Public relations (PR) is a term we use a lot. We talk about public relations campaigns and strategies, effective ways to promote our brands and methods to increase traffic, but one thing we too seldom talk about is what public relations actually means to the customer and why it’s so important for business.
Corporations and public relations firms toss around phrases like “closing the marketing credibility gap” and “building brand equity” when describing the role of public relations. That language sounds exciting, but it doesn’t get to the heart of what we are actually talking about.
For that, we need look no further than the plain meaning of the two words: public relations simply means communicating and building relationships with people—the public. Simply put, it’s every way our businesses interact with people—and not just in advertising!
Why is this so important? Because without people, we wouldn’t be in business! That may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s something some companies are losing sight of. I read an article in last month’s issue of The New Yorker that describes how companies facing financial problems in a tough market are quick to axe customer service. Not good! This may offer some short-term financial relief, but it damages brands in the long run. Customer service does not necessarily equal what we usually call public relations, but you can probably see where this is going.
How our businesses interact with people—be they regular customers or potential customers—is a direct reflection of our company’s brand. Through compromising customer service or ignoring people with shoddy PR, a business sends the message that it doesn’t care. This is why effective public relations is so important.
These days, a lot of consumers are finding advertising campaigns less compelling than they used to, no matter how clever those ads may be! That means we have to think about new and smart ways to reach people. The Web is just one of the many tools we have nowadays, but it’s an incredibly effective one. Through social media, for example, we can connect with people in ways that just weren’t possible ten years ago.
The heart of public relations is reaching people on a personal level. Web surfers don’t just get online to find simple information anymore. They log on to talk to one another, to read blogs their cousins write about the newest members of the family, to write restaurant reviews, and so on.
The point I’m trying to make is that people use the Web to interact, not just to consume. That gives us, as businesses, a fabulous opportunity to reach out and interact with them as well. People expect that these days, which is why now, more than ever, it is so important to work on our public relations strategies.
So I encourage you to think about how you are reaching out to people—not just in advertising, but also in every aspect of your business. In the long run, it will make your brand stronger.