Marketing mix part four: Promotion, public relations

So, in this series of articles about the marketing mix, we finally reach promotion.

This is the topic that most people automatically think about when they think about marketing. If you’ve read the past three blogs (and indeed many of my previous posts) you’ll know by now that it goes far deeper than that.

But, the promotion is what gets your product or service out into the market, in front of the right customers, and giving those customers all the information they need to choose to buy. There’s so many different elements to promotion that I’m going to take one a week and explore it in a little depth for you. This week we are going to tackle PR (public relations).

Public relations is exactly what it sounds like: it really isn’t just banging out a press release every couple of weeks and hoping for the best. And it isn’t about spin (well mostly). It is about understanding the product or service, understanding the audience and ensuring the business relates to those customers in ways that make sense to them and help to build up a relationship between the business and the customer.

Of course sometimes spin comes into it. If you’re in a deep crisis then it will be your PR person who will undoubtedly get you out of it.

But. A big word of caution here. I’m using spin as shorthand but, in fact, I never spin, never have and never will. Spin is just a different word for lying.

Good PR people don’t lie.

What good PR people will do is tell you what others fear to, the truth. They will tell it even when it hurts, even when it may get them sacked because: good leaders know when to listen. Once you’ve got the pain over with, you can then get down to action and start putting out that fire.

And truthfulness goes a long way towards building a strong and lasting relationship with customers. People can be very forgiving if they trust you. This only works of course if honest mistakes have been made: cock ups can be forgiven; conspiracy less so.

So much for spin then. But what about regular, bread ’n’ butter PR?

Believe me, it has changed a lot since I was a student back in the ‘90s. Social media will be a whole other topic in this series but, back when I was cutting my teeth, Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist. Email was only just beginning to become mainstream in business and wasn’t used at all in personal interaction. Hard to believe it now…

A little sideline here: I was talking to a colleague the other day and reminiscing about the good old days. She recalled trying to persuade a client that they needed a website. “No, I really can’t see the benefit to us. We’re not that kind of company.” they said. How we laughed.

Where was I? Ah yes, PR.

Considered in its fullest sense, public relations is all about customers. Well isn’t everything?

A PR strategy should be very much about talking to customers and, by all means possible, giving them as much information as they need to choose to buy. So this does include press releases. But we don’t just fling them out willy nilly to anyone who’ll have them. Part of getting good press is building good relationships with the press.

They are humans too you know and their main motivation is to fill their pages; whether it’s every day, every week or every hour. So if you’ve got something worth saying, it’s in their interest to listen and make something of it if they can. If however, you are peddling fluff through a shotgun, forget it. No-one will print that kind of thing.

Think about their readers, viewers or listeners and what they like, find a way to tell your story in a way that will be genuinely interesting to them. And if you can’t, then don’t panic, something interesting will come along. Don’t push out stuff just because you feel you have to. It really is a waste of time.

And of course, if the end game is for a customer to buy something, you need to get your stories in places they are likely to see it and, very importantly, where just the fact of you turning up in that place gives you added kudos.

And when we are talking about readers, viewers and listeners we are not just talking newspapers, TV and radio, oh no. They are still vitally important of course, and long may they remain so, but if you need to get in the face of influencers you also need to be thinking about bloggers. Hugely influential on certain demographics, bloggers and vloggers (now called youtubers) are an incredibly important channel depending on what you’re selling.

Just as with traditional media though, they are humans and they have a reputation to protect too. They won’t promote any old rubbish but they will promote, and sometimes go wild over, stuff they actually care about or love in some way. This mainly applies to consumer goods for obvious reasons but it also applies very much to causes.

The message is, whoever it is you’re trying to reach, use the channels they use and treat those channels with utmost respect. You need to care about them almost as much as you need to care about your customer.

Ultimately public relations covers all forms of communication with the public whether that’s through the media, online, social media or direct contact with your company - in good times and bad. But these are all such huge disciplines in their own right that they have to be split up into separate articles.

If you need help to communicate with your customers, contact me to talk about how Caxton can support you.

Next week: advertising.