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PR: It is How We Discover Brands

by Frank Strong

PR branding

Source: GlobalWebIndex “Chart of the Day.”

Awareness, familiarity and trust are all essential elements of a brand that sells successfully.  It’s an evolution that begins but probably never ends, save for the termination of a brand.  It’s the latter that drives us down the road of analyzing whether or not PR facilitates a sales cycle.

The entry point however, should not be underestimated. The chances of a sales person closing a deal with a prospective customer that remarks, “Huh, I’ve never heard of your product before,” falls somewhere short of less than likely.

So how do we make customers aware of our brands?  The answer rests in PR.

Research suggests that people discover brands through articles published on news sites.  In fact, news sources were the top medium by which new people discovered brands – 47% for people ages 16-24 and 45% for those ages 55-64.

This according to a survey by GlobalWebIndex and reported by MarketingProfs in a post titled: How People Discover New Brands. GlobalWebIndex is a web-based research firm that publishes slices of its data in an effort to entice subscription customers to its research products. The company wrote:

We analyze this by asking the question, “In which of the following ways are you most likely to find out about new brands, products, or services?” for 17 online and offline touchpoints…the number one brand discovery touchpoint is an “Article in newspaper/ magazine website”, with 47% of 16-24 year olds and 45% of 55-65 year olds citing it as a place they are most likely to found out about new brands.

What follows PR

Such conclusions may seem obvious to the experienced PR pro – no one ever picked up a newspaper with the intent of reading advertisements – and web consumers spend an infinite amount of clicks avoiding the interruptions created by ads presented online. To the embattled professional, caught in an endless cycle of justifying PR investments, this is one more data point to save for a future presentation.

What’s also interesting is what followed next in the survey – and although there is some variance depending on the age group – generally accepted marketing sources trailed in this order:

#2 recommendations from friends

#3 comments on message boards

#4 search

#5 consumer reviews

Advertising ranked 7th drawing 31% respectively for each age group. And the lowly blogger, didn’t even make the top 10.

Integrated marketing considerations

Drawing on this research and my experience, there are several considerations I’d offer:

1. Lead with earn media; follow up with paid.  Use PR to build brands and advertising to defend a brand.  That’s not to say you cannot build a brand with paid media alone, however it’s unlikely to be the most efficient use of resources. All told, we need a blend of media – earned, owned, paid and shared mediums.  It’s far more effective to reinforce an idea people have already accepted than to convince them otherwise given the skepticism of corporate advertising.

2. Don’t panic over bad reviews. Review sites like Yelp put businesses in a frenzy when negative comments or reviews are published and we should not. First, because as this report demonstrates consumers consider a wide range of sources to find a brand, and they will do so along the many touch points along the sale cycle.

3. Search is still incredibly valuable.  That search ranked fourth may leave marketers cheering or surprised depending on one’s perspective. High traffic volume is often a benchmark for success, but like the difference between influence and popularity, the low volume, or long tail searches can lead to already warm customers.  Why?  Because as Lee Odden wrote, search is an explicit expression of need.  Prospective customers are literally attempting to solve a problem and find our content in the process of searching for answers.

* * *

In a brief analysis of the research, GlobalWebIndex sums up the value of PR nicely:

Despite the heavily reported “death of the newspaper”, digital channels mean that the journalist has never been more relevant in shaping opinions.

The overwhelming reality is, most businesses won’t wind up in that sphere of influence – of awareness, familiarity and trust – by sitting back and hoping they’ll be discovered.

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