How important is Public Relations to your business?

I was recently asked by one of my post graduate MBA students how important public relations really is to a company.  She said “after all it’s not like there is any direct trackable impact on the bottom line”.  For the most part she is right, a lot of public relations are completely untrackable, and it has no direct impact on a company’s profit margin or bottom line. However, indirectly it has a huge impact and is a prime factor in marketing even though in most cases there is no response mechanism that can be monitored.  Public relations is one of the most important aspects of marketing for a company, and while many small and medium sized companies public relations is done from within the marketing department, most larger companies have a department dedicated to public relations.  Public relations has the ability to sway a consumer to buy or not to buy.

One of the biggest public relations decisions ever made in the history of business was in 1982 by Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturer of Tylenol, when seven people died from cyanide poisoning after taking extra strength Tylenol capsules.  It was reported that than an unknown suspect put more than 10,000 times the cyanide that is necessary to kill a person (Time). This left Johnson & Johnson with a huge problem, because even though it was not their fault, the fallback was affecting their business.  Against the advice of everyone including the FDA James Burke the CEO of Johnson & Johnson made the decision to pull all 31 million bottles of Tylenol off the shelves nationwide regardless of the cost.  Following their company guidelines of protecting people first and property second McNeil Consumer Products, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson recalled all Tylenol and halted all advertisements for the product at an estimated loss of over $100 million dollars. (http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/Fall02/Susi/tylenol.htm).

Business and Financial analysts said that Tylenol was done, over, kaput, that there was no way that they could recover from this.  They were wrong, they did recover.  Several weeks later Tylenol came out with tamper proof packaging, the first of its kind.  Because Tylenol reacted so quickly and made the public’s health a priority over its profit, it survived.  Not only did it survive, it quickly became the number one selling pain reliever in the country.  The public appreciated what was done on their behalf, and they rewarded Johnson & Johnson for their decision.   This was public relations at work and while it was a huge gamble, it paid off; in the end Johnson & Johnson came out looking like the hero.

Public relations is such an important tool for all businesses, including small business, because the ability to maintain a positive public image is critical to having a successful growing business. No matter what type of business you are in or how big or small that business is, use public relations to connect with the public, your customers, and potential customers.

Hiring a coach – Guest Post – Karen Post

As entrepreneurs, we all want to move our businesses forward, score the next big goal and take the next prisoner. We often look to outside advisers and coaches to help carry some of the load and guide us.  Whether it’s because of their specialty expertise, their connections or their commanding accountability stature—the investment needs to deliver a solid return on cash out laid—or we are not happy and feel let down.

It’s always a scary thought to spend or not to spend on a real expert. They are usually not cheap.

Can this person make a significant difference? Or are they just a rockin sales person and you are feeling desperate and grabbing for any breathing person that seems like they can save you from your pain?

In the 30 some years I’ve been in business there have been times that I was feeling desperate and I searched to find a “save my ass expert soul”. They’ve ranged from experts and coaches on pricing, comedy, fund raising, story telling, performance and business planning,

I’ve worked with a lot of smart hired guns, coaches and consultants and a few great sales people that didn’t know much else, and what is consistent in all of these arrangements is they, the consultant or coach are only 50% of the power behind the results. You, as the buyer, must carry your load too or you are guaranteed to fail. You must provide them what they need, you must be able to carry the torch after they provide a sound road map and you must demonstrate leadership and excellent delegations skills too.

Do you shell out the investment or fly alone? Answer these questions.

  • Will spending $5,000 on a new business commando get you $15,000 in new revenues?
  • Will investing $10,000 on an HR adviser help find you that superstar next staff member?
  • Will buying some education tool for $500.00 add to your bottom line?

I’ve not met many advisers or coaches with magic wands, even if their bio may convince you other wise. Here are a few pointers to getting the most with a coach or adviser.

1) Check references, not the ones they give you, but the ones they list on their web site.

2) Be clear on what the adviser’s role is. Get it in writing, are they biz shrinks and can they listen to a vent for hours? Will they deliver work product (something you can hold)?, or is their role more like a sports coach to push you and empower you to deliver? Or are they a pure consultant, providing how-to and then you need to execute? This is very important to know.

3) Make sure you have the time to spare. Coaches and adviser relationships take time. Can you allocate the needed hours to the cause? Ask them upfront, what will be required from you.

4) State and share with them what your expectations are from this investment. Tell them what you think success/results will look like in three specific bullets.

Examples:
-Find a strategic partner with a following of 10,000+ customers
-Increase sales by ____%
-Cut your operating expenses by 20%

5) Unless you can find a robot, they are human and they need positive feedback too. When they are adding to your success, tell them. And tell your friends and make referrals.

Hiring an expert coach, adviser or consultant can be gold. But without you actively participating in the process, executing on the advice they dish out and providing them the support they need to do their job—your result will be  limited to a pile of cheap tin.

Is your business growing?

Every smart business owner, manager, and executive knows that business growth doesn’t happen by itself.  Sure your business can grow organically without innovation or effort, but this is a limited growth.  In order for a business to experience real and long term growth it requires a deliberate growth strategy, and this strategy requires innovation and a vision of where you want your business to go in the long term.

I have heard the excuses time and time again that there isn’t time, or enough man power, that’s right I said excuses, because if you convince yourself that you cannot move forward, than you surely will not.  If success was easy than everyone would be successful; those businesses that are successful and have grown into a flourishing company didn’t start out that way and most of them had the same problems that new businesses today are experiencing.  The purpose of a business is to grow and in order to grow it has to be managed effectively and that requires innovation and a growth strategy.   So how do you create a growth strategy when you have so little money to spend?  There are ways to grow a business without spending large sums of cash; you have to use innovation to fuel your strategy and to plan your growth.

While it of course takes money to run a business and money to market products and services, there are ways to grow your business without spending a lot of money, sometimes without spending any money.  For example, Social Media is being used as a large part of many marketing strategies and it is possible to utilize without spending.  Using FaceBook, Twitter,  LinkedIn and others doesn’t cost any money, but it can be time consuming and that is one of the biggest issues for many businesses, having the time to create innovation.  One of the things that many businesses do today is they set aside a certain percentage of man hours for nothing but innovation, whether that be 10% or 20% you create the time to work on these new things, whether that be daily, weekly, hourly, whatever works for you.  Having good time management will help the innovative process a lot by creating time that you didn’t know that you had.  Most people spend twice as long working on projects that could have been done in a fraction of the time because they are not practicing good time management.  It’s also important to remember that innovation is not just coming up with new ideas, it’s also fixing issues with existing processes and throwing money at problems more often than not will not fix it; it’s just putting a band aid on it.  Coming up with new ideas for existing processes doesn’t usually cost anything, but requires innovative thought, and using the creative minds of those that work for you and with you.

Innovation is not a onetime occurrence, successful innovation is long term and continuous and can result in the long term growth that every business is striving for.

Understanding the customer.

I often get advertisements that do not apply to me, or the advertiser does not understand me in any way.  I bet you do as well.  I have been preaching to clients for years that it is imperative that you understand your customer, because without this understanding you are just playing darts in the dark.  Consumer behavior is one of the most important aspects of a marketing strategy, and yes I said strategy, besides targeting and segmenting you need to understand the customer.

If you are a fragrance company and are creating a marketing strategy for a new men’s cologne is it enough to just advertise to men in general?  Absolutely not.  Different people have different needs, and the reason for purchasing the same product may not be the same.  What motivates an 18 year old to purchase the same cologne as a 70 year old may not be the same, so you have to understand these various segments in your market, what is motivating them to buy?  If you own a small restaurant it is important for you to know that the best time to advertise food to people is when they are hungry, so advertising at lunch and dinner time will probably have better results than advertising at 10 pm.  Again you need to understand your customer, what motivates them, what their needs and wants are and use this to your marketing advantage.

I have often heard people say that there isn’t a difference between marketing and advertising and that is completely untrue.  Advertising is just that, it is advertising without targeting, without segmenting your target, without analyzing your potential customers and their wants and needs, without understanding them.  Marketing is understanding all of this and taking it all into consideration before making any advertising decisions.  Advertising is a part of marketing; they are not one and the same.  Advertising is pulling the trigger on sending out your message; marketing is the research and the analyzing that is done to understand consumer behavior.

Whether you are a fortune 500 company trading on NASDAQ or a pretzel stand downtown and whether you have a multimillion dollar marketing budget or just a few thousand dollar budget, all of this still applies.  Advertising without a strategy and without understanding your customer is simply a waste of advertising dollars.  The sooner you figure this out, the more successful you will be.