by Paul MacKenzie-Cummins, Editor and Managing Director of Clearly – The PR & Marketing Communications firm for the recruitment industry
I recently attended a networking meeting – one of a number that I attend regularly. Only this one was aimed at marketers and those responsible for the marketing of their organisations, but not necessarily qualified markets themselves.
Before the evening’s main speaker took to the plinth to deliver their presentation I spent some time talking with various people in the room and getting to know a bit about them and the businesses they represent. What surprised me was the slightly quizzical look I was met with when I said I work in PR.
As a PR company networking is an essential part of our promotional strategy.
Around 1 in 4 of all our new business leads come from referrals made by contacts we have made over time at various networking events.
It works for us and is a great PR tactic that we use to great effect.
Yet even though pretty much everyone recognises ‘public relations’ as being one of the components within the marketing mix, few really understand what PR actually does – not even marketers.
For many people, PR is all about sending out press releases and hob-knobbing journalists and editors in a bid to win media coverage for our clients. That was the case…in the 1980s! But the world of PR has moved on apace since then.
Today, the humble press release – that traditional staple of the PR world – is fast-becoming obsolete. Indeed, in January 2015 Coca-Cola announced that it would no longer be using press releases as a PR tool. Others have since followed suit and we are now in an era of influencer marketing.
Traditionally consumers made purchasing decisions in response to adverts they had seen or heard. Not any longer. Rather, because consumers can better engage with brands,
consumers are increasingly making purchasing decisions based on their own experiences and those of others who have engaged with that brand.
As a result, the way that brands ‘sell’ to consumers has been turned on its head. And those organisations who continue to rely on what are now dated formats (such as press releases), will get left behind by the growing cohort of PR’s and marketers that are embracing the new rules of the game.
So what tactics constitute influencer marketing? Here are a few ideas to start you off:
- Social media – 70% of organisations increased their spend on social media last year and the more your brand is mentioned on social media, the more ‘discoverable’ you will be on Google
- Case studies – if you’re as good as you say, demonstrate it by showcasing previous campaigns you have worked
- Original blog articles – don’t aggregate all your content, it’s lazy. Be original and truly demonstrate that you ‘get’ the pain points of your customers and the challenges they face
- Thought leadership content – boost the personal brand of your senior management team with well-reasoned articles on your website, their LinkedIn page and within the media that is relevant to your sector
- Visuals – infographics, high resolution images for your blog and social media posts all contribute to a higher search engine ranking and increased social media shares
- White papers – if there is a particularly common challenge facing your sector that few of your peers have been able to offer a solution yet you can, then produce a white paper to position you and your organisation as a problem-solver and by default, as a leader in your field
- Speaker opportunities – like thought leadership the focus is on the key individuals within the organisation who can speak with authority at relevant sector and industry events
In short, it’s about building consumer trust, engaging with your audience and producing content that creates awareness of who you are and what you do. And crucially, answering the question, Why would I want to do business with you?
A study by McKinsey found that:
Word-of-mouth is “the primary factor behind 20-50% of all purchasing decisions.”
Their research found that a high-impact recommendation (such as from a trusted friend or colleague) is “up to 50 times more likely to trigger a purchase than a low-impact recommendation.”
It also found that sales generated as a direct result of word-of-mouth recommendation resulted in a 37% higher customer retention rate than those that didn’t.
The pressure to ensure the maximum return on your organisation’s promotional budget has never been greater. Advertising certainly works by generating an almost-immediate return on spend, but it rarely gets anywhere close to the social currency that can be earned through word-of-mouth third party endorsement.