IAN FERGUSON: Exploit public relations to drive customer traffic


Ian Ferguson

Clarity is critical in all kinds of business communications, yet can be difficult to achieve. Unlike paid marketing programmes such as advertising, public relations is focused on earned media and can take advantage of unpaid communications channels. Public relations is about managing perceptions, namely how people think about your business.

Aside from helping companies gain positive publicity, strong public relations allows firms to set the narrative with customers, prospects, investors, and current and potential employees. A public relations department supervises and assesses public attitudes, and maintains mutual relations and understanding between a company and its customers. It improves channels of communication, and sets up a two-way flow of information.

1 Use press releases to spread the word

When your brand is featured in magazines, news publications, websites, blogs and other outlets, it simply increases people’s confidence in your brand. Press releases can help you create awareness for your brand, a particular event, milestone or product launch, and attract people to your website in the process.

2 Targeting local TV stations and media outlets

If your goal is to reach as many people as possible when sharing your brand story, you might already have your eyes set on major media outlets. Although there is nothing wrong with this aspiration, the reality is that it can be incredibly challenging to get coverage in national media.

3 Using PR stunts to get coverage

Publicity stunts have been getting a lot of heat in recent years thanks to brands using them for shock value and little else. Even though public relations stunts can be tacky and annoying sometimes, when done right they can really help your brand get noticed. In order for your PR stunt to be effective, it needs to be creative and clever. It has to push boundaries and go against the trend in some way to get media coverage and the attention of the general public.

4 Participating in community and industry events

Events are a great way to promote your brand, network with important players in your industry, and interact with your target audience. It does not mean that you can just host your own events and call it a day. It pays to contribute and participate in events organised by other brands in your community, too. The easiest way to do so is to speak on topics you are knowledgeable about, ask questions during panel discussions, or set up an information booth. Doing things such as this will help you gain more visibility.

5 Taking advantage of social media platforms

Any brand that is serious about its PR strategy must maintain a presence on social media platforms where its audience likes to hang out. This is mostly because social media helps to increase brand visibility, spread your message further, and avert potential PR crises by correcting the narrative and taking control of the situation in real-time. Do not just set up an account and forget about it. The key is to actively engage with your network, join relevant conversations, and share valuable content that your audience will find useful and informative.

6 Partnering up with influencers

Research shows that 92 percent of people are more likely to trust recommendations from other people over advertisements and messaging from actual brands. This is why influencer marketing is one of the fastest-growing customer acquisition channels. By partnering with influencers, you can tap into their extensive network of loyal and engaged followers to drive increased awareness, traffic and conversions for your brand.

7 Creating some controversy around your brand

Another effective way to grab the public’s attention is to create some controversy around your message. People love a good debate, so if you can give them that, you’ve basically got a winning public relations campaign right there. You can generate lots of coverage from different audience segments analysing your story and giving their two cents on the subject.

• NB: Ian R Ferguson is a talent management and organisational development consultant, having completed graduate studies with regional and international universities. He has served organsations, both locally and globally, providing relevant solutions to their business growth and development issues. He may be contacted at tcconsultants@coralwave.com.

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