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Why the Marketing Department May Be Sabotaging Your PR Campaign

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Have you ever been in a relationship where you feel like you were being used for just one thing that you do really well, and ignored for all your other qualities? Maybe it’s your cooking, or your ability to make money or your access to key contacts. No offense to my marketing friends, but I often feel like public relations (PR) is in one of those bad relationships with marketing, and just like the person who stays in the bad relationship, it’s kind of the PR person’s fault that the marketing department is using them to sell their stuff.

The goal of marketing is sales. The goal of PR is developing relationships. Ideally, you need both; but each tool has a different approach and objective and therefore, should have a different measurement for success. To avoid turning your PR program into a sales job for marketing, stay focused on the benefits of PR and use it in aspects of your business that can help support your marketing efforts, not solve the company’s sales problems. Here are some ways in which PR—when used properly—can be a great asset to your company’s marketing and sales efforts.

Earning Media Coverage

The key word here is “earning.” Media coverage can be confusing these days because many news outlets are crossing the line between advertising and publicity. Instead of the word advertising, TV producers may use the words “product placement” to pitch your company on the idea of buying your way on to a show or segment. However, true publicity coverage is earned, which means that you have to pitch a story to the news producer and make sure what you are pitching is not a straight commercial for your company. Whatever story you are pitching should be educational to the news outlet’s audience and ideally provide some new piece of information or story that was not previously known. The journalist has authority to report the information however he or she views the story, and if your information is enlightening and valuable in the eyes of the media, then you may earn your company some exposure. Earned media is valuable because it goes through the vetting process of journalists, thereby adding credibility to your product or company from the consumer perspective.

I recently secured a media placement for a client in Fast Company magazine. The journalist did her job on vetting the company and its products by conducting interviews with the company’s CEO and medical experts. After a lot of back and forth and follow-up questions with the company, the journalist published her story. The piece was not easy to land, but in the end, we earned a great, unbiased article from Fast Company that was overall favorable for the company and its products, which were featured prominently. After all this work, the company’s marketing director had a lot of critiques on the article and wanted me to go back and ask the journalist to fix and change wording to more perfectly match his perception of how the story should have been told, so he could, in turn, position the article more like an ad for his company to sell more product. Luckily, the CEO of the company intervened, having a better understanding of the value of PR and appreciating the fact that the article was not a puff piece, but actually gave the company and product more credibility.

Publicity coverage is not designed to provide an immediate return on investment that is easy to track in dollars and cents, like an advertisement can do, primarily because there is typically no direct call to action attached to media exposure. However, publicity helps the consumer in the discovery process of your product or company, which is priceless. Marketing can sabotage earned media coverage if there is an attempt to micromanage the outcomes or force a sales pitch before a trusted relationship is developed. The best way for marketing to leverage earned media coverage is by sharing the media directly with current customers or retailers, as told by the journalist, to strengthen credibility and loyalty to the brand and engage interest from new customers and retailers.

Creating Brand Loyalty

Relationships can be tough, whether we are talking personal or business. In either scenario, there will be good times and bad times. How do you keep that relationship going in tough times? How do you maintain your position with the person when a new shiny object makes an entrance? Creating loyalty to yourself or your brand is based on the strength of the relationship. There are many ways you can build bonds through PR to create brand loyalty. Send a gift or thank you card after a purchase, always remember birthdays and send a special message or reward to celebrate, or create your own appreciation day or event to honor your customers and thank them in a memorable way.

Marketing can sabotage brand loyalty programs by not allowing a flexible budget for impromptu relationship building opportunities. Not giving your team a budget or authority to show appreciation to customers or clients without prior consent or approval can create a mindset of greed versus generosity. To maintain control of your budget but still allow for creativity in relationship building, create a budget in advance that your team is allowed to spend without management approval. Starbucks, as an example, is a company that has created a lot of brand loyalty for some high-priced coffee and tea. They give you a free drink on your birthday and on any given day, even during rush hour, if your drink is not made exactly to your specifications they will make you another drink right away without stopping to get approval from a manager first. Developing loyal relationships eventually lead to testimonials from customers about their experience with the company, which is something marketing can use to close new deals and engage new audiences.

Motivating Team Members

A company is only as successful as its team, and if your team doesn’t feel valued, supported or appreciated, they won’t be there long and neither will your product. Having a healthy internal PR program can remedy high turnover and productivity problems.

First, take inventory of your work environment. Is it appealing and motivating? Do you look forward to coming to work every day or does it need a massive makeover? I was once asked out on a date from someone who worked at Google. I almost turned him down because he proposed that we meet at the Google New York offices for our date. Considering this was well after work hours, I thought it was extremely odd, but my curiosity was killing me so I went along with the plan. I now understand why people love to work at Google and spend long hours there—multiple floors of New York themed décor, coolers filled with beverages and food no more than 1,500 feet in every direction you turn, rooftop sun decks with amazing views, libraries and Lego stations. Not only did Google create a great work environment for its employees, they made their offices date worthy. All this attention to detail and expense is for Google employees only, and their lucky guests. You will not see the inside of Google’s offices plastered on social media because you have to sign a release form before you enter stating that you will not take pictures. This is a situation where the marketing department may be tempted to sabotage this employee benefit by “showing the world how cool it is to work at Google,” but instead Google uses its private office environment to motivate employees and make them feel special.

Maybe you aren’t at the level of Google. My company certainly is not, in fact my team works from their own virtual offices in different locations across the country, but once a year I fly all of them into New York City for an appreciation party and to experience the energy of the city. Other ways you can strengthen relationships and motivate team members include giving them unexpected paid time off, sending a card or gift on their company anniversary, birthday or other life event, or recognizing them publicly in front of clients or the rest of your team. Committed and happy team members produce better, quality work for your company—something that marketing can benefit from by showcasing exemplary work to create new business.

PR is a great tool for marketing if used properly. Good PR can pave the way for earning great media coverage about your company or product, cultivating a dedicated following of loyal customers and inspiring and motivating your team to produce their best work. However, all this can be sabotaged if the marketing department is too impatient when it comes to return on investment. You can’t rush a relationship if you want it to produce lasting, meaningful results. In the end, it’s the responsibility of PR professionals to remind their counterparts about the benefits of good relationships and how this contributes to the bottom line. And it’s the marketing professional’s job to set PR up for success by using it the way it was always intended. NIE

Amy Summers launched Pitch Publicity in 2003 in the face of a rapidly changing climate for communication and media relations. She has 20 years of experience working with major clients in the natural products industry to increase visibility and exposure to targeted audiences through national publicity exposure across all mass media outlets, high-level fundraising campaigns and developing key strategic communication strategies. She serves on the board of directors of the University of Florida Alumni Association and the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications Public Relations Advisory Council. Pitch Publicity is based in New York, NY. Receive free daily pitch tips from “The Pitch with Amy Summers” flash briefing on Amazon’s Alexa, Google Play, iTunes and Podbean: www.pitchpublicitynyc.com/ThePitch. For more information, visit www.pitchpublicitynyc.com.

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