In fact, many new brands have relied totally on PR as part of their launch strategies, making use of traditional PR, media relations, product placement, celebrity endorsement, amplification of sponsorships, corporate social investment, and more recently social media.
Segway, the motorized transport device is one such international example. In the three months around launch, Segway generated PR valued at $230 million and publicity continued as the brand made prominent appearances on television series and movies.
Locally, Vespa South Africa puts a majority of its marketing budget into PR and social media and has grown market share year on year using this strategy. Gullan&Gullan's ability to generate substantial news, awareness and WOM about the brand makes a viable case study for consumer brands that have a relatively low-budget (compared to advertising budgets) to gain brand awareness and market share.
Internationally, Gillette is a big believer in using PR to launch new brand extensions as they have proved time and again that the ROI on PR versus advertising is staggeringly high. "We tried to come up with a number to approximate the advertising spending equivalent and all I can say is we couldn't have afforded it," Ms. Szynal, Communications Director of Gillete said. "Every launch we used public relations as the lead vehicle, and we built that into the strategic plans. It's become increasingly more important to Gillette because it works."
Evolving advertising regulations are also placing a lot of attention on PR agencies as advertising of cigarettes and the talk surrounding a ban on alcohol advertising will see Public Relations and social media playing an ever-increasing role in the communications mix of these sectors.
Of course there are pros and cons to all communications channels in the mix, including PR. While PR is a relatively cost effective channel to launch new brands and products PR agencies don't always have control of the message. As the PR agency you have control of the messaging being submitted to the media, but then all control is handed over to the journalist and the journalistic integrity of their publications and this can be a nail-biter for clients and agencies. Many PR agencies have suffered the effects of having embargoed news leaking early only to have their clients reeling as they deal with an unanticipated crisis. Of course every professional PR agency should have a plan for such events in their crisis/reputation communications plan that should form part of any Public Relations strategy.
Another challenge with PR is what we at Gullan&Gullan call the "yesterday's news condition". This is one of the things about media that is most difficult and its when the second journalist who writes the story doesn't want to write anything the first journalist wrote, and tends to look out for all the negatives.
Thankfully, there is a solution to all these challenges and it can be summed up in a word: Relationships. Established, trusted and honest relationships with journalists are a professional PR agency's bread and butter. Also, with celebrity endorsements and amplification of sponsorships a good database of prominent personalities and reputable relationships with them also become key.
Aligned with that, online reputation management is another solution that empowers PR agencies to monitor what the media, customers, shareholders, employees and others have to say about their clients' brands in the online space were word travels fast. That way we can engage and respond in real time making sure our client's reputations are safeguarded.
Business to business brands have long understood and made use of the power of PR to build their brands, and we're finding that more and more consumer brands are catching on. Adding PR to a consumer brand's communication mix is the most supportive reach extender and awareness builder beyond traditional advertising. And it does so in a very cost-effective manner.