I’ve never understood why PR has been considered marketing’s second cousin. I suppose the only rationale I can give is because PR is more of marathon than a sprint, taking longer to show ROI and more difficult to measure. But its value is so much greater than any marketing program and for the first time in my 20-year PR career, the COVID-19 pandemic finally revealed this. PR became the discipline our clients could not switch off and where we gained more clients all seeking to tell a story. So why did PR shine brighter and why has it continued this way 6 months on?
Educating Vs Selling
This is my main reason for loving the PR discipline as I hate a hard sell. Google ad words, PPC, social advertising are in your face and blatantly about getting you to buy, but during a pandemic when everyone is nervous about their health and safety, livelihood, who really wants to be told that they should buy a new mental health app and monitor their anxiety levels? What I believe people want is more knowledge about a particular issue, the chance to read about a solution written from an independent journalist’s perspective rather than the company. And with 50% of consumersspending more time consuming content than ever before (Arlington Research, 2020,) attention of thought leadership articles is at its highest. At MFG, we gained so many PR enquiries and new projects for this very reason as PR felt the most respectful way to convey a story, educate on a solution and ultimately build brand awareness. In fact, digital marketing programs were over analyzed and scrutinized, and PR became the golden child.
Actions Speak Louder
So, while COVID-19 has been devastating for many reasons, I think we have all heard ourselves say that some good has come out of it. In particular, many brands chose to take action and help the community whether than was from making masks, creating space for hospital beds and even providing educational free content to subscribers. These actions go a long way to show a company’s true brand values and what constitutes corporate social responsibility and community engagement. These forms of action are part of PR. You might not write them down and issue them in a press release or pitch to the media, but your blogs, photos, social engagement all make up your PR story and are a powerful brand description.
We have many B2B technology clients who are level 2 and 3 suppliers to global brands and therefore their past PR efforts before COVID-19 was more bylined focus aimed at trade media. But when the media are pulling together stories that directly impact the end user, these tier 2 and 3 suppliers became very important at keeping the economy’s lights on. PR became a great platform to showcase supply chain advancements, PEO/HR COVID support, new contactless solutions etc. And it wasn’t just the industry press that took notice but national too. Our clients got center stage coverage on a national level and that’s because their innovative approach to keeping the economy moving meant they were serving the community at large and making a major difference. Can you imagine how lack luster and under recognized these stories could have become if PR hadn’t been the selected platform?
PR is the only way to really tell a story with depth, emotional and positive outcomes. Other marketing disciplines lose these qualities and are regarded as self-serving and promotional. I believe PR has finally proven its ultimate value and attached itself to meaningful storytelling that we all thrive for. What examples of storytelling have made you recognize the power of PR in 2020?