Use PR to build effective relationships

on 17 May, 2016

In today’s information age, creating the right content is key to successful marketing – but, honestly, it’s not new, it’s always been this way. While social media and website blogs have brought the emphasis onto honing brand messages that will engage with your customers, that’s exactly what public relations (PR) has been doing for decades.

Public relations is still at the heart of any successful communications strategy; it is cost-effective, versatile and proven to generate results. Better still, it is a sustainable means of maintaining exposure for your business. Indeed, the longer you commit to PR, the better.

Here are a few pointers to make the most out of PR.

Start spreading the news – Frank Sinatra had the right advice. Get into the habit of regular news broadcasts and you’ll be a step closer to becoming king of the hill (and top of the heap). Every company has interesting stories to tell – whether it’s a big project that you’ve supplied materials for, or a new service for your customers – but the only way anybody will know about it is if you tell them.

The trick is to achieve a balance between different types of story to stop them becoming samey, and to think carefully about the message you want to get across. What truly differentiates what you’re doing from other merchants? How do you go the extra mile to add value and convenience for your customers?

Define your audiences – Yes, that’s audiences, plural. As builders’ merchants, you should obviously focus on trade magazines and websites like the one you’re currently reading. However, there are always likely to be other avenues. Construction magazines will always be interested in your viewpoint and, if you specialise in a particular area of building products – for example, restoration work – then that market will have a dedicated trade press.

Locally, too, there will plenty of options, from business websites interested in regional success stories to feel-good pieces about your employees. So, if you do any fundraising or charity sponsorships, don’t hide the news. It shows the personality of your company and the people who work in it.

Know your choices – No magazine or website is exactly the same; each has its own editorial viewpoint and way of working. The best PR campaigns are those that can appreciate these subtleties and engage with individual titles on their own tastes and merits.

Yes: some news can be beamed far and wide. But often the most interesting opportunities come from flicking through a particular magazine, seeing what regular sections they run, and finding an interesting angle that might fit. Bear in mind that editors need to fill these sections every month, so they’re likely to appreciate your effort.

Become a market authority – Sometimes, your core values and expertise cannot be expressed in a few paragraphs outlining the latest product available from your trade counter. It is here that building long-term relationships with editors can really pay off in terms of generating more in-depth coverage.

Be generous with your advice and bold with your opinions, and editors will trust your expertise when it comes to discussing industry trends.

Go for gold – Awards are a great way to gain exposure for your company. There are plenty of opportunities within the specific builders’ merchant industry, from buying groups to suppliers. Plus, there will be local and regional business awards that focus on sales growth, customer service or being a good employer.

If you want to think outside of the box, consider starting your own awards to celebrate the great work your customers do on-site and to cement your relationships with the people who keep you successful.

The above list is by no means exhaustive but gives a flavour of what proactive, pertinent PR can achieve. It is so effective at bringing your brand to a wider audience that, pound for pound, good PR will give you better long-term returns than any other marketing.

Simon Kinnear is director of communications at Balls2 Marketing.

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