One of the conversations taking place with small businesses these days explores the benefits of PR versus traditional marketing.
Traditional marketing often encompasses big budgets, ad buys and keeping a watchful eye on the results of a campaign to measure its success and understand its return on investment.
But traditional marketing has another hill to climb when it comes to the fickle users of online ads. Jakob Nielsen’s concept of banner blindness came about through eye-tracking research, in which he ultimately found that “users rarely look at display advertisements [like popup ads and dialog boxes] on websites.”* And even if users did pause to look at an ad, they “typically didn't engage with the advertisement.”*
This grim finding doesn’t mean there is never a useful place for traditional marketing. But it does beg the question: is there another way?
That’s where PR comes in.
Though the lines between marketing and PR often blur, at the heart of PR is the idea of building relationships between a company and the public—traditionally via the media-- and now through people searching for products and services online. In fact, marketing in small business really is about PR. Here’s why:
The purpose of PR is to get your company’s name in front of key audiences and influencers (e.g., media, bloggers and consumers), so that when they speak favorably about your company’s products, services, people or initiatives, it will help attract potential customers to your business and keep existing customers interested. Practically speaking, PR focuses on promoting your company, establishing your company’s identity, and maintaining credibility—all with the intention of building an engaged and happy customer base.
Your PR efforts can be accomplished in several savvy ways (without that giant, marketing-type budget):
- Reach out to the local press to get a story or a mention (i.e., newspapers, TV and radio stations, trade publications and other news outlets in your area).
- Gather customer testimonials and endorsements by using an online tool like Get Satisfaction which facilitates getting feedback about your products, customer service and web presence. Or, seek out a positive comment about your company by an outside expert in your industry.
- Share a public appearance by a company representative—on a TV or radio show, for example—by posting the piece on your website for your audience to view at their leisure.
- Establish experts from your company by profiling them through a service like PR Newswire’s Profnet, so that the media will know they are a credible source to go to when doing research or looking for quotes for their stories. Use those same experts to educate and inform the public through speaking engagements, conferences and tradeshows.
- Learn how to develop a social media presence, and discover which social networks (such as Facebook or Twitter) can specifically help your business generate sales leads and consumer buzz.
One of the most tried-and-true PR tools out there, the press release, can help accomplish all of the above. When a press release is well written and targeted to the specific media and influencers most interested in your news (and therefore most likely to write and talk about it), the press release is able to reach the potential customers you’re after.
And because the Internet stores news and information, your business becomes findable by potential customers searching for products and services like yours long after the initial press release is sent. This online shelf life serves you well in building your customer base since a person’s need for your product or service may resonate with them weeks or even months after the press release has posted.
Best of all, with several budget-friendly online press release services available, such as PR Newswire’s iReach, sending a press release can have a relatively low upfront cost with an often big ROI.
So the next time you’re thinking about purchasing an ad and letting it run for three months before you know whether or not it “worked,” consider what PR can do for your small business. And remember that PR really can accomplish what traditional marketing sets out to do when you use PR for promotion, credibility and establishing the identity of your brand and business.
Looking for broad online syndication of your content?
iReach from PR Newswire can help. Click here to find out more.
*Source: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/banner-blindness.html, Aug. 20, 2007