If you’re a public relations or marketing professional, you understand the importance of generating leads. Doing so requires a thorough understanding of the unique characteristics and demographics of a specific target market – their interests, where they spend time online, what they read, how they use new technology, trends, etc.
A classic historical example comes from Kodak. The company had a history of strong growth and profit driven by selling traditional film. They wanted to keep that trend alive. But the company failed to see that the world of photography was changing. Most customers were transitioning to the use of digital cameras. By failing to adapt and understand that changing customer landscape, the company’s profits dropped from $16 billion in 1996 to $6.2 billion by 2011.
The point: if your marketing and PR team doesn’t have its fingers on the pulse of the customer, it can erode relevance and negatively impact business.
Clearly, it’s important to have a deep understanding of what motivates buyers. This includes identifying their pain points, buying triggers, etc. Without this knowledge, outreach strategies are likely doomed to failure. Which leads me to PR, which is an extension of the marketing team. Without a keen understanding of market dynamics, PR is also doomed for mediocrity. So, as a PR pro, how can you home in on relevant information to ensure you’re well positioned to successfully execute a PR campaign? Here are three key tips:
- Acknowledging that your client and their customers are different. They likely share common interests but have totally different agendas. What your clients value about their business is not what their customers always value. This means as a PR pro you need to find that common ground. That means translating product and selling speak into relevant value or differentiation. And pushing back on the client when there is a disconnect. Doing that requires a keen understanding of what trends are impacting the market, what’s driving buying decisions, and more. Good PR pros work with their marketing and sales contacts to understand and unearth what those are – and align them. This enables PR teams to build relevant and compelling stories that drive customer actions.
- Get inside the customer’s head. The holy grail of marketing, right? While this can be hard when you’re elbow-deep in the day-to-day PR details, it’s crucial to research customer actions. The marketing team should have great buyer persona information, but it’s not always accurate or complete. This information is usually based on historical information from buying cycles. But habits and patterns change. Do you know what buyers read? Do you know where they debate and chat about problems? Where do they share best-practices? Where do they read reviews? What influencers do they rely on? These questions and more help you evaluate and create PR plans for seeding stories and engaging with prospects. If this information doesn’t exist, PR pros need to invest in gathering it. Without it, any outreach plan is doomed to slowly die on the vine.
- Tap into the experts. Every company has that group of experts that holds the juicy, secret sauce that often translates into really bad*ss stories. These are the folks that you want to tap into, learn from, build relationships with, etc. They’re often playing in these online spaces with customers. They have a granular understanding of the nuanced issues customers face. And they’ll often give you the information unfiltered, without marketing-speak. But to have productive conversations with them, you MUST be prepared. Before you talk with these experts, do your homework. Play around in forums. The value must go both ways. Their value is helping you identify the cool stories. Your value is helping them understand where these stories could be going. When done properly, both value the relationship and work to keep it alive and productive.
PR pros are messaging and story barometers. We often sit between marketing leaders, sales leaders, and engineers. We have vast knowledge of the media landscape. This allows us to offer unique perspectives around storytelling. Give pushback. And drive change around customer engagement. Doing so effectively requires a commitment to digging deep into a market. Hopefully these tips provide a little bump in the right direction as you take that journey.