The Role of PR in Funding and New Business
In some situations, PR can be used to mitigate damage and protect reputations but, in most cases, it’s a means to the end of driving new business.
That is the stark reality facing all PRs about to embark on a new campaign. As sure as night follows day, clients will ask “Can you guarantee we will sell more products?” or “Are you sure we will attract VC investment?”
The short answer to both questions is “No”. We can’t make cast-iron guarantees of sales and investment but what we can do, however, is create such interest, awareness and ‘buzz’ behind a product, person or business that leads and business will inevitably follow.
Without clear and detailed KPIs, though, this still requires a large leap of faith from the client. So it’s becoming increasingly important for PRs to identify areas where we can make firm commitments and be held to account. Clients are no longer satisfied with the antiquated measure of success that is equivalent advertising value (AVE) and need more pragmatic, detailed guidelines that demonstrate how PR translates to sales. An increase in volume of coverage in key media, or an improved online influencer rating, for example, are tangible returns that demonstrate an increased presence with the target audience of likely customers.
Several recent campaigns spring to mind where we have seen real, tangible returns for clients from highly targeted PR activity.
The first was for a youth enterprise charity and, in this case, we ran a nationwide campaign targeting areas of the country where the problem of youth unemployment is most acute, highlighting the need for investment in order to train and inspire youngsters to start businesses themselves. As a result of the media coverage, the charity received heavy investment from the Big Lottery to help solve the problem the media coverage identified.
Another client was seeking venture capital investment to help take its growth to the next level and took books of our media work to meetings, explaining how their business was the most talked about and credible in the sector, taking the lion’s share of press coverage. They ended up with £8m of investment and PR was instrumental in the whole process. Incidentally, we have since publicized the investment story itself and will use it as a means to generate another wave of positive coverage. The client came to us with a specific objective of generating investment and our argument was that volume and quality of media coverage would improve the value of their business and present a very attractive proposition to potential investors.
Finally, for a foreign based client reaching out to British consumers for the first time, use of PR as a route to sales is absolutely paramount. Our work helped to prove demand for a technology company based in Eastern Europe and, following an intensive and targeted PR campaign, they launched their product with a major UK distributor and sales are very strong.
Bill Gates famously said that if he was down to his last dollar, he would spend it on PR and the ability of PR to connect directly with stakeholders, whether potential customers or investors, through powerful stories, means that it is a potent medium through which to generate both sales and investment. The challenge for PRs, however, is to identify detailed, transparent goals that will make the process work successfully.