There have been numerous attempts in recent years within our profession to define or redefine public relations, and in fact, most people do not understand what “PR” is. However, in the marketing world, one truth is not in dispute: Mutually beneficial relationships with its key publics are vital to an organization’s success. There’s those words again – “relationships” and “publics.”
With public relations as an essential component of your growth plan, any marketing initiative your brand undertakes has better potential to achieve your objectives. Public relations is vital to marketing success. But what is PR?
Using the acronym VITAL, public relations can be explained (perhaps too simply) like this:
VThe V stands for visibility. In its very basic form, a public relations campaign is designed to achieve visibility for the organization. Of course, all brands, whether people or organizations, already have visibility of some sort. That visibility may be negative, or worse, neutral (invisible), with no mindshare at all. To cut through the clutter of the 6,000 messages we all receive each day, the visibility component of the public relations campaign must be well planned, effectively targeted, creative, memorable, consistent and frequent.
IThe I stands for interest. PR can and should drive interest in the brand. A research-based, well-planned and managed public relations campaign will achieve levels of visibility that will generate interest from and among specific, target audiences or publics. Remember, there is no such thing as the general public. There are only audience segments or groups that we must target specifically to generate interest. Here is where behaviors and attitudes begin to change, which is what you want.
TThe T is all about trial, or better yet, trust. After you have achieved visibility that leads to interest in your brand, message, product or service (or yourself) from a specific target audience, members of that audience may respond to your messaging by trusting you and/or trying your product or service. They may trust your message, and take the action you determined as your objective when you planned your public relations campaign initially. Now, we are getting buy-in, action, trial; more behavior change.
AThe A stands for one of the elements that will define your public relations campaign’s success: Acceptance. You have the right visibility, you have generated interest, there’s a level of trust that may lead to trial, and as the campaign progresses, your goal should be to achieve acceptance of the brand, the person, the product or service, among your target publics/audiences. Embracing your message and accepting your brand promise is one of the key elements of behavior change.
LAnd, now, the great leap, perhaps the most difficult and tenuous stage of a public relations campaign to reach and maintain. The L stands for Loyalty, brand loyalty, loyalty of thought and action, complete – although potentially temporary – behavior change. If you can develop loyalty to your brand and its promise (as provided in your messaging), you have achieved the objective of the public relations campaign as defined in the original plan.
There is a caveat (of course, right?). Be aware that brand loyalty is a delicate state of being, and maintaining the behavior change you achieved with your public relations plan will be your challenge from then on. So, your strategic planning phase before the campaign launch must anticipate the inevitable erosion of loyalty and include tactics to minimize or eliminate that leakage of trust over time.
Owners considering sale or merger should be doing all they can to improve company book value – and increase profit. One established method of doing both is to plan and launch a well-crafted public relations campaign that drives positive visibility to multiply brand value. Here is some research that supports taking that action:
Andrew Bowen, APR
Clearview Communications & Public Relations
Audience analysis is the most critical component in any communications initiative designed to motivate a target demographic to take specific action. I’ve written about this extensively, spoken about widely, taught the concepts to groups all over the U.S., and apply the laws of audience analysis rigorously every day to achieve success for my cherished clients. When I am presented with an example of the failure to analyze an audience before crafting potentially motivational messaging, I’m concerned.
The most recent example I found at the baggage pickup-carousels at Tampa International Airport. There, small panels of lighted, electronic billboards at eye-level provide local advertising messages for travelers awaiting delivery of their luggage. Awaiting mine after a recent flight home to Tampa, I caught a brief glimpse of one of the bright, colorful panels for a few seconds. I recognized the My MacDill logo on it. It is quite a powerful and moving logo, featuring an abstract eagle figurehead wrapping around an image of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
My MacDill is the name of the well-crafted public relations campaign celebrating the 75 years that MacDill Air Force Base has been headquartered in Tampa. It was the tagline on the electronic board that concerned me: “My MacDill: 75 Years Serving Tampa Bay” (http://bit.ly/1Ptwg6N).
More than 17.3 million travelers passed through TIA in 2014 (http://bit.ly/1WiRXdK), with more than 600,000 of them international visitors. Analyzing that vast audience, one could conclude that the message proclaiming “75 years of serving Tampa Bay” would motivate these millions of national and international travelers to think … what? That MacDill Air Force Base serves only Tampa Bay.
With so many government policymakers, military leaders, elected officials, international business and political decision makers and visitors of all backgrounds exposed to those TIA message boards, why would we want them to think – even subconsciously – that MacDill benefits just Tampa Bay?
Would it be more effective for the My MacDill’s brand objectives to have that audience of global influencers know that MacDill is an indispensible national treasure that benefits the nation and the world, that it is the headquarters of the planet’s most powerful force focused on ensuring national security and global stability? (When I think of the MacDill I know, I get an image of something like “Pentagon South.”)
Could a more effective message for the international audience surging through TIA annually be something like: “My MacDill: 75 years of serving the nation”?
With the Base Realignment and Closure Commission – BRAC – convening again in a couple of years, MacDill stakeholders need to be very careful about promoting the value of MacDill to the Tampa Bay area only. There are powerful forces in government and the military that don’t care very much about Tampa Bay’s future, and they are coveting that $13 billion and 13,000 jobs the Tampa Bay Defense Alliance figures MacDill generates here annually (in TBDA’s widespread messaging).
So be careful in your creative. Audience analysis is the key component that can help guarantee you’ll hit your communications objectives – or not.