Eight hours of mind-numbing Super Bowl ads reminded me how true public relations is different from hype.
PR isn’t advertising. I joked about this a couple weeks ago in my “What do you do for work?” blog. Advertising exists to sell. Advertisers can communicate whatever they want (within reason) because they pay for it. They can decide what to say, where to say it and how often they want to repeat themselves. It’s a controlled process. PR is more uncontrolled, but highly personal and believable. Here's an interesting exercise: think of the top five Super Bowl ads you liked, try to remember the advertiser name and reflect on whether any of them motivated you to take action.
PR isn’t best at awareness building. There are lots of ways to build awareness. Advertising does a great job with this. So does direct marketing, events, paid sponsorships, newsletters, RSS feeds and product placements. While PR is excellent at building awareness, its secret sauce is building credibility.
PR isn’t narrow, it’s broad. It’s in the name; PR is all about relationships. Properly practiced, PR takes into account every single stakeholder (or “public” as the PR industry calls it) your organization deals with in its daily life. Employees (your brand ambassadors); local communities; partners; stockholders; local/state/federal government; analysts; consumers; reporters; analysts; customers and prospects.
PR isn’t self-serving, it’s serving others – An organization earns a trusted reputation with each stakeholder by acting in their best interests – not just for its own myopic agenda. When you listen, care, are transparent and consistently deliver value, your company’s reputation grows.
PR isn’t sales, but it influences sales. Think about the process of buying a new car. Which is more persuasive – (A) a flashy TV ad and sales circular or (B) a test ride editorial review and word-of-mouth from a friend? Nearly everyone would choose (B) because it’s more objective and trustworthy.
PR isn’t one-way, it’s two-way. When you push out an email blitz, hang sponsorship banners or issue a news release, these are examples of one-way communication. Your company has something to say, and you say it. By contrast, PR is an open-loop system. The goal isn’t simply to communicate, but rather to be understood and believed. You want to engage in a conversation, not just shout from the mountaintop.
PR is less about mind and more about heart - When two parties trust and respect each other, something special happens. Caring breeds understanding. Understanding fosters believability. Believability yields a positive reputation. A positive reputation feeds brand loyalty. Brand loyalty blossoms business success.
PR isn’t fabricated, it’s real. The technology industry learned a valuable lesson with the dot com bust. If you spin stories that aren’t true, this fabric doesn’t survive many wash cycles. Effective PR isn’t rooted in hype. People eventually figure out untrue, unfounded claims. And when they do, it comes back to haunt a company’s reputation.
PR isn’t about me, it’s about you. People become loyal over time when a positive experience is consistently repeated. To become a valued brand, a company/product/ service must become a personal thing – an individual experience – that feeds their own needs. Great PR thoughtfully triggers this kind of attitudinal transformation.
PR isn’t publicity. Yes, it can generate wonderful levels of media visibility, but PR is de-positioning itself if solely focused on media coverage. C-level execs care about their ultimate strategic business endgame. Their view of PR increases exponentially - from a tactic to a highly positive, critical corporate need – when it helps them measurably improve business relationships and get them where they really want to go.