Public relations(PR) can help a company achieve their business and sales goals by building lasting relationships with customers and suppliers. Most people tend to think of PR professionals as the “damage control” people who work at large corporations. When there is bad press, they are the ones who come in to try to put a positive spin on things.

Although that is one aspect of the services an agency can offer, a true PR plan focuses more on positive, proactive measures to help a company increase sales. Many businesses have a hard time understanding how public relations can help their bottom line because it generally uses a more “soft sell” approach for reaching consumers.

The public is increasingly skeptical of advertising claims, and it now takes a more personal approach to gain their confidence and trust.

A public relations agency or specialist can give your product or company a boost of awareness within the community, traditional media and social media. (Photo: Howard Communications)

If you’re considering expanding your efforts to reach consumers, talking with an established agency about your goals and expectations can help you decide if hiring a PR agency is right for you. Most good agencies can customize a plan for you by helping you define the image you want to project with consumers and how to implement the plan.luke.laggis@colepublishing.com

A full PR plan may include press releases about new services or products available in your store, setting up interviews with store personnel and local media, professional photography services for advertising and promotions and special event planning. Depending on your business needs you may want to take advantage of everything a firm has to offer, or possibly only a partial plan.

My advice has always been to put a plan together that includes a good mix of PR and advertising. A balanced plan helps you maximize exposure and drive sales. Some firms can handle both PR and advertising with an eye toward providing the most bang for your buck.
In a competitive marketplace, with online sales and big box stores taking a greater portion of market share, building personal relationships with your customer base can help you keep them coming back.

These days, most people tend to read reviews of products online before making a purchase. They want to feel some sort of connection with other shoppers and share their experience on line. Good customer relations can help bring repeat customers back to your store and those satisfied customers tend to share their experiences with friends, which can bring them in to shop as well. An agency can help provide employee training in customer service and relations so your business puts its best foot forward.

A good PR agency should have close relationships with local media outlets in the surrounding area to promote sales and events you have planned. Getting an interview on the local radio station about a timely topic that relates to your business can help build awareness and entice customers to shop there. By getting representatives from your business involved with the media, you can be seen as the “go to” source of information, not only on the products you sell, but on using them in the field. An agency can help plan various events with the public, handling the logistics of location, informational releases about the event in advance and working with local media during the event to ensure coverage.

Many PR agencies also offer photography services and can provide lifestyle images of the products you sell for advertising and promotions. Seeing lifestyle images of the products in use helps educate the consumer and explains why they need a particular product. In-store lifestyle posters and images help increase visual appeal in your store and can add a level of excitement that entice customers to make a purchase. You can work with the agency to pick the products you want to feature and what types of images you would like to see. The agency provides the photographer and generally handles getting qualified models as well as finding an appropriate location.

Public relations, when done correctly, will lead to increased sales and greater awareness of your business within the community. In today’s environment, business owners need to look at all avenues when it comes to staying competitive and keeping the customer satisfied.