Public relations (PR) has always been relegated to the top of the marketing funnel. Seen as brand-building, it has been viewed as primarily driving awareness through messaging and positioning, secured media stories, speaking opportunities, awards, and more.
For those unfamiliar, the marketing funnel, from top to bottom, consists of awareness, consideration, conversion, loyalty, and advocacy. The further down the marketing funnel, the more impactful the function is viewed in relation to a company’s bottom line. Early in my career, I commonly heard things like, “as a top-of-funnel function, we just can’t commit dollars,” or “we need to focus on things with a more direct impact on sales.”
But in today’s high-performance business climate, where everything needs to be tied back to the bottom line, our industry has also adapted to become a full-funnel marketing function, driving consideration, conversion, and beyond. The PR of today has a role in every stage of the funnel.
For the sake of focus and brevity, let’s look through the view of product PR – whether consumer package goods (CPG), consumer electronics (CE), household goods, or even cars.
Been here, discussed that. It is critical, but it does not exist in a silo. Onwards.
Beyond driving awareness, telling a product story in the right way and to the right audience increases consideration and intent. We consider ourselves detectives of sorts when we look at a new product and how it fits into a market and competitive set. Finding that unique customer pain point, the market white space, and mapping all communications to this discovery gets us further down the pipeline and into the consideration set.
Consideration is communicated through earned, owned, and paid channels. The results of our discovery process generally ends up as web copy, label copy, social campaigns, and yes, earned stories. A credible product review is one of the most impactful earned stories, driving consideration (if it is a good product, that is), increasing purchase intent, and inching closer to the all-important conversion.
Conversion is the real meat that was missing from PR for many years. But with link attribution, PR efforts can be tied directly to conversion today. This is done through affiliate programs, gift guides, and deals. We now see many of our partners’ largest sales cycles – around Prime Day and Turkey 5 – tied directly to PR initiatives, as the ecommerce editors at publications run deals coverage with affiliate or attributed links. Even further, they often link back in the story to an earned review, tying in that earlier consideration.
A myopic view of PR sees media hits. A good PR program delivers customer touchpoints at all levels, including beyond the initial purchase or point of conversion. For loyalty, we are involved in strategy sessions at the highest level, run customer loyalty social groups, draft company newsletters, run loyalty campaigns, manage social media programs, and more. Keeping customers engaged and returning has many levers – and many of them fall within the PR purview.
Closely tied to loyalty, advocacy is getting your customers to use their voices to share their positive experiences, and ultimately growing awareness, consideration, conversion and so on. Do you see a theme here? These full-fledged fans can often advocate independently, but encouragement and incentivization go a long way. One tactic we love is creating incentivization campaigns to gather feedback on their brand/product experience, which provides testimonials and user-generated content. We also encourage brands to create moments of delight by engaging customers directly online and sending swag to share the love and increase customer love.
As we continue to evolve the role of PR to adapt to changes in how consumers discover and interact with products and brands, looking ahead, there are likely more levers to pull. But one thing is clear: brands expect more from PR, including a tie to the bottom line, and we are here for it.