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The 3 Most Important Things PR Does For Your Business

3-most-important-things-pr-does-for-your-business

Why do companies do PR?

I got this question last week in the course I run with Megan Auman, and I realized that you might be wondering the same thing.

A lot of people have this notion that PR is the next step for their business or that it’s something all established businesses do, without really understanding why.

And it’s no wonder! Public relations can run the gamut from media relations to investor relations to internal communications to crisis management.

What do all of these things have in common?

I tend to think of this question in terms of what PR does best, no matter what your business goals are.

PR helps your business engage your audience at every stage of know, like and trust.

Before anyone buys from you, there are three things you need to establish:

First, your audience has to know about your work. If new people aren’t coming to your website or if business leads have dried up, your business isn’t going anywhere.

Second, they need to like what they see. Whether you offer a physical product that people buy based on taste or a service-based business that sells solutions, it’s important that your work is attractive to your buyer.

And third, they won’t buy from you until they can trust that you deliver. This is especially true for businesses that operate online. If your audience doesn’t trust you, game over.

“All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.”
– Bob Burg, the Go-Giver

Most of the marketing advice you find online deals with promotion, or the “know” piece of the equation. Social media, link building, SEO and traffic generation strategies are all solutions to the first problem of helping people find your work in the first place.

This is also where I find that most of my clients and students focus their media relations goals. They measure PR results in terms of how much traffic gets generated.

Podcast interviews are an excellent way to reach a new audience.

Podcast interviews are an excellent way to reach a new audience.

But did you realize that media coverage also makes your business more likable?

The strongest, most powerful sales engine is a referral. We tend to think of referrals mostly in relation to a friend or colleague giving a direct tip. “Check out this web designer I used. She was great!”

But we’re not only influenced by our friends and colleagues.

A referral from a tastemaker can get you to take a second look at a trend or consider a service that you never thought you needed. Magazine coverage, blogger endorsements and well-timed Tweets can not only lead you to know about a business, but prime you to like that business as well.

laura-novak-working-mother

Who wouldn’t like Laura Novak Meyer after reading
her Working Mother Q&A?

Which brings us to trust. The same factors that influence whether you’ll like a company or product also give a leg up in the trust factor.

Your favorite bloggers and magazines aren’t out there covering every business. No, they pick and choose who to include in their round-ups, features and profiles.

On some level, we believe in the bloggers and magazine editors we follow. We trust their recommendations to be thought-out and researched. Or else we wouldn’t seek them out.

Your audience does the same. So when they see your company and work covered in their favorite sources, they’re being primed to trust you as a resource.

A visiting student sought out Caren Baginski after reading her contribution in Mantra

A visiting student sought out Caren Baginski after reading her contribution in Mantra. Even a simple product placement can increase the trust-worthiness of your brand.

When you get a media placement, ideally you’re positioning your work and your message in a venue that your audience already knows, likes and trusts. I had a conversation with best-selling author Chris Guillebeau about his book publicity last year, and he values most the coverage that runs on blogs and media outlets that his audience already interacts with. That’s how he knows he’ll reach more of the right people.

This is a very smart way to think about PR. When a member of your target audience finds you covered or referenced on a website they already like and trust, some of those feelings are passed on to your business or brand.

This is what PR does best. One placement can help you get known, be perceived as more likable and earn the trust of a new audience.

How to Vet PR Opportunities

How to vet PR opportunities

how to vet PR opportunities

When a media opportunity lands in your inbox, it’s exciting. Your work is getting noticed, and you’re getting the recognition you’ve always wanted.

But every once in a while, one of those PR opportunities turns out to be a trojan horse. Maybe a blogger has reached out to you for a blog tour with lots of strings attached. Or the magazine you love wants to sell you an ad spot. Or, the request seems like it’s not a fit at all, and you’re not even sure how you ended up on their radar.

Requests like these are often a source of stress and anxiety. That’s why vetting PR opportunities is a big part of my role with clients. It’s not personal, and so I’m not attached to the results. In fielding these requests, what I’ve learned is that a lot of the stress you feel disappears when you get really curious about every opportunity that comes your way. When in doubt what an opportunity really entails, ask!

Following are the big 3 questions I answer before moving forward with any incoming media request.

1. Is the media outlet or blog in alignment with your message and audience?

The purpose of public relations is to build trust with your audience. So it follows that alignment is the most consideration in vetting a PR opportunity.

When we get an incoming media request, we always check out the blogger or outlet that’s contacted us. It’s largely unconscious by now, but I’m always looking for fit in the following areas:

Content: is it geared towards the same audience you’re targeting?

Let’s say a blogger reaches out to you with a guest post request. Their main content doesn’t have to be the same as yours, but it should be created with the same audience in mind.

Using my site as an example, I once invited my attorney to write about a legal question related to PR. This isn’t a topic I write about, but it is highly relevant to my audience. In business terms, this demonstrates product-market fit.

Tone: Do you like the site’s voice?

I know some writers that write in an intentionally in-your-face style and others that are incredibly woo in their writing. It’s okay to have personal preferences about these things and decide who you want to align your brand with. The benefit of writing in a distinct style is that it strongly attracts some, while repelling others. It’s also okay to decide that you don’t like a site’s content, even if it might appeal to your audience. It’s your reputation — you should be protecting it.

Aesthetic: If you’re a visual brand, is there an aesthetic match?

For any style influencer or company that puts out a product, aesthetic fit is paramount. If your style is ultra modern, you probably aren’t a good match for a more boho-inclined site. If your products are luxe and feminine, you might want to avoid a blog with a minimalist aesthetic.

2. Are there signs of audience engagement?

While some people might advocate that you look at audience size, engagement is much more important. A small niche blog with a highly engaged audience is often more receptive to checking out new businesses and experts in their space. Not to say that it’s not worthwhile being on larger sites and media, but I am often having to convince clients to give smaller spaces a chance!

There are two main things that I recommend you look at:

Frequency / posting schedule.

Sites that post more often get more views and engagement. ’nuff said.

Active comments or social media community.

Not every site encourages or gets comments, so social media can be a good proxy for an engaged community. Facebook and Instagram are the easiest to check out.

You can also check how often a site is getting pinned to Pinterest using https://www.pinterest.com/source/siteurl. We once found out that one client is getting crazy a huge amount of Pinterest shares this way, and adjusted her social media strategy accordingly.

What you’re looking for are indicators that people are showing up and engaging with the content, so you can be sure they’ll check out yours. That said, I’m not always a stickler for this. If you’re interested in rising in search rankings or really looking to become known as an expert, say yes to as many PR opportunities as you can handle.

3. Is the opportunity free or pay-for-play?

The lines between PR and advertising and sponsorship are more blurred than ever, which can be incredibly confusing for business owners. Often a blogger will approach you with something that looks like a great PR opportunity, only to reveal that it’s pay-for-play (not free) once you’re on the hook.

I like to assume that all PR is free until told otherwise, and I’ll never ask up front if something is really a paid sponsorship. It’s on the media outlet or blogger to ask for money. I’m not going to volunteer it!

But once the money conversation comes up, you need to apply an extra set of criteria on your decision making process.

Can the blogger or media outlet demonstrate results?

The first thing I want to know (even if a client doesn’t have a set budget for paid content) is what results can this blogger or ad rep get me. Even when it’s highly unlikely that we’re going to move forward, I always ask the contact to share click-through rates  and sales referrals from past partnerships.

I’m not doing this disingenuously — I’m open to being surprised and taking a great opportunity to my clients.  If a site passes your alignment test, ask for the numbers.

If a blogger or ad rep won’t even give you click-through rates, do not pass go! 

Say thanks but no thanks and delete their emails.

Does the blog or media outlet disclose paid opportunities?

This can be a tough one to find out through sleuthing, so I’m inclined to ask. It’s important to know how they mark paid content, because as their partner, you’re also on the hook if the FCC gets involved.

I want to be clear on this: I’m not a lawyer but there have been highly publicized cases of businesses and bloggers and social media influencers getting fines for violating FCC guidelines. Please protect yourself by refusing to work with anyone that doesn’t disclose.

If you’re intrigued by the opportunity, open negotiations.

In a sponsored or paid situation, you have a lot of power to negotiate. What would you like to have happen? One blog post + a few social media updates? An email that goes out to the blogger’s subscribers? Ask and ye shall receive!

For a more traditional media request, the next thing to do is to email back and ask for their deadline. Being fast and responsive to media can lead to more opportunities down the line.​​

I want to add that I put those blog tours that require social media posting and emails in this category. If they’re asking for something in return for covering you, that’s a partnership. You should be asking what kind of results you can expect and be willing to negotiation. The only thing that might not apply is the sponsorship requirements, as no payment or product is being exchanged.

As you can see, vetting an incoming PR request isn’t a perfect science. But using these criteria, you should feel much more confident moving forward, whether you ultimately jump on the opportunity or take a pass.

3 Ways You Can Use Media Coverage to Boost Online Sales

In my last post, I told you that a media campaign isn’t the magic bullet for traffic that many people think it is.

But that doesn’t mean that media coverage isn’t good for your business.

Quite the contrary.

The biggest benefit to media coverage is how it can boost sales.

While there can be traffic benefits (especially with consumer products), to me, this effect is secondary to the sales impacts.

Let’s take a look at how you can use media coverage to drive conversions and sales.

1. Showcase media coverage on your homepage to demonstrate that you’re trustworthy.

Do you ever marvel at the fact that it’s now normal to buy things from people on the Internet that you’ve never met? I think of this all the time. The majority of my clients have never met me in person! And many of these clients enter into months-long contracts worth tens of thousands of dollars.

How do people online decide that they can trust you? That once they pay you, you’re not going to disappear off the face of the internet?

In a world of uncertainty, new visitors to your website subconsciously look for clues that they can trust you.

The media logos on my home page underline the fact that I am who I say I am.
media logos build trust

If you’re not in the media business like I am, this technique still works for you.

Ultimately, humans put a lot of credence on the recommendations and opinions of others. If your customers are a fan of Fast Company and see the Fast Company logo on a website, they’re going to feel a little bit more at home there.

tara gentile media logos

2. Add relevant media coverage to product pages to demonstrate social proof.

People don’t just want to trust you to buy, they also need to like your work. And while it might seem as though “liking” is all about personal preference, our ingrained desire to be accepted means that social cues play a big role in our buying decisions.

Even if you consider yourself a bit alternative, there are still social standards you’re measuring against. As a wannabe punk kid in high school, I was deliberately counterculture. Wearing oversized pants and trying red mascara was still a form of conformity.

I’m not a punk girl anymore. Today, my style tends to be basic pieces, dressed up with Megan Auman jewelry.

Brigitte-in-Megan-Auman

Whenever I’m given a compliment on a piece, I can’t help myself. I’ll mention that her work is carried in the SFMOMA. I’ll mention that her earrings were on the cover of a magazine.

megan-auman-media-coverage

I do this, because I’m proud that my friend has receive this critical recognition…and a small part of me enjoys feeling that my favorite earrings were chosen.

Media coverage increases the “likeability” or social proof of your products. This can mean the difference between a click away and the sale.

3. Generate excitement by emailing your list when you get covered by the media.

The biggest mistake you can make is being passive when you get press. So many people don’t even bother to let their fans know when they get media coverage!

This is such a missed opportunity, because promoting your coverage to your community can re-engage your audience with your brand, drumming up interest and sales.

For example, when Megan Auman got the Better Homes & Gardens cover, she wrote an email and blogged about it. Three years later, this email still holds the top spot for the highest open rate ever…at 64 percent!

The blog also performed well. Megan can attribute at least one direct sale to it. Her earrings were not credited on the cover, but because she blogged about the feature, a fan was able to find her site and purchase a pair.

Other coverage she’s had with credit have driven a lot more sales, but I love this example, because it demonstrates how important it is to share your own wins.

What I hope you take away from this article is that the biggest wins from your media coverage happen once you share it.

Don’t miss the opportunity to share your press coverage on your home page, product pages and even your about or speaking pages to create trust, interest and sales.

Have you been sharing your press wins? Is there a quick update you can go make right now to get even more benefit from your media coverage?

  

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