This is the first in a series of articles on the future of PR produced by The Roxburgh Group.
I wrote a short piece recently in which I mentioned that PR has become synonymous with media relations. It rang a lot of bells. Puns aside, it's fair to say that it has become very easy (and lucrative) for PR agencies to sell media relations to clients who ask for increased awareness.
By doing so, PR professionals have missed an opportunity by skipping a thorough audience strategy. We've heard the client say 'increased awareness', convinced them they need media relations and rushed off to post-rationalise that very wise decision with circulation data of media publications. Even as social media has entered the mix, we've used social media research tools in the same manner to justify setting up a Facebook page, a Twitter account or both.
PR agencies have leapt the proverbial shark by not starting their planning process with the audience. We've let an easy product sale dictate the strategy. And if we keep doing it, the profession of PR will end up on the endangered species list within the next 20 years (as traditional media outlets merge or disappear).
Let me use a caffeinated case study to demonstrate what I mean. A coffee shop owner in George Street Sydney is looking for some PR to raise awareness of his business. It's a high traffic location but no one is stopping to buy his homemade muffins. What PRs have been guilty of is hearing 'raising awareness' and immediately jumping to the conclusion that he needs media coverage (because we know we can get him a nice article in the metro press). We may have even gone for the upsell and suggested he become a thought leader in coffee with a Facebook page, a Twitter handle and a Youtube Channel plus monitoring. All for a nice retainer.
I think we can all agree that it's highly unlikely that a single article in MX or even the SMH will have a noticeable long term impact on his street traffic (nor is it easily attributable).
What the agency didn't do was start the conversation by asking the coffee shop owner who his best customers were? What were their demographics? How did they get to his store? When did they usually arrive? Whom did they arrive with? How much did they spend? What did they talk about? Why did they choose his coffee shop over another? How did they hear about his shop? Which way did they go after leaving the shop? These are all typical questions covered in a standard audience profile research report.
By understanding the coffee shop owner's desired outcome and comparing it to a detailed picture of his perfect customer (their demographics, attitudes and behaviours), the agency may very well recommend a strategy that does not involve media relations.
Success in attracting those customers will ultimately depend on employing the most effective appeal. Using the Aristotelian appeals, is the coffee the cheapest in the city (logos), is it made from beans provided by fair trade farmers (ethos) or is a dollar from every sale going to a charity (pathos). Or perhaps applying the seven deadly sins: employing sexy baristas (lust); offering two for one deals (greed); providing extra large cups (gluttony); delivering to offices (sloth); finding out the usual coffee shop is charging double market rates (wrath); serving in a personalised cup (envy); or, being top of the in-store coffee leader board (pride).
The tactical approach then becomes simple. Employ sexy baristas to deliver gilt-edged postcards to passengers getting off at Wynyard or Townhall train stations, offering the cheapest coffee in the city, delivered to their desk, in a personalised, extra large cup with a two-for-one offer. Back this up with Sydney-CBD targeted social media ads, a LinkedIn company page, a website with weekly city insights and maybe an article in a commuter or metro publication.
Advice to the owner would add value too. The baristas and service staff need to address customers by their given names, extra large cups need to be ordered, faster customer service processes need to be adopted, ordering via a mobile phone app must be enabled and a digital leader board set up in store would proclaim the Kings and Queens of Coffee for the week to reward loyalty.
The campaign would start on a day with the most foot traffic and viable social context - the first Monday in Sydney's Good Food Week or the Monday after Grand Final weekend. Commuters are more likely to be influenced by a sexy barista and an extra large caffeine injection.
Evaluation would simply be a case of deciding whether the desired outcome of more customers in-store is achieved daily, weekly and monthly.
The simple approach I've used above is a six step PR campaign planning methodology from The Roxburgh Group. You can download it for free here(no sign up necessary).
PR needs to start thinking differently if it is to survive a future where media relations won't make up 80% of its revenue. By using an audience-centric approach to campaign planning, agencies will be able to offer more business-relevant services and the communication services they do sell will achieve more valuable and effective business outcomes for clients. One might even say it's a rosy future with bells on.
Original article written by Anthony Lowe, Director, The Roxburgh Group. The Roxburgh Group provides support services to Australian communication professionals and agencies.