Sustained PR – the long and short of it

The rules of public relations and marketing have changed. Traditional media remains an important channel of communication but it’s no longer the only way for businesses to reach their target audiences. Social media channels, blogs and content-rich company websites promoting landing pages tailored towards consumers with different buying personas now provide direct routes to market.

There are now more ways than ever to engage directly with customers and other stakeholders and this requires a more strategic approach to marketing communications. The starting point of a good PR plan should be to first identify the overall business objectives and then work out how each PR tactic will support them.

Once business goals have been set and the decision taken to use PR as a tactic, the marketing team must determine the duration of the campaign. In our experience, sustained campaigns that run over several months yield far more success and a higher return on marketing investment (ROMI).

Focus for success

Marketing teams that incorporate a sustained PR plan as part of their marketing strategy are able to focus on specific areas of their business. The key word here is focus. This allows the right messages to be communicated to the right audience at the right time. The timing of PR events, such as issuing news, feature articles or customer events, for example, can be critical to the overall success of a campaign.

Issuing a regular flow of news across several different channels is an effective way for your company to remain ‘front-of-mind’ with the media and your target audiences. Even if a news release doesn’t result in immediate coverage, an editor or news reporter writing about certain topics, such as energy, renewables or clean technology, will often store relevant information along with your company’s contact details for later use.

We demonstrated the value of sustained and focused PR effort.  Having delivered a substantial increase in the amount of trade press coverage for one client, we knew there was a bigger story to be told; one that just might appeal to national press and broadcast media. For 18 months we kept key journalists up to date with news, case studies and offered interview opportunities. As energy issues started to receive increased national media attention, we began a focused campaign targeting energy and environmental reporters. This timely response resulted in coverage appearing on BBC radio, BBC News Online and in the Guardian.

PR boosts online search

Taken from the Edelman Trust Barometer 2013, Richard Edelman is quoted as saying: “We are in an era of skepticism; people need to see or hear something three to five times in different places before believing it, and learn equally from traditional and social channels.” Google research suggests that almost 90% of consumers consult at least 10 ‘content sources’ before buying. This is where a sustained PR campaign can really help because good content will stay online for months or years, boosting search results. This approach can be far more cost-effective than pay per click (PPC) advertising.

Independent, well-written editorial copy is far more credible and effective than advertising. Even editorial that is authored by a company has had to gain the approval of the editor for publication.

Running a PR campaign over a period of several months allows a company to focus on different parts of its business and target relevant industry sectors or audiences with editorial material that has been compiled over time.

A long-term PR campaign that deploys a number of tactics, such as customer case studies, news releases, articles, analyst/media relations, events, speaking opportunities and social media integration will prove far more effective in terms of generating results, meeting business goals and delivering ROI when compared to a one-off news release or a short-term advertising or pay per click campaign.

PR momentum for cleantech businesses

One of our specialist sectors is clean technology and renewable energy. We manage short-term projects and longer-term PR campaigns, promoting a range of different technologies including solar PV, energy storage, BIPV, fuel cell and smart grid.

Analysis of the media coverage and ROMI across a number of campaigns demonstrates that on average, results are significantly better for those clients choosing to invest in long-term PR. The table below shows the ROMI range we have achieved for short- and long-term campaigns.

Table 1: Measured ROMI for short and long-term campaigns

In a single month there is very little that can be achieved in terms of raising a company’s profile and generating news. A single article or case study will lead to a limited amount of coverage.

A three-month campaign allows some time to develop targeted media lists, initiate media relations and place a limited number of case studies or news releases with a number of publications. Some editorial opportunities can be identified providing there is time to develop the content.

A 12-month campaign provides time to take an initial benchmark of brand awareness with the media. We can find out how familiar journalists are with your product or service at the very start of a campaign. As time progresses, your awareness with the media will increase. As journalists recognise your PR agency as a trusted source of quality editorial, they soon learn who can be relied upon to provide good copy to use in their publications. Results for two of our cleantech clients – KiWi Power and Solar Enles show a significant growth in sales enquiries due to increased media exposure.

Sustained campaigns allow more time to focus on national newspapers and broadcast media, if appropriate. Multiple articles and case studies can be researched, written and placed with key publications that publish monthly features highlighted in each issue throughout the year. Media interviews can be set up prior to, or during major events and exhibitions, ensuring your company receives maximum media exposure. Speaking opportunities can be highlighted and replies to ‘call for papers’ submitted. A regular flow of news can be issued ensuring influential journalists and analysts are kept up to date with your company’s latest developments. Social media campaigns can be implemented and blogs written which will lead to improved SEO results. Finally, awards can be entered showcasing your achievements throughout the year.

So, the long and the short of it is that if you’re thinking about PR then consider a long-term approach. It will enable you to gather PR momentum, generate far better results and the best possible ROMI.