PR Campaigns to Pump Up Your Lead Generation
If you don’t see growth through the efforts you are putting out, it may be time to change course.
By Sabina Gault
As the plane takes off the runway as I leave for yet another convention (probably third one in a month), I think about the one thing that concerns everyone: new business. With a substantial number of companies back on track and growing, all CEOs and marketing professionals are looking to boost revenues and increase net profits. In today’s marketplace there is an array of solutions, which I have seen firsthand at this convention. The exhibit hall was filled with suppliers who could help fuel growth: new customer relationship management agencies, social and digital platforms and of course, public relations firms. It is important to note that the world of public relations has transformed dramatically in the past couple of years. All brands want proof that PR is not just talk and a number of top-tier placements per year. They want to know that they will see return on investment and that there will be some form of measurement to gauge it. An industry that never concerned itself with more than impressions or audience numbers is now consumed with trying to prove the value of its work. With this in mind, the question that I get asked most often is: “What moves the needle?” The answer is not as simple as one would imagine. Yes, an article about the brand in The Wall Street Journal will add huge cachet and will probably help pave the way for many new business leads. However, not every company with an article in the same publication will experience this level of success. A huge component of this proclaimed success has to do with the brand itself and the right PR team will know the kind of communications campaign that will help build the company and lend credibility to their respective concept. It is not always about getting the big press; it is about getting the right, targeted press. A publicist has to always be able to know whether a brand needs to play the expert angle, the untold story of the founder or the larger-than-life company piece. On top of that, all forms of PR must be aligned at all times with the brand’s marketing goals and core values. Only with a strong bond between marketing and PR and the right goals in place can PR truly succeed. Once those elements are present, you can look back and see the ROI as clear as day. What kind of press moves the needle and how does one identify the ROI?
These are the stories that allow you to share your company vision and goals; tell the world why you are the best at what you do, why your concept is so different from everything else in the marketplace and why consumers should choose you over your competition.
Brands that are disruptive and off-the-beaten-path tend to naturally attract press coverage. The Lash Lounge(eyelash extensions)is a prime example of a business model that no one else has replicated at a nationwide, hyper-organized level. Sky Zone(a wall-to-wall indoor trampoline park where people of all ages come to jump) is another great example of a concept that created its own path. When the brand evolved in 2004, it was in a category of its own with no direct competitors in sight. As a result of this, it garnered a noteworthy feature on the main page of Yahoo! accompanied by a video of the facility and the CEO Jeff Platt discussing his concept and how he came up with it (together with his dad). This created a great deal of buzz for the brand, and most importantly, ROI.
Success against all odds pieces
When it comes to success, people always look at the value of the company. And while that is an obvious measure, another great one is to look at the person driving the brand. Most entrepreneurs have worked tirelessly to get where they are. Their company was not successful and profitable from Day One and it took them years of struggles and hardships to build the brand that is envied today. Hearing their personal stories via a major national outlet like Entrepreneur or The Huffington Post allows potential leads to identify with the brand and want to be part of it. A great example of this is Andy Wiederhorn, chairman and CEO of Fatburger. While the brand has its own legs to stand on as a burger powerhouse from the West Coast, Wiederhorn’s personal story and how he rehabilitated this concept to amass to 150 locations in 29 countries really clicks with the media and fans alike.
I am including rankings as part of my ROI-driving methods, even though they are not technically “stories” per se. Despite not being features, they are extremely important and a necessity for a brand to remain a leader in its market. These accolades can range from the Inc. “500/5000” to “Best Places to Work.” The reason for mentioning them here is that no one wants to invest in a brand that is not obviously growing, a leader in its category and a force in the industry. Rankings allow you to show everyone where your brand stands in the grand scheme of things. As one can see, this piece references huge brand stories, mostly focused on the concept directly and the CEO (with the exception of rankings). The reason behind that is this kind of media is what makes the cash register ring. This is what brings people in the door at a local level and generates major leads on a national level. While this kind of press takes time and energy (and many great relationships) to come to fruition, it will show ROI and any public relations practitioner will have no trouble providing meaningful measurement. While CEO expert pieces and franchisee-driven articles are great, most of them are helping establish the brand and create an aura of strength for the concept, but they are usually (on their own) not necessarily driving leads. That is not to say they should not be part of the PR campaign; however, they are meant to be supporting pieces that add value to the overall plan rather than self-standing ROI generators. It is essential to have these secondary pieces, as business leads have to see things multiple times before they buy into the concept. PR has indeed progressed and changed a lot, and now more than ever we can measure our results in ways that will forever change the industry. So sit down with your team and look at your plan for the year. Do you see the growth through the efforts you are putting out? If not, it may be time to change course; the options are definitely out there.
Sabina Gault is the CEO of Konnect Public Relations, a midsize PR agency that creates custom ROI-focused campaigns for clients in the franchise industry. Find her at fransocial.franchise.org