, you can have a two-way conversation with your buyers, which is something new and very valuable. I’m sure there are many changes coming, and the younger generations are going to help shape that for sure. Preferences are changing and so are peoples’ views of the world; this will definitely help to shape the way PR is done.

Want to add your take on one of the above topics? Feel free to do so in the comments!

Public Relations and Marketing | Your Online Presence

May 7th, 2010
Marketing and PR have merged, thanks to the wonders of the Internet. As such, businesses should have some sort of presence online, whether it be a website, blog, or network ID to comment on other blogs or forums. Instead of letting others dictate what your name means online, get involved. It is a great way to reach the people that are looking for your services and products, as more and more people are online. As these online, savvy consumers search for answers, reviews, and tips to convince them to make a move, your company can answer that call. David Meerman Scott, author of “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” writes, “Content drives action”.
My father is a small business owner who is often troubled by months with little business. He is a contractor who more often than not works outside, and as such, he is inundated with business in Summer, and sits idly in the cold Fall, Winter and early Spring. I’ve suggested to him that a website or blog would help with his attempts at filling empty months. Despite there being a great deal of seasonality in the industry he works, extending his reach may guarantee work in the slow months.
What a website could do for him is immeasurable. He realizes that he will not be able to do the work he does for the rest of his life. It’s tough, manual labor, and he really ought to consider expanding. He first needs the demand, which is where the Internet comes in. But simply having an online presence won’t guarantee that you reach more customers.
Scott wrote about an experience he had when looking for a new car, a similar process I am now going through. He was put off by the big car companies and their lack of person-ability on their sites. I asked myself, “Why would a company with such a large, real-world presence, not want to offer the things that customers seek out most, like reviews, pictures, forums, and other ways to really learn about the products they sell?”
Why do we assume that big companies need boring and often times stale websites? It seems to be protocol to have a clean, professional website that is devoid of any actual content from customers. It is an advertising portal for companies who are trying to get our attention. Like Scott stated, if we are already at your site, you have already captured our attention. There is no need to inundate visitors with advertisements, TV commercials, or pitches. Offer some networking capabilities, some real, live, personal touches, and your website will no longer be an advertising portal, but a useful tool for potential and current customers to network, talk about your products, and probably sell more of your product than your advertising may have ever done.
The Internet has greatly changed the way Marketing and PR are done. Being personable, real, and a resource to consumers will help your online (and offline) journey as a business.