A strategic PR program should provide a business or nonprofit organisation with a solid foundation from which it can functionally operate more effectively in other areas.
Take sales and marketing, for example. If people need to be educated about your product, service or cause before they are willing to commit, PR can help pave the way. If people already know, like and trust your brand, this can help reduce the sales cycle.
The same goes for advertising and promotions. PR can work organically day in and day out, all year round, getting people talking about your brand and keeping it top of mind with consumers. It can fill in the gaps between intermittent paid-for advertising campaigns as well as build a solid base that will make your promotional activities work harder.
There are countless other scenarios that illustrate the benefits of public relations.
Positive word of mouth, fueled by PR activity, can help drive business growth through strategic partnerships and alliances.
Recruitment of talent becomes easier if people are drawn to your organisation, thanks in part to your PR efforts. Employee retention, too, becomes easier. If people constantly hear positive stories about their employer or if they better understand it, thanks to transparent communication from the top down, they will generally feel better about working there.
You get the idea.
I’m definitely not saying PR is solely responsible for all of these areas of operation. But done with conviction and strategic intent, PR can definitely play a significant, influential role over the long term.
Brand Vs Reputation
PR has its fingertips on both brand and reputation.
Done well, it can help lay the foundation for a more sustainable and intentional corporate, organizational or personal reputation. Let’s face it: Reputation is paramount in today’s always-on, digital-first world. But so, too, is brand. It’s easy to confuse the two and important to understand the distinction.
Ideally, in my view, you build a brand and a business on the back of a strong reputation, and you use the credibility and consistency of your reputation to attract the people, the investors, the leaders, the media interest and the stakeholder support needed to resource the organization and its brand(s).
BOOM! A brilliant summation right there by Mr. Di Somma.
Meanwhile, Richard Ettenson and Jonathan Knowles write in MIT Sloan Management Review that many executives talk about corporate reputation and brand as if they are one and the same. They are not, and confusing the two can lead to costly mistakes. They say:
The strength of a brand depends on how well it has fulfilled its promise to customers over time. A company’s reputation is affected by a variety of factors, including not just its management strength, financial performance and innovativeness but also its treatment of employees, efforts in workplace diversity, handling of ethical issues and commitment to the environment.
Ettenson and Knowles cite the example of NIKE, Inc., as a business that focused heavily on its brand. However, allegations of sweatshop labor and discriminatory employment practices led the company to the brink of a damaging consumer boycott of its products.
The lesson? A strong brand does not necessarily equate with a good reputation.
Suffice to say, strategic public relations can strengthen both a company’s brand and its reputation. In turn this means that any content marketing that’s part of a PR effort can be used to enhance both brand and reputation.
In order to thrive and prosper in today’s connection economy, companies, nonprofit organizations, government agencies and personal brand-based businesses need to establish, build, enhance and safeguard a reputation that’s both recognised and respected.
They also need to have a trusted brand that stands out amid the glut of information.
A strong reputation will enhance purchase consideration, which is obviously important if you’re in the business of selling goods and services. But it has a powerful knock-on effect as well.
If your business is constantly engaged in the battle for talent, a solid reputation will help you attract high-quality employees.
If raising capital or attracting investment partners is your goal, your reputation has a key role to play here.
If you’re a nonprofit and your goal is to galvanize public opinion behind your cause and spur increased funding or donations, then a strong reputation needs to be a cornerstone of your organisation’s existence.
So next time you think about PR for your business or organisation, by all means keep one eye on generating positive media exposure – an activity most people associate with public relations – but also think more expansively about how you can deepen the connection you have with the people who matter most to the success of your business, cause or issue.