As I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, the Internet has created an amazing amount of potential for PR practitioners and marketers. There are many benefits (and a few drawbacks) that the Internet has provided, but the main change that has come about is the ability to reach niche markets. These niche markets were often ignored markets that dealt with what the mass majority was being marketed to with, and at times found their particular needs met by a small brick-and-mortar company who took the time and accepted the risks that came with catering to a niche market. Because of the risk involved in targeting niche markets, these markets were often forgotten and never catered to. Now, these markets can get the attention they’ve long been lacking.
Niche markets can be a great potential market for your company to enter. They attract customers from the mass market they belonged to before their needs were unmet; they also help the larger market to grow. The more customers’ whose needs can be filled in a niche market, the more demand there will be for those products, thus encouraging companies to continue catering to niche market needs.
The best thing niche markets can do you is to give your company a entrance into the market. If you have a new product you would like to introduce into the market, start by focusing on a niche market where you can provide the best support you can. This will create a customer base who can give testimonials and recommendations. After catering to the niche market, you can move on to other parts of the larger market (or other small niches) and do the same thing. You can also group your product with other services or products from other companies to make it more applicable to the larger market. From there, outperform the competition; take over their niche market share; and offer something better.
This process can lead to market domination. If your end goal is not to dominate a market, then stay in your niche. With reduced costs, the Internet provides the ability to reach more and more people with less resources and in less time than traditional marketing or PR. Niches can be reached because they can be sought out; they can also find you. The Internet makes it possible for customers to come to you who offers exactly what they’re looking for. Niche markets can be infiltrated more easily than in the past, making your entrance to the larger market easier and faster. So take advantage of the reduced costs; take on that small risk to cater to a niche that you may have particular interest or expertise in and see where that can lead you.
What other reasons prove the importance of niche markets?
An integral part of your public relations efforts is the PR campaign. The PR campaign is the living, breathing final product of your research, brainstorming, and creation. As such, your PR campaign needs to be researched, thought out, focused, and realistic.
During a campaign, you “go live” with your press releases, news stories, and strategies. Some may define this as an advertising campaign (which sort of defeats the purpose of calling it a PR campaign); to have a successful PR campaign, you must advertise yourself in a sense, but it requires more that your PR efforts are successful. This means that your press releases, news and media contacts are in place, and that your strategies are well crafted for your company. That requires that a few things happen before you start your campaign:
- Do your research. As I mention for every PR effort, research is the backbone of any success you garner. (If you are able to consistently succeed without research, we need to talk; you may have magical powers.) Forward thinking requires that you know how to properly anticipate needs, demand, and your ability to supply for those needs. In order to know that, you must do your homework. You can do this two ways: with primary research and secondary research. Primary research is research you conduct on your own with surveys, focus groups, etc. Secondary research is simply the use of research already conducted, like the census, study reports, customer reviews on other websites, etc. Use this research to help you identify the next steps in your campaign.
- Know your target audience. This also includes a knowledge and understanding of anyone that may be included in the public that will receive your message. Even if they are not buyers of your product, they may become potential buyers. Tailor your message for your target audience, but don’t disregard others not included in that audience. Know the public and know how your campaign will affect them. This can help you to anticipate future issues, needs, etc.
- Know the stakeholders. This includes anyone who takes an interest in the campaign, like company executives, shareholders, employees, etc. These people need to be defined so that you can properly share with them the campaign, get them on board, and get their support. They also should be updated with the campaign’s results as they are realized.
- Know the market situation. Research other companies; define market elasticity; know your competitors; recognize opportunities and ignored markets; etc. This is the place for you to really see where your services can be used, how you can craft your messages/strategies, and how you can gain market share with your PR efforts. Overall, this gives you a good overview of the entire “forest” so that you can better implement your campaign.
- Know your limitations. This includes knowing your resources, such as your time, budget, and the abilities of your team. If you need to hire na external company or firm to help with your PR campaign, do it. The repercussions of an ill-planned campaign may be more detrimental than having to pay more for a well-planned campaign.
- Define your objectives. This needs to come from a well defined company objective/mission statement. If you company has not yet defined this in tangible measurements, this may be a good time to do so. If there are relevant objectives and a well defined mission, ensure that the campaign’s objectives are also in line with the overall company’s objectives.
- Define your message(s). These need to stem from the objectives you defined in the previous step. Ensure that these are things that you can create strategies from, as that is what you will be doing in the next step. These can include things like, “PublicRelationsBlogger is the best online resource for PR basics, definitions, tools, and more.” How do I send that message out? By creating great strategies.
- Define your strategies. Created from your messages defined above, ensure that these strategies in fact help you reach your objective; if they do not, they may be better saved for another campaign or simply removed altogether. From the example above, this could be, “Demonstrate PublicRelationsBlogger’s expertise through reviews, guest posts, and blog followers.” To do that, I need to define tactics next.
- Define the tactics you will use to achieve the strategies you seek. For the example above, I can contact other bloggers to review my blog, list my blog on review sites, ask other bloggers to let me write a guest post, etc. These tactics all help me reach the above strategy, which ties into my message I defined, which ties back into the campaign’s objectives. Create a few different messages to really go at your objectives from all different angles.
- Create a time line. This will help you define where and when to implement tactics. Be sure to take into account things like media deadlines, other events taking place, and other events the company has planned.
- Implement. After you’ve done the above, implement your campaign and see your hard work pay off. Remember that you must monitor and manage the campaign as it runs through its life cycle; if you’ve done the steps above, the less monitoring and need to editing of components of the campaign you’ll have to do when already in place than if you had simply thrown some tactics out there with an ill-defined message. Doing the right preparatory steps can make less work for you to do after implementation
- Evaluate your results. This is where you evaluate your success (or lack thereof). Really measure the results, where things need to change, and where you were really successful. This can help you create a great campaign next time.
Overall, the above needs to be realistic. Did you set your goals too high? Too low (which can also be a problem)? Having goals that are challenging yet possible to attain make you work hard and feel more accomplished after having achieved them. Ensure, too, that your budget reflects what you can and cannot do, and that your tactics are in accordance with that budget.
The Internet has greatly changed the way PR is done; it has made it easier, and more difficult at the same time, for PR practitioners, professionals, and businesses doing their own PR. On one hand, PR has become easier to implement because of the immediacy of sharing information. Moreover, audiences can now be reached directly rather than having to go through a media contact or publication (though those outlets are still useful sources of coverage and publicity, and large outlets are still seen as trustworthy sources of information).
On the other hand, the Internet has made it more difficult for PR professionals in the sense that there the audiences that can be reached now includes the public, which is a drastic change from the “old days” of PR. What that means then is that PR professionals need to learn how to reformat their messages to create new, interactive campaigns and PR plans, and get ready to partake in two-way conversations, which is another drastic change from the old ways of getting publicity and doing PR.
So, how do you keep up? By being aware of these changes and adapting your techniques accordingly. Ways to do this include the following:
- Recognizing the customers’ need to communicate with you. With the availability of that connection and communication taking place, (and especially other companies already doing it), your customers might expect you to be online and interacting with them there. With the tools available to you, this can be an easy step to implement. These include: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Buzz, foursquare, and others. A new networking site seems to pop-up every week with the hopes of going big like Twitter; evaluate each one in relation to your company and decide then if it makes to implement using them. Customers want to communicate and will gladly do so if you simply make it so that they can.
- Actually communicating with your customers. Initiating or offering the ability for your customers to communicate with you is not enough; you must actively engage them to keep them coming to you with ideas, complaints, and concerns. This will help prevent them from going elsewhere if they have a complaint, and often times the users of your products are the best sources for product improvements and changes. Moreover, this can be a great way to learn how to tailor messages and campaigns to better reach your audiences.
- See what your competition is up to. This can help you gauge where your campaign fits in. If you are able, find out the sort of success they are having. You can usually do this through financial reports (though attributing success to a PR campaign or plan can be a bit of a challenge), their blogs or websites, and through their news rooms and press coverage. With a little research you can see the effectiveness of their efforts and see where they’ve perhaps made mistakes. This is a great advantage of not being an incumbent company in an industry.
- Do your research. This is something I say for every aspect of business and every venture your company attempts (and I may be beating a dead horse here), but it as important here as it is in other areas of your business. This is the best way of having an educated approach to everything you do and can greatly increase your chances for success. For this sort of business action, do your research on the new (to you or the industry) tools available online.
- See what others in your industry are using. You may not use the same tools, but seeing where your competition is present online can help you to evaluate where you want to be present. Read up on the tools and try them out on your own before you publicly announce on your website or through a press release that you can be found on places like Twitter or Facebook. (Many blogs, including this one, can help you hear one interpretation of an online tool like foursquare.) Some of your loyal customers will find you without you needing to share your being on either platform, but know that doing some “behind the scenes” testing can help you to evaluate if you are, at the least, able to implement the tools into your business/PR plans.
- Read, read, read. Along the same lines of the point above of research, reading will help you to hear what the online world is saying about a particular topic and can give you many different opinions. Subscribe to Google Alerts, RSS feeds, and find sources of information that you enjoy reading. Also feel free and comfortable enough to ask questions; many bloggers encourage feedback. As a company trying to improve and adapt their PR plans, you, too, should welcome feedback to get your buyers/audiences engaged, which bloggers should also be doing. Just familiarize yourself so you can know the difference between spam comments and ones that truly offer something of value to your blog.
Overall, the online world is ever changing, and with it, PR techniques are changing. Keep yourself informed so that you can stay ahead (or at least inline) with the curve to keep your company on the forefront of that change.
What are some ways you keep up-to-date? Were there times you wish you have been more informed in an area?