How Public Relations Can Help Your Business

Everything you do or say affects your brand.  You are always in the spotlight. Whether you represent a company’s brand or your own personal brand, your actions and interactions have an impact. It’s your choice to decide whether it’s positive or negative.

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and only five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently. – Warren Buffet”

Relationships and communications remain the foundation for Public Relations.  Both are essential for an organization looking to reach and influence every audience that is relevant to them and are interested in moving beyond traditional media relations and publicity.

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Public Relations… Say What?!

Quite often I get asked, “So what is Public Relations?”. And over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at explaining what exactly it means, or at least what all is involved.  Here is an overview to guide you through what is PR and what elements are involved…

Public Relations (PR) is about building and maintaining relationships between a business and the public, including current customers, potential customers, communities, and the general public.

“Public relations is the strategic management of relationships between an organization and its diverse publics, through the use of communication, to achieve mutual understanding, realize organizational goals and serve the public interest.”

— As defined by the Canadian Public Relations Society

PR Planning Process

To define strategic, actionable goals, and an implementation approach and plan, to guide communicators and others in designing, preparing and executing a public relations campaign.

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No One Knows Your Brand Better Than Your Customers

A brand. It is the image, memory, story or expectation that defines and represents a business or person. While many are busy defining their own brand by creating clever key messages, eye-catching logos and mission/vision/value statements, it is actually the public, or our customers/clients, that determine our true brand. This is because brands are subjective in nature. They are based on not just key messages, cool logos and social responsible mission statements, but on the actions of the business, both verbal and non-verbal. 

Brands are actually based on how a business conducts transactions, how they interact with customers and their communities through customer service, public outreach and engagement, and yes, the visuals that we see (i.e. brochures, storefronts, signage, commercials).

Take McDonalds, when you see the logo or hear the name, what comes to mind? When people were asked on the streets by McDonald reps, the responses varied and covered many areas of the business that you wouldn’t have suspected.  Keywords that were mentioned included greasy food, junk food, fast, convenience, unhealthy, to aspects of the business like factory farming, inhumane animal treatment, poor wages.

As you can imagine, the company was not happy with how the public was viewing the McDonald brand and they knew they needed to do something and quickly.  “Our Food. Your Questions” was a campaign that resulted and focused on bringing transparency to the company.  It involved asking the public to submitted their questions about any aspect of the company, and they would give you answer (the truth, so to speak).

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Storytelling: It’s Time To Tell Your Brand’s Story

“Purposeful storytelling isn’t show business, it’s good business. – Peter Guber”

When it comes to marketing it’s no longer about flashy ads that have a business telling you about the bells and whistles of their product or service. People have changed how they make purchasing decisions and which brands to trust. This change is a direct result of social sharing and the new technologies that allow people to share their reviews and experiences.

More businesses are looking towards their customers for creative promotion, using content marketing to build a relationship rather than focusing on the end purchase.  Marketing is now about storytelling and creating a conversation about customer experience.

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The Impact of a Simple ‘Thank You’

It’s that time of year where charities are looking for donations and using the holidays as a time to approach families looking for unique gift ideas.  However, then there are some who just use the opportunity to say thanks for your support.

The other day I came home to a surprising voicemail message. It was David Suzuki himself calling to say thank you for being a donor in the past and providing valuable funds that support the foundations initiatives, and wished me happy holidays.  There was no ask about giving another donation or how much they need more of my money – it was just a simple thank you.

WOW! Boy did I feel special. Now I know it was a recording, but it was his actual voice and it sure made me feel happy about the donation I made months ago.  It made me feel so good that I pulled out the recent mailing I received from the foundation, filled out the donation card and signed up as a monthly donor.  I felt like a million bucks and felt even better about giving more money to the foundation.

This is a perfect example of how a charity or cause can build a relationship with its donors and go the extra mile to thank them whenever the opportunity arises.  The David Suzuki Foundation successfully made a one time donor into a monthly donor, and created a memorable and lasting experience. No one wants to be constantly asked, let alone asked for more money beyond their initial donation. People want to be thanked and recognized for their support no matter the size. And in return, most will demonstrate their support by making another donation – just as I did.

Expressing thanks isn’t something that’s just for non-profit organizations, businesses can benefit from this too.  Simply say thank you to the customers who are your loyal clients and biggest fans, and make them feel special. They’ll remember why they love your business so much and keep coming back.

I can only imagine how many other donors made another donation because of the surprise voicemail thank you from David Suzuki.  Kudos to staff at the foundation, well played!