How a multi-disciplinary approach does so much more than earn press coverage
After wearing many hats within marketing throughout my career, including digital marketing, campaigns and events, I started at Konica Minolta in early 2019 in a much more focused role as their Public Relations Manager. Admittedly, I feared missing out on the marketing aspects of work I enjoyed so much, and wondered if I might not be challenged in such a specific role. Not to mention the fact that public relations (PR) ranked #8 in CareerCast’s 2019 Top Stressful Jobs Report. What was I getting myself into? Two years later, I am happy to say my trepidation was completely unwarranted. By taking a creative approach and integrating my role within our greater Marcomms team, I found ways to not only extend the reach of our PR messaging and build our brands, but help to support our sales teams and generate leads.
Being accustomed to measuring response rates, conversions, registrations and attendance, I was eager to prove the value of my function through tangible results. There are plenty of tried and true ways to measure PR impact that are still valuable, including share of voice, sentiment, earned media and Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE). AVE measures ROI by multiplying the amount of ad space or seconds mentioned on a broadcast network by the medium’s advertising rate to show what the exposure would have cost, which can be nice to show in reporting. Earned media – publicity gained through promotional efforts not paid for – offers long-term gain from brand awareness, exposure and credibility for the company, its product and services and its executives. A lot of time and hard work goes into earned opportunities, as compared to running paid advertising for example, but the payoff can be huge.
But what I have come to learn over the past two years is that PR ROI is not just exposure and sentiment anymore, but tying efforts directly to sales. So how do you generate ROI and support sales when you are not running campaigns that generate leads directly? From my experience, there are three significant ways PR can serve brands beyond press mentions, interviews and reputation management. The following outlines these methods that use the power of PR to expand on traditional PR efforts to generate leads and ultimately, impact sales.
- Build buzz through third-party credibility and word-of-mouth recommendations
One way this can be done is through awards and research. Attaching “award-winning” to a product or service really gives a marketing message a boost of credibility. But simply stating you are “the best” lacks substance if there is not a well-respected third party backing up your statement.
Notably, there are as many awards out there as you would care to spend time on. Many research and analyst companies also have awards programs, as well as in-depth reports on products and services, comparing offerings of competitors and revealing their strengths and weaknesses based on testing. Engaging with these firms and participating in their research projects often results in high rankings for your products that can be a strong selling tool for sales.
So consider applying for awards that endorse a product. But beyond that, there are individual awards that executives can add to their bios, that recognize your company as a “great place to work” or for sustainability or philanthropic efforts. Securing awards is also a good opportunity to send a press release. But it should also be used in marketing campaigns, social promotions, collateral and by sales teams in presentations. Awards aside, third party recommendations can also be acquired by engaging with Influencers.
Incorporating influencers into your PR plans is another sure-fire way to extend your reach and create buzz. PR Daily describes influencers as mini media companies, with good influencers having solid audience engagement, an authentic origin story and a well-defined editorial focus. With that in mind, press are regularly invited to our events, not just press conferences, and I often work with our events team to recruit our press and analysts to participate in panel discussions and Q&A sessions. Well-known names not only drive registrations, but qualified leads.
- Build brand awareness around products, services, corporate reputation
Behind every PR campaign is of course, a press release. But many companies have a send-it-and-forget mentality, when there is so much more that can be done. Using a PR distribution service is great for brand awareness, but press interviews come from targeting and pitching to a select group who will interested in the story. And always be sure to include multi-media. Press releases are much more likely to be of interest to the press to share if there is something visual. Readers want to see photos, infographics – videos are king! – all of these lend additional interest and above all, credibility.
Every press release should also live somewhere on the company’s website, ideally on a dedicated page or newsroom. Maximize efforts by collaborating with your social media team, who can push the press release out and link back to your website. Similarly, blog content can serve so many purposes, especially for PR, by educating potential customers on ways to solve business challenges while subtly pushing your own solution.
Blogs can put the right story into the hands of the press and other influencers. Developing a blog post to accompany a product-driven press release can really catapult your message and go far to position your subject matter experts (SME) as thought leaders. Optimizing the content for SEO, pushing out on social channels and sharing related blogs with the press can go a long way. As a result of this strategy, I have been approached a number of times by trade press – even without a pitch – requesting permission to publish blogs written by our product and service experts.
- Use thought leadership to steer market thinking and engage with customers in a non-sales environment
In 2020, when in-person meetings became impossible, our marketing team became laser-focused on hosting virtual events. Tapping into our influential press, analysts and other prominent organizations, we also partnered to produce and market educational events for our dealers and customers. These partnerships gave us a seat at the table, gained exposure for our thought leaders, but most importantly, generated leads. These co-sponsored events gained an extraordinary amount of attention and interest. An event with one of our analyst partners, International Data Corporation (IDC), yielded 595 registrants and 350 attendees, one of the highest attended of the 60+ events we hosted last year. In collaboration with WORKTECH, an event production company focused on innovation and technology in the workplace, we hosted an event with 380 registrants and well over 200 attendees.
Most recently, we launched a dealer roundtable series as a way to maintain dialogue with our key dealers in a workshop forum as we had previously done with live dealer events. The roundtables are moderated by our analyst partner, BPO Media, with 8-10 dealers and a few Konica Minolta executives and SMEs based on the topic area. These invitation-only events offer the chance for an exchange of ideas, to discuss challenges and more. The dealers that have participated have found them extremely valuable and appreciate the opportunity for access to our experts as well as their peers.
Overall, PR efforts are key part of the mix to help impact on your sales teams by earning credibility for the products, services and solutions they are trying to sell. In turn, sales people can be an excellent resource for a PR manager to obtain real examples of customer wins, which can be used both in PR content and to add color to press pitches. Being creative with a well-rounded PR program can really help a company stand out among its competitors and in the press, and definitely keeps things challenging.