Let’s say you’re looking for a new toaster. You want a toaster that fits your situation perfectly. You start with the internet and soon you’ve discovered every brand out there. A trip to the magazine kiosk yields several resources that fill in any missing information. You’ve now researched as many manufacturer claims as you can find.

That’s marketing. You’ve been operating in a carefully crafted environment that was created (hopefully) to entice you to a decision. Marketing creates environments that pave the way for a sale to occur.

It’s like a basketball game. When a team gets the ball, they set up a play (environment) that creates an opportunity for a shot (sale). When a player shoots the ball, the sales process begins. Getting back to our toaster, we see how powerful marketing can be. However, it may not have led us to a decision yet. We know those messages and photos and videos were paid for, so there remains a bit of skepticism.

But what if a friend has one of the toasters on your short list and talks in detail about its virtues? And what if you’re watching TV and see a feature on toasters? You’d likely perk right up and watch with interest. And when they point out that a famous chef whom you know uses that same model in his/her own home, well, shall we just say – decision made.

That’s PR – messages that are perceived as being unsolicited. True experiences that include the polish and the dirt, so you really know what to expect. Actually, a PR strategy is remarkably similar to a social media strategy, but we’ll save that for a future post.

In most companies, and as many experts will agree, PR and marketing often overlap. This requires collaboration between different departments, and in smaller businesses requires one department to incorporate both. So how do we manage a PR/Marketing blend?

  1. Understanding the Trade Off
    There’s a trade off and overlap. You control the marketing environment and keep it on-brand. You can start a PR campaign with great stories, but you have little control over reader responses. If people start a negative snowball rolling, it can bury you like an avalanche. Truth is usually the best defense here. If it’s not true, do not say it or imply it in your PR stories.
  2. Building a Solid Foundation
    You need a sound marketing base to support the stories being told (PR) about your offerings. A marketing strategy that outlines goals, strategies and tactics along with budget guidelines is best, but you may only need a branding strategy or even a good creative brief. The point is to create a pre-designed environment that sets you apart in the mind of your prospects.
  3. Creating Stories that Get Noticed
    You need compelling stories if a PR campaign is to succeed. Listen to your friends’ and family’s stories about their favorite stuff. Hire the greatest writer you can find. Great PR is not just about media placements, it’s about the story being told. Great stories will be picked up by the media!
  4. Keep Your Eyes Peeled
    The compelling stories being told about your offering must fall within the marketing environment you’ve created. Look for what’s being said about your offerings like a man on fire looks for a pond! Those stories can take on a life of their own and you need to be aware of them.
  5. Budget Control
    Generally speaking, skew your budget towards PR once you have a solid marketing strategy in place (collateral, ads, website, etc.). But note, most everyone else is doing this as well, so your PR success will likely boil down to how compelling and interesting your stories are.