The Parallax of Marketing When Viewed Through the Lens of Public Relations

True or false: public relations should mirror all other marketing activities? The answer: a murky ‘it really depends on the situation’. The reason is that the rest of the marketing mix focuses on consumers. As marketers, we invite the public into the lives of our brands, and ask them to stay. Except where public relations is concerned. In that field, we must appeal to the press, who collectively act as intercessors between consumers and companies.

Is that journalist a consumer? Absolutely. Are they your consumer? Perhaps not. And that is wherein the challenge lies. Whilst social media allows us to engage and direct marketing allows us to invite, public relations requires us to petition. And in doing so, we must understand the psyche of multiple players: the journalist, the editor, the art director, the editor-in-chief and finally their reader or viewer. It’s a broad spectrum of personalities and requires a unique dance that other forms of marketing do not.

To pull the right levers in the press, you have to have a solid understanding of where your brand fits in their world, rather than that of your consumers.

The must-have product that all your consumers want may not be the one the press wants.

When choosing which product to present to the press, it’s easy to select that moisturiser that all your consumers adore. It’s simple, it’s affordable and it’s the most basic item in your line-up. Which is why your consumers hasten to have it. To the press, though, it may be lacklustre. That’s not to say it won’t ever be featured, but it’s important to show them what makes your brand interesting and buyable as opposed to all the other companies that are also clamouring for their attention.

Your product must fit their audience.

If you have a wildly expensive item that all the elite fancy, it won’t work to show it to an outlet whose audience loves bargains. The journalist may want it for themselves, but they know their readers. And the press are busy. They’ll respect you for knowing who reads their magazines, visits their websites and watches their television shows. And choosing accordingly.

Where you’re stocked counts.

If you want to send a consumer into a rabid frenzy of exasperation, show her a product she desperately wants and then tell her it’s only stocked at one store 3000 kilometres from her. And that frustration rebounds right back to the journalist who wrote the piece. Make certain before you go to the press, that your product will be carried in all markets that the outlet targets when the editorial runs. And while e-commerce works for many brands, it often won’t for products that consumers need to touch and feel before purchasing.

The art director is the reigning monarch of aesthetics.

Which is a nice way of saying that pretty counts. For a lot. The art director has a concept in mind for the page layout. And your products either fit or they don’t. Are they working on a ‘green’ story? Your product needs to not only be gorgeous (and green) but fit in with the other brands that have been selected.

Your website will be a part of the decision-making process.

All the fantastic collateral and brilliant presentation will count for nought if your website isn’t up to snuff. The first action a journalist will take when considering whether to feature a brand is to go to your website. And all those aspects that matter to consumers (ease of navigation, clear messaging, stockist availability, visually compelling) matter even more to the press. And while everyone loves an international brand, if you are selling to the US market, don’t have your website in Thai baht.

Realising that the press are an audience unto themselves is crucial to succeeding in the public relations game. You want your brand to succeed. We want your brand to succeed. To realise this desideratum, however, requires a bit of a shift in perspective and a flexibility.

Image via Official GDC / CC BY 2.0

Serge Gurin

Serge Gurin is a partner and Chief Vision Officer at Pierce Mattie. Serge's key areas of focus include vision and growth strategy, concept design, science and technology, and creative development. A science fiction and comics geek, Serge does side projects in science, transhumanist philosophy, and neuroatypical research, and makes a mean vindaloo.

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