By Betsy McCloskey | Guest Column

The value of public relations can be hard for people to grasp, especially in this data-driven world. While there are ways to measure PR, the value goes beyond the numbers. PR is an investment in your brand, your reputation and your company.

There are many aspects of public relations that make it an extremely valuable part of your overall marketing strategy:

PR increases awareness. Some of the biggest benefits of PR are increased visibility and improved brand recognition. Strategic PR placement gets awareness of your brand and products from the people who matter the most, your target audience.

PR generates credibility and trust. It builds your brand in a more organic and authentic way than many of the other traditional marketing avenues. In this day and age, authenticity is critical in building trust with customers.

With advertising, you are telling your audience how great you are; with public relations others are singing your praises. When a trusted news publication or an influencer talks about your brand, shares your content or links to your site, it provides a borrowed credibility that can help lift your company in the eyes of their audience — which should also be your audience, if done right.

PR builds online presence. Similarly, when you get a mention in an article with a link back to your site, it creates what is called a “backlink” in the SEO world. Backlinks from credible media sites help increase your search engine rankings and drive referral traffic. This means more people on your website, which is a top priority for many companies.

PR builds thought leadership. When employees and a company’s leadership team have bylined articles, are used as a source in a story or present at industry events, it helps build thought leadership for the organization as a whole.

Effective PR connects and cultivates relationships with influencers and journalists, so your team becomes the go-to source for insight and expertise. That can help transform your company into a sought-after thought leader in the industry.

PR helps create internal advocates. It’s not just important for your customers and prospects, it’s also important for your employees. When a company is viewed favorably by the public, it increases morale and creates a positive perception internally.

Good PR can also bring new talent to your doorstep. The millennial generation generally values social impact, and workers want to feel like they’re part of something bigger. Using effective PR to highlight your values and how you are giving back could give your company an edge as it fights to recruit the next generation.

PR aids in crisis management. When things heat up and you are dealing with a crisis in your organization, buying an ad isn’t going to provide much help. Having a crisis communication plan in place and strong relationships with media and influencers is going to be key to getting your message out quickly and taking control of the situation.

Keep in mind, a good PR mention is not a one-and-done deal. To get the most value out of it, you should be repurposing the content and promoting it through your website, email and social media platforms on an ongoing basis. •

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.