17 May 2011

It's good to talk...

May phil anderson commercial director PJH
Phil Anderson, commercial director at PJH Group, highlights one cost-effective way retailers can stand out from the crowd when marketing budgets are tight.

Public relations, or PR, is one of the most cost-efficient and invaluable communication tools available to organisations today. Good PR can provide the ultimate endorsement to a business and help to generate word-of-mouth recommendations - the most effective and ultimate form of promotion the independent retailer could ask for.


Often overlooked and confused with advertising, PR helps you engage with current and prospective customers, adding real credibility and value to your brand. I'm not talking a Max Clifford-style spin doctor or blowing big budgets on champagne parties every week, just some of your time and entrepreneurial flair.


The fact is, it's going to take a while for us to recover from the recession, and we all need every advantage to stay in the game. Customer communication is essential to make you stand out from the crowd, now more than ever.


Embarking on your own PR activities may sound daunting and you may feel a little over protective in telling the world your business, however there are many publicity opportunities you could easily explore within the catchment of your showroom. Opportunities that could help raise your profile, get people talking about your business and ultimately increase footfall and word-of-mouth referrals - leading to a potential boost in sales.


And instigated and backed by you and your team, it shouldn't cost a penny.


From local newspapers, magazines and radio, to websites, social networking and blogs, there are many editorial channels to explore for shouting about your news and securing those all important column inches. Whether you've just expanded your showroom, won an award or contract, done something for charity, launched a new service, plan to hold an event or have anything newsworthy, start telling customers while at the same time 'educating' them on the benefits of doing business together. Use these opportunities as a platform to regularly communicate your desired messages - such as the excellent customer service people can expect from your company.                                           

Walking shoes

Moving one stage on, why not put yourself in the editor's shoes and think about how you could help make their busy lives easier. Bombarded with press releases everyday, journalists want news that stands out and is of genuine interest to their readers - so ensure you have a newsworthy angle and highlight this.


Why not create the angle for a feature by approaching this the other way - identify a current hot topic or trend and link this to your news, for example: 'To improve rather than move is big business, so how can I transform my living space into multi-functional zones that are both functional and stylish? - kitchen specialist Joe Smith offers his expert advice on how to achieve the perfect open-plan kitchen/dining area..."     


Don't forget a photograph to support your news - an interesting picture can sum up your news in one hit. Scan your local newspapers or lifestyle magazines and make note of the photographs that catch your eye. Someone in your business will be good with a camera!     


And why not get creative and initiate some news? Based on your own KBB knowledge and experience, write a blog for your web site, a letter to the editor or perhaps an opinion piece. This can help position you as an industry expert and leader in your field, helping to build trust in your business. Competitions are also a very effective way of acquiring editorial space within local media - by fulfilling specified prize values, you can secure newspaper space or airtime without the associated advertising rates.


Never under estimate the power of good PR - it's a third party endorsement and can add real credibility to your business, giving you a competitive advantage. Yes, you may need to invest some time into these activities, but it will be time well spent. Don't be afraid to have a go yourself but aim to keep it a regular part of your customer communication strategy - and get people talking about you.

What do you think? Email the editor