By Betsy McCloskey / Guest Column
It used to be that marketing and public relations were considered two separate functions, not to be confused with one another and each with their own distinct purposes.
Marketing drove sales for a company’s products and services through advertisements, while public relations focused on the long-term strategy of building a brand’s reputation and awareness. While these goals still hold true, they are more interdependent with each other.
In today’s hyper-connected, digitally focused world, marketing and public relations professionals need to work more closely than ever before to create effective campaigns, drive sales and increase brand awareness. Social media has increasingly changed the dynamic by creating a two-way conversation space for brands. Aside from being an advertising platform, you can also interact with your audience in ever-changing ways. Indeed, social media has created a space for consumers to get to know your brand in a more intimate way.
Marketing guru Seth Godin has said, “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.” Brands that tell a story and provide a reason for consumers to keep coming back will win out over those that don’t.
The idea of incorporating that brand storytelling into your marketing plan is so important in today’s marketplace, especially among the millennial audience. According to a recent Forbes article, millennials prefer to do business with brands offering pro-social messages, sustainable manufacturing methods and ethical business standards. To communicate those messages, your company will have to incorporate traditional marketing and a strong public relations effort – working together, of course.
That same article went on to talk about how millennials are the first generation to become jaded about the fact that marketing is wholly self-interested. This is just another reason why it is critical to infuse public relations efforts with your marketing campaign. Traditional advertising isn’t going anywhere, and research shows that it is effective, but with newer generations it will be critical to have a balance between advertising and telling your brand’s story in unique ways. This could be anything from editorial articles, partnering with influencers, unique guerrilla marketing techniques and more.
Much of the data around brand storytelling focuses on younger generations, and with good reason. According to CNBC, $30 trillion in assets will be passed from baby boomers to their Gen X and millennial children over the coming decades, so it will be important to know just how these groups are making their buying decisions.
In short, your advertisements will only go so far to create loyal customers. Public relations can help build trust around your brand before they even know about your product or service. The added impact of a well-run public relations campaign that tells the story of your company and brand will help push people from being just a customer to a loyal brand ambassador.
Consider this the next time your company is about to launch its next big product or roll out a new service line. How will public relations play a role in your campaign? What story can you tell about your company to your target audiences before the launch to build brand awareness and trust? Incorporating public relations tactics will help maximize the impact of your marketing campaign and keep your customers buying from you for reasons far beyond the great product you are offering.
Betsy McCloskey is a partner at Plaid Swan Inc. with offices in Cedar Rapids and Dubuque. Plaid Swan is a female-owned and operated marketing communications firm.