Value is a tricky concept. It’s not created by having the best product, the best team, or the best technology. Value for a business is only created when your customers and other target audiences know and recognize how good you are.
Don’t get me wrong – offering a great service or product, running an efficient operation, prioritizing customer service – these are all necessary elements of a great business. But they only generate value for the organization if your company is getting proper credit for them, both from your customers and from the broader audiences you want to reach.
If those audiences think a given accomplishment is just a fluke or a stunt, or that your firm’s great reputation is unearned, it’s safe to say it won’t have created the value you were hoping for.
Advertising alone can’t ensure that your business will receive proper credit. It’s great at driving awareness, but audiences have a tough time distinguishing between various brands when their ads all claim they’re the best at what they do.
So how do you communicate the greatness and achievements of your organization in a way that ensures they are properly recognized and valued by customers, partners, and even (potentially) acquirors?
This is where an expert public relations firm can serve as your ‘secret weapon’ by bringing three key elements to the table: Credibility, a consistent, compelling narrative, and a steady, ongoing media presence.
There’s a well-known story from the sports world that perfectly illustrates the power of these three factors.
On March 2, 1962, Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a game between his Philadelphia Warriors and the New York Knicks in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Famously, almost no one actually attended the game – there were a little over 4,100 fans in attendance, and not a single New York reporter was in the stands.
Even more incredible, there is no known footage of the achievement. The enduring image of Wilt’s record-setting performance is a photo of him in the locker room, holding up a piece of paper with the number ‘100’ written on it.
As advertising or marketing collateral, the image is almost laughable. It’s literally a dude holding a piece of paper.
And yet, that photo almost immediately became one of the most iconic in sports history – a universally recognized and indelible signifier of Wilt’s greatness. People reading the newspaper the next day saw that image and generally accepted that the Big Dipper, as he was called, really had put up 100 points against another team of professional basketball players – despite the lack of any video evidence and the fact that the game occurred in a half-empty stadium.
How is that possible?
Looking back, we know there were plenty of eye-witness accounts, not to mention a recording of the play-by-play broadcast. Most people seeing that photo for the first time, however, hadn’t heard those accounts or listened to the play-by-play. And yet they still believed the feat had occurred, thanks to the following:
- The event was reported the next day by newspapers that fans knew and trusted. The NBA had a credible reporting structure that provided accurate and reliable box scores.
- Consistent, Compelling Narrative. Wilt had been widely known as an athletic marvel from the time he was in high school, and he was a dominant force in the NBA, having scored 78 points in a game just four months earlier. When fans heard the news, they could easily imagine the towering Chamberlain scoring 100 – or maybe even more.
- Steady, ongoing media presence. This is connected to the second point above, but where ‘consistent narrative’ means telling a consistent story every time, ‘ongoing media presence’ means telling that story as frequently and as broadly as possible. People continued to give credence to Wilt’s 100-point game not only due to his athletic skill, but because of his continued excellence over a career that lasted 15 years.
A skilled PR firm brings these same factors to bear on behalf of its clients, helping to establish not only awareness of the client’s products or services, but building recognition of the client’s greatness and competitive differentiators in the minds of customers, prospective customers, partners, employees, and others. Here’s how:
- Exceptional PR professionals have credibility with reporters, editors, broadcast producers and bookers – who can then help to build credibility for the client by featuring them in important stories or putting them on air to talk about crucial trends.
- Great PR firms craft compelling and consistent narratives for their clients, so that when John or Jane Q. Public thinks about the company’s core competencies – secure technology, for example, or sound financial guidance, or innovation in embedded finance, or thought leadership on crypto trends or whatever the case may be – they think about that specific company as being among the industry leaders.
- A PR firm can also help your company to establish a steady, ongoing presence with the media. It’s not enough to publish one great article, or do one great TV interview, or a strong keynote address at a notable conference.
Companies that fail to turn these ‘assets’ into a steady presence in strategic media channels risk falling prey to the ‘empty storefront’ problem, leaving customers excited to visit but confused and disappointed when they can’t find any new coverage of your company in the last year or more.
In simple terms, a skilled PR firm’s goal is to not only help your business win awards but to ensure that – when your prospective customers hear that you’ve won – they think to themselves, “That makes sense, they’re great at that.”
A good PR firm should strive to ensure that, when an important reporter needs expert commentary on a new trend, she thinks first about the PR firm’s clients.
In short, the mission of a good PR firm should be to make sure that its clients are receiving the credit and recognition they deserve for their leadership and their achievements – and to make sure that their clients’ work translates into value.