In the digital world, public relations has become more important than ever before. Why? Because even if your customers are happy, upsetting the “Internet” or the “Twitterverse” can have devastating repercussions. Making your brand and good reputation known well beyond your customer group can help protect you from the trolls, as well as increasing awareness to grow your customer base.
As you’ve no doubt gathered by now in this series, the differences between different areas of marketing can be rather subtle. So, perhaps the best way to explain how Public Relations differs from Reputation Management or Customer Relations, is with some examples.
Sponsorships: Sponsorship is not charity. A sponsorship agreement is an exchange of cash, products, or effort for advertising. This can include TV, radio, and newspaper ads, website displays, and printed materials like banners, programmes, or even your logo on the event ticket. When you sponsor an event, your target market is the event participants and the general public, rather than your customer base, although those may not be mutually exclusive. The key thing is to choose events carefully to ensure that what goes on there will be consistent with your brand values, and that the event will be managed professionally to avoid tarnishing your brand. For example, if you sell premium organic products targeting the supremely health conscious, sponsoring a rib fest beer garden is not in your best interests. Sponsoring a marathon, where you can also hand out product samples, is a much better fit.
Charitable Donations: Making a significant donation to a charitable cause will get you in the news, but the benefits are usually restricted to a small group and short lived. You are better off aligning your brand with a cause over the long term and working your support into your marketing and advertising. The “pink” campaigns supporting breast cancer is a great example of this, and consumers have come to learn that purchasing pink items means a donation will be made on their behalf. Again though, choose your cause carefully. We are living in a time of super sensitivity. Look for a charity that has broad support and aligns in other ways with your brand.
Environmental Responsibility: In marketing lingo, a competitive analysis is all about differentiation – what makes your company, products, or services different from your competitors’. Your policies and action around environmental responsibility can be one of those differentiators that gets you chosen by customers. If you’re in manufacturing, it might be your recycling program or remediation of waste water, but as TD has shown, anyone can get involved. Banks aren’t usually your first thought when you think about poor environmental practices, but TD’s Friends of the Environment Foundation has positioned the financial institution as caring about people through demonstrated action like planting trees. They collect donations, cover the administration costs, and get their staff out there in the dirt along with community members.
Social Responsibility: Integrating something for the greater good into your everyday operations is another wonderful way to make a good impression while also making a contribution to others. If you can also find a way for it to make a positive impact on your business, as Fry’s Food Stores in Arizona has, all the better. The Fry’s store in Fountain Hills works with Scottsdale Training and Rehabilitation Services to provide coaching and jobs for people with disabilities, and I’ve never seen a happier bunch of grocery packers! It certainly put a smile on my face, and if I lived in the area, I’d shop there every day.
Community Enrichment and Volunteerism: There are plenty of great opportunities that don’t require giving money. While these are a wonderful option for small, local companies, larger firms can get involved at the local level in the communities they serve. The Shaw Pumpkin Patrol is a good example, with their staff helping to keep kids safe on Halloween. Look for projects or needs that have been initiated in the community and get out there in your branded T-shirts to lend a hand.
In summary: Public Relations is about relating to the general public in a meaningful and authentic way. It’s about demonstrating that you, your company, your brand, care about more than just profits. The more the public knows about your good character, the more likely they are to support you – in good times and bad. Use our PR Worksheet to generate and assess ideas.