Over the years, it’s become very clear in our business what distinguishes a successful PR client from one that never really makes it to the next level. All our successful clients have one very important thing in common: they have clearly articulated business goals and strategies that everyone supports, with PR and marketing smoothly integrated into those strategies.
Sounds oversimplified yes but an alarming amount of businesses simply don’t have measurable, clearly communicated goals.
Successful PR is built on the foundation of a solid brand, sound operations, a focussed sales team and good customer service both before and after a sale is made. But, if your brand isn’t well-defined, or there is a disconnection between the brand promise and the actual experience, all the small gains are never going to add up to a bigger whole.
Think about whether you can answer these questions: What are our business goals? What value do we offer to our customers? Who are our competitors? (and if your answer to that one is “we don’t have any”, go back and think again). What makes us unique? If you can’t respond to the questions immediately, or find that different people in the business give different answers, there is work to be done.
The reason why PR sometimes doesn’t reach its potential is simple: PR can amplify a brand, make it more visible and give it finesse – but PR alone cannot build a brand or create one out of thin air. PR can also not fundamentally change a brand, or pull a company out of a rut.
A brand is what others perceive and experience about a company, and that is created by the sum total of all their contacts with it. It takes clearly defined goals and a team.
If the rest of the business isn’t meeting its objectives, PR won’t help and can rapidly descend into ego-driven fodder that creates no real value. In fact, when the entire business is not aligned around a clear strategy, PR can do more harm than good. If your customers see a glowing image of your business painted in the media, and then their actual experience falls short, violated expectations are likely to leave them feeling angry and cynical.
A company can spend as much as it likes on advertising and signage and perky Twitter accounts – but in the end, its brand is determined by the quality of the service its customers receive. Do we fix problems, and avoid creating new ones? Do we deliver on time? Do we charge fairly and transparently? Are we honest and competent in all our dealings? Do we communicate effectively? If the answer to all those questions is Yes, we have a solid brand and PR can help us fly; if not, we’ll never realise its full value.
The good news is that if you can achieve this clarity about your business goals and what you have to offer, with the whole team on board, you’ll not only have the basis for a very successful PR campaign – you’ll have a better business all round.
Judith Middleton is CEO of DUO Marketing and Communications