For some, PR only conjures ideas of public appearances and major publications. Even when not drawing attention to a company, however, PR still provides a crucial management function. If your customers or clients value anonymity, as with a small hedge fund, there is an in inherent risk in being unknown. When you face a crisis or are looking to expand, you need to sell your brand – and preparation for that requires a long-term PR strategy.
The Subtlety of Public Relations
Truly good PR does not look and smell like PR. It is strategic and consistent – building a certain expectation from clients and the public over time. Unlike advertising, which pushes products through high-profile campaigns, PR considers the perception of a company in general – not merely in relation to a particular piece of publicity. Through consistently embodying the right values in all communications, this can ensure people associate your company with certain standards – which is crucial for credibility, loyalty and even sympathy.
For example, with our low-profile hedge fund an external problem such as uncertainty in the financial market could cause doubts with investors. They are more likely to continue to invest confidently if they trust your company to always do the right thing. To earn that trust, your message needs to be conveyed naturally and consistently – this is where PR comes in.
Taking control of your message
Even without a crisis, strategic messaging can pay dividends. Consider NTechLab’s facial recognition technology – which could inspire fear in some – whose PR message has presented a message of security instead of risk. Being proactive with PR in this way can prevent potential negativity before it has begun – as well as help you reach a wider audience.
On the other hand, controlling your message could also lower your public exposure – getting your message out before a problem occurs could stop something from becoming a story. It also builds confidence in your brand – and confidence can be as valuable to investors as discretion.
Building Credibility and Loyalty
Developing your company’s overall image also pays off when you will need to convince clients of your efficacy. A lesson can be taken from the findings of MarketInvoice, a company providing an online alternative to banking: PR proved crucial in obtaining their first customers, because the proposition was so different to the norm. As MarketInvoice’s Anil Stoke found, PR was not about publicity, it built the confidence and credibility that was necessary for clients to join them.
You don’t need to see your name in a major publication to achieve this – quality coverage in the right niches is what counts. You can reach an audience discretely through social media or in producing specialist online content. You may host your own, select events or look to organic PR like conferences and competitions or ratings. Whatever the case, PR is at its most effective when it is not extravagant – consider starting from within, by engaging those people you trust and respect most (such as your board, partners and mentors). With an inner circle of influencers as a foundation, you can establish a trustworthy message that they then help to spread. Even when you do look to more public avenues, this can be done in subtle and natural ways – such as Cemaphore’s coverage in the New York Times, which lead to great publicity and ultimately acquisition.
What it really means to be seen…
With a strategic, controlled message and the right foundations for sharing it, you both increase stability with existing customers and create a better proposition for new ones. Being newsworthy is only a part of this – you may prefer to stay out of the news entirely – the key to effective PR is that you take an organised and considerate approach to how people perceive your company.