Pop quiz: Do you know marketing from PR? Both seek to shine the most flattering light on your business, and both aim to boost sales. So is there a difference? You bet.
The two go hand in hand, but ultimately, each serves a different function. Marketing promotes and sells products or services. Public relations, on the other hand, promotes the brand itself. PR works to maintain a positive public image and control the brand’s public narrative by communicating its values and goals. Both marketing and PR drive sales, but the latter allows more control of brand message.
Take a look at Martha Stewart. When she spoke at a roast of Justin Bieber, she referenced her time in prison, including tips and tricks to survive. The audience loved it. She (and the rest of us) can laugh about the incident now, but flash back to her five-month sentence for insider trading fraud, and the domestic mogul’s brand reputation was seriously on the line.
Instead of a tarnished reputation, however, she spun the negative situation into a positive — shining her own light on prison, an otherwise dim environment, with her domestic charm. The American public seemed to find her more endearing, and she actually profited while behind bars. That’s PR.
Now, imagine if Martha Stewart’s team had taken a marketer’s approach. Instead, they may have focused on promoting her products and magazine rather than concentrating on the face of the brand: Martha herself. It would have looked like a desperate cover-up, not a winsome makeover.
One of those approaches is far more image-focused than the other. So if it’s a strong brand reputation you’re after, pass up those marketing gurus — you want a PR whiz.
Taking the PR Plunge
PR pros can help you tighten your brand story and relay it to the public, creating a great brand image or repairing a less-than-perfect one. But lay your brand’s foundation before asking for help building an empire.
Consider hiring one only after you’ve completed the following for your brand:
- Pinpoint your brand’s value drivers.It’s a PR firm’s job to make your image sparkle, but even the best gurus need something to build from. Know what makes your brand stand out. What problem are you solving, and for whom? What does your brandvalue? If you can’t answer those questions, you’ll have a hard time finding a PR representative that can really nurture your brand’s image. Communicating your business’s value drivers should be the easiest part of working with a firm.
- Don’t be your own worst enemy.A stronger brand is a faster-growing brand, so you need to be prepared to scale. Inventory or service capacity should be easily accomplished for any audience size, and you should have room to grow your internal operations, too. Your PR efforts are designed to grow your business, so make sure you’re ready for that growth. If you aren’t, you’re only standing in your own way.
- Don’t let yourteam hinder you, either. Your business is only as good as your people. Recognize the potential of your brand with a dedicated team. For newer leaders, seek out a mentor or hire another professional to lead before bringing on PR. Startups are great at collaboration and forming their own networks. Once your network’s efforts are exhausted, a PR firm may be the next step.
- Dream up your ideal PR pro, then find her. Once you’ve covered the basics, you’re ready to start looking for your guru. Knowing what your PR goals are will help steer you toward the right pro.
If your goals are varied, look for an agency with a deep network to fill all your needs. Mitchell, for instance, is part of Dentsu Aegis Network — which is comprised of various brands that handle all kinds of business needs, from media buying to creative to PR.
You’ll also want to think about whether your brand needs an agency or someone in-house who knows your business. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach — you’ll need to discover what works for your brand.
When you’ve built a business, you’re no stranger to navigating uncharted territory, and taking the PR plunge is no different. Know your brand and your goals, find your unicorn PR pro, and watch your brand’s image go further than you could have imagined.