WHEN SHOULD PUBLIC RELATIONS BE INTRODUCED INTO AN
INTEGRATED MARKETING PROGRAM?
By David Brimm, BrimmComm
Sometimes marketers buy public relations services like they buy deli meat: Ive invested in a bunch of other marketing services and Ive got some money left over, so give me a pound and one-half of public relations. Sound familiar?
The biggest mistake marketers can make is adding public relations to the marketing mix after the strategic plan is completed. Public relations is increasingly the strategic driver of a marketing plan, and when PR is included in the initial planning stages, campaigns are apt to be more successful.
Several new books have been published that state unequivocally that new product launches and initial branding activities are more effectively driven by public relations than other marketing functions. PR tends to elicit a more emotional bond with customers, and consequently, the brand. I call it PRanding.
Public relations is often a cost effective solution to broaden the audience reach of a program both demographically and geographically, allowing marketing dollars to go farther and reach both primary and niche audiences at a cost far below traditional advertising. In addition, public relations can offer diverse programming options, including event planning, sampling, trade show programming, and of course, media relations.
As TiVo and other devices are used to skip TV commercials, and as clutter can reduce the effectiveness of print advertising, communicating product benefits and positioning in an editorial environment brings added dividends. Its hard to ZAP TV placements when they appear within a regularly scheduled show, or ignore a product when it is covered by a reporter in editorial space in a newspaper or magazine. And the Internet opens expanded opportunities for on-line media coverage and even blogging options.
Another reason to bring PR into the planning mix early is to ensure that when it comes to evaluating the results of the program, PR accomplishments are factored into the process. This obviously necessitates that ROI results cant be based solely on audience reach as reflected in Nielsen ratings, or even ad equivalencies (i.e. if the PR coverage received were equated to the ad dollars required to generate the column inches, airtime, etc). Rather, PR results are best measured against a baseline of awareness and perceptions of the brand prior to the program and post-program. Results also can be measured quantitatively building in action components to be undertaken by customers: a rise in website visits, coupon redemptions, or ordering a brochure or booklet.
The key is that when you begin evaluating the need for public relations, skip the deli counter. Instead, put PR on your initial marketing shopping list.
David Brimm is president of BrimmComm, a full-serve public relations agency based in the Chicago area. He has 25 years of experience in the corporate, agency and association sectors, with a specialization in corporate counseling, strategic planning and crisis communication. His current clients represent health care; financial services; technology; construction/building; publishing; and law. Contact him at 847-444-1198 or visit his website at www.brimmcomm.com