Marketers are sometimes required to respond to situations that could benefit from a public relations (PR) expert. Questions like this arise: When there are unfortunate circumstances, what communication should be sent? Besides responding to the negative though, there are other ways a marketer may take on PR-like responsibilities.
First, let’s step back and define the two. PR focuses on maintaining a positive image for your organization, and marketing is about promoting your products and services; that’s harder to do if there’s a negative light shining on you. Marketing also includes brand awareness campaigns, which have a PR-like feel to them. The success of your marketing and PR go hand in hand and often overlap.
Next, here are some ways marketing looks like PR and how marketers who don’t have a PR representative at their organization – and maybe don’t have PR training – can be prepared.
Responding to Something Negative
This is probably the first idea that comes to mind when people think of PR, and it’s something marketers at smaller organizations may be asked to tackle.
How do you make something potentially negative feel not so heavy? And what’s the appropriate response?
Acknowledge the challenge and focus on next steps to maintain trust. A recent article in prnewsonline.com defined trust as authenticity (truth and transparency), logic (what makes sense) and empathy (an understanding of what others feel). If an apology is in order, take responsibility and apologize immediately and thoughtfully. If there’s a disturbance in your service, offer a solution or workaround and present how you’ll make up for the inconvenience.
For example, there’s a location closing, but regular visitors there may be relieved to hear that another location is not far away and provides even more services than they’ve had in the past. Maybe a technology upgrade doesn’t go smoothly, but a sincere apology helps to make amends and can highlight the amazing benefits that will soon be available.
The method of communication in these instances is situational and requires intentionality at a time when, regrettably, you might be rushing to put out a metaphorical fire. At image.works, we’ve often helped clients by using a direct mail letter to reach out to those affected.
Our copywriters have experience crafting letters that showcase the appropriate wording to embrace during tumultuous times. The example paragraphs that follow were written for financial clients, but the takeaways apply to other industries too.
Example: Changing Operating Hours
Due to staffing shortages, we’ve made the difficult decision to change our operating hours. We hope to be back to regular operating hours soon. Until then, we will waive your first eight shared branching fees each month. You may also visit another one of our branches or take advantage of our online banking options.
In this message, the readers see four important points:
- The difficulty of the situation is acknowledged.
- There’s reassurance of plans for a better arrangement in the future.
- There’s an offer to make up for the inconvenience.
- There’s a workaround.
Example: Undergoing a Technology Upgrade
Recently, we implemented an upgrade to our online banking system. Our goal was to provide a better banking experience with enhanced technology and security and greater convenience; however, many of you could not get into your online account right away through our new system and were locked out. I want to personally apologize for the inconvenience and frustration this upgrade has caused for all those affected. If you are still having trouble with your login, the FAQ & Tutorials page on our website may help. For further assistance, please do not hesitate to reach out by phone or email.
Let’s pinpoint the takeaways again:
- The difficulty is acknowledged.
- There’s reassurance that the challenge has been overcome.
- There’s a sincere apology.
- There’s information on how to proceed.
Getting Proactive About the Positive
This is another way marketing looks like PR. We’ll touch here on two avenues for taking positive steps: social media and traditional mainstream media.
Social media provides an online platform for increasing brand awareness, presenting a positive image and showcasing marketing promotions. So, if you’re a marketer who’s responsible for your organization’s social media posts, you’re likely doing some PR. The goal is to build positive relationships with your target audience. Examine the social media content you post to ensure it has a healthy balance of general awareness focus, educational value, lighthearted messages and information on products and services.
Mainstream media is another way financial institutions can proactively build relationships. Here are 3 tips for doing so provided by experts at The Financial Brand:
- Reach out to the local media and offer to be a source on stories. Doing so presents your organization as a trusted advisor, community supporter and place to go for help.
- Educate employees on what to do if a member of the media reaches out to your organization. Make sure everyone knows what to say, where to send requests for information and who responds to what. Saying “I don’t know” isn’t good PR. Inviting people to talk with your organization’s subject matter expert is better. In fact, the importance of knowing what to say applies when interacting with any visitor or caller, not just the media.
- Practice proactive PR. Good ways to do this are getting involved in community events, ensuring friendly customer service and promoting services that benefit current and prospective consumers. Yes, this sounds like a job for marketers!
If you’d like help creating PR-like communications, image.works is here for you. We’ll tell you what other clients have done and get started on something creative and effective that’s specialized for you. We even offer a social media program that can take posting responsibilities off your plate.