PR Prominence: The Unavoidable Need to Strategically Engage Your Customers

All things PR, Personal Writing

As a public relations student with a minor in marketing and Spanish, I constantly judge a business or organization’s PR quality everywhere I go. This is even easier with the prevalence of technology and social media at the swipe of my fingers; if I ever need to find news immediately or look up a fact or reviews, I immediately pull up Twitter or a search engine on my cell phone.

I doubt there are any companies, marketers and brand managers in today’s wired world who can afford to forgo their own social media presence. Social media usage extends beyond products as organizations are increasing their focus on their reputation and maintaining relationships with and engaging customers. Thus enters the role of public relations firms. PRMarketing.com created an interesting and visually appealing infographic based on market research about online public relations, noting that online PR averages a 275 percent return on interest (ROI) for businesses. Click on the picture to the right or check the end of the post for the infographic.

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Unger, Assistant Professor and Director of Urban Programs at Wagner College, notes that President Obama was not the first candidate to use social media technology to leverage his campaign and ideals. However, President Obama most successfully applied the strategic use of social media to form a campaign platform that’s reach extended beyond traditional political networks.

According to social media news blog Mashable, the all politics in the 2012 presidential campaign is social. For an interesting infographic about social media in the race for the White House, check the end of the post.

Fast Company calls him “America’s first truly social president” as his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention broke political Twitter records by averaging 52,000 tweets per minute throughout its entirety. This is not surprising to me after seeing that Twitter’s vice president of international strategy quoted the company’s total registered accounts at 200 million.

One of my favorite websites is Ad Age, which is where I found this interesting section of stories, mainly for marketers but relevant to everyone, that discuss the importance of public relations firms to a business’s integrated marketing communications plan and its effects on the marketing industry.

According to Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman, the firm that works with Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox gaming system, their campaigns to engage bloggers and fans begins 10 months before the ads even launch.

“Our job is no longer doing a press conference to break the ads—we are building engagement with enthusiasts to create a runway of credibility for a new brand or campaign,” Edelman said.

This is very true; companies cannot afford to not personify their brands to consumers because those voices carry so much influence in today’s digital word. According to Rob Flaherty, president of Ketchum, the consumers, not the press, are the real owners of media in today’s highly connected landscape. Word-of-mouth, especially when it is negative, travels further and sometimes faster than any other form of marketing. Research has shown that dissatisfied customers and negative experiences are likely to generate online conversation, and who hasn’t taken to their Facebook or Twitter to gripe about poor management or lackluster customer service?

Case in point: my one night stay at an Econolodge in Kingsville, Texas resulted in the tweet pictured.

I received an email from Choice Hotels, the parent company of Econolodge, that attempted to address my bad experience and improve from it, but it was too late. My attitude of the chain’s quality is set, despite their apologies and effort to make contact with me, and unfortunately for some companies it’s just unavoidable.

One of my coworkers also told me of a prime example of lackluster PR and marketing at IKEA, a privately-held Swedish self-assemble furniture company with a reputation for the non-literal help center and employees who never help customers. During this visit to IKEA, he noticed that all the temp employees wore shirts saying,

“Temporary Team Member…Please do not ask me any hard questions.”

As a marketing manager, his mind was as boggled as mine was after hearing this story. Especially coming from a teller job at one of the U.S.’s biggest financial institutions, it has been deeply ingrained in my beliefs that in-store employees are the figurative and literal “face” of a company. These types of employees, whether they’re an IKEA sales rep. or a banker, have direct contact with the company’s most important constituencies and whose interactions can greatly impact the reputation and relationship with these customers.

Perhaps this concept is lost on Leontyne Green, CMO of IKEA North America, or maybe anti-IKEA tweets need to reach 52,000 hits before it’s worth making a change.

PRMarketing.com’s Online PR Infographic:

Mashable’s Politics via Social Media Infographic:

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