D’oh! The PR wisdom of Homer Simpson

Take Homer Simpson. His wisdom suggests that, once he retires from cartoons, a career in PR beckons. Weaselling out of things is important to learn. It’s what separates us from the animals! Except the weasel.

Having a PR strategy to underpin commercial or marketing objectives isn’t an add-on option. In today’s inter-connected world, it’s fundamental. However, even with the rise of social media, traditional media remains influential. While the ink-based media is in decline, it still holds sway. The simple fact is that if you have a good story to tell, there are media outlets willing to listen – whether through media interviews, press releases and articles, or thought leadership strategies.

If something is hard to do, then it’s not worth doing

PR is not that hard. It’s about utilising a broad range of promotional techniques that generate both favorable publicity and, using social media channels, create a higher level of constructive two-way engagement. But those platforms have to be integrated into one cohesive marketing and PR programme.

It takes two to lie. One to lie and one to listen

Actually, PR is all about transparency. Tell your story, without embellishment. In a buyer-led world, content is king. You need to attract the right customers and lead them through each stage of the sales cycle. Creating that great content and placing it where buyers are looking doesn’t happen by accident. It takes good content strategy, research and expertise – but no spin and flannel.

You don’t win friends with salad

It may be healthier but it doesn’t grab attention. In PR terms, decide what makes your company or its products and services stand out – in other words, what are the benefits for customers. What are your differentiating factors? The new PR is no longer just about press releases and media contacts (although those are still important). It’s about engaging with stakeholders and consumers in new ways, with an immediacy that was unthinkable even a handful of years ago.

Most individuals searching for products or suppliers first turn to the internet. It means that companies have to have a good SEO strategy and populate Bing and Google etc with compelling content. (Most searches start and finish on the first page of Google). That means talking to bloggers as well as the media, and integrating pictures and links – providing target audiences with a rich mix of useful information.

The intelligent man wins his battles with pointed words. I’m sorry – I meant sticks

Words and images are better PR tools. But why stop at those? Why not populate your website with videos? Or send out a regular e-newsletter? It’s a simple and effective way of regularly updating customers and prospects on company news. They can carry embedded video and infographics to engage constructively. Not only that but you can see detailed metrics of who has opened what page and how long they have visited a website – invaluable marketing data.

They have the Internet on computers now?

In the new world of PR, everybody and every company is also a publisher – whether that’s your website, a regular blog or social media. What’s changed is the speed in which a press release or article can be posted, found by news aggregators, and spread worldwide. As an agency promoting clients internationally, I’m still surprised by the speed and reach that a well-crafted press release or article can achieve.

What’s important, however, is to always hyperlink back to specific pages on a website, giving readers every opportunity to engage with your brand. Important also to use analytics to understand the search terms that are being used to find your company, and to incorporate those terms into future activity.

You may think it’s easier to de-ice your windshield with a flamethrower, but there are repercussions

A good bit of PR advice is to know when to shout from the rooftops (“new mousetrap invented”) and when to tread more carefully (“slightly better mousetrap developed”) One of the biggest journalist bugbears is to receive press releases loaded with hyperbole, full of bull***t words such as revolutionary, unique or fantastic. Use words like those, and your fine words will be heading towards the bin. And if you use them on social media, you’ll undermine your credibility with customers, who are wise to the ways of the internet…and no longer fooled.

They didn’t have any aspirin, so I got you some cigarettes

Modern PR is about interaction. It’s about listening to customers, and engaging with them. It’s no longer just about selling, because the internet and social media has changed the relationship between companies and customers. Now, it’s about being helpful, willing to respond to comments – good and bad – and not forever pushing a sales message. Remember, the marketing buzz phrase is now “pull marketing” – attract potential customers to you, rather than just push out sales-speak. In other words, if they want aspirin, give them aspirin.

People can come up with statistics to prove anything. Some 14 per cent of people know that

Okay, then how are these. For example, nearly £6bn in UK sales is now annually attributed to social media. Also, visitors to a website are ten times more likely to make a purchase if they have come from social media. And it’s not just the likes of Facebook. For example, 40 per cent of brands now use Instagram for marketing.
Commercially, nearly 80 per cent of B2C companies and over 40 per cent of B2B companies found customers from Facebook. Indeed, a majority of social media users now prefer to connect with brands through Facebook, and over half of Twitter users recommend companies or products via Tweets.

A fool and his money are soon parted. I would pay anyone a lot of money to explain that to me

The good news is that using a good agency to handle all or part of your PR and media strategy is usually money well spent!

Charlie Laidlaw is a director of David Gray PR and a partner in Laidlaw Westmacott. We are specialists in national and international PR strategy and delivery. You can contact us at +44 (0) 1620 844736 or Charlie@davidgraypr.com

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