I’ll tell you what, one thing that has come out of the lockdown is that it’s never been easier to measure the effectiveness of PR.
Practitioners who are as long in the tooth as me, will remember things like the Barcelona Principles and various other navel gazing initiatives that tried to deliver a universal view on what we all do.
But it is PR that has been at the forefront of the communications mix during the current crisis. Switched on corporate teams have owned the messaging around their businesses and Covid-19 and, by and large, are doing a great job.
However, it is the use of consumer PR and its impact, that is so often overlooked when it comes to a brand’s reputation.
This sort of PR often falls between the reputational gaps as, for many, it sits within the marketing or brand function. In my experience, brand directors and CMOs don’t get the ‘mercurial art’ of the discipline – it’s evident with many retailers furloughing consumer comms teams and pulling PR budgets. Brands are also turning off channels, such as SEO and paid search.
What this means is that when pure PR is turned on, its benefits are not muddied or confused with anything else in the brand or marketer’s arsenal. It’s here that we are seeing a very real demand and sales-driving difference, in a measurable way.
There is a reason for this. Magazine and newspaper readership have, in some cases, doubled over the lockdown. The BBC and other channels are experiencing record viewing figures for news bulletins. Consumers and journalists are keen to read about what brands are doing and how they are evolving to deal with the new normal.
Take for example a hosiery manufacturer that we work with called ELLE. Switching production to make eco-friendly, profit-free, face masks has paid dividends. Wall-to-wall coverage in the UK and the US leaning into what we are calling the ‘Kindness Economy’ , has meant they are inundated with orders, keeping a small, family-owned factory going and raising the company’s profile. They had tried a paid approach but it just wasn’t working and they simply couldn’t afford to keep doing.
It’s also not just the more altruistic initiatives – all our good ‘old fashioned’ news generation and product placement is delivering, and then some.
From frocks to furniture – we are seeing significant increases on like-for-like sales off the back of this type of roll your sleeves up, get on the phone, honest, hard-working PR – which in some cases had begun to be overlooked in the Emperor’s new clothes’ approach to the effectiveness of the influencer.
It’s time to dig out the Bill Gates quote about spending his last dollar on public relations. In these times it’s more relevant than ever before.
To the CEOs out there, isn’t it time to question why your teams have turned off PR? Surely you should turn it back on again.