Is PR connected to your sales funnel? Whether it’s a journalist, influencer, prospect or customer; public relations can be found in each part of the sales funnel from awareness to engagement to conversion and loyalty.
Over the years I’ve heard public relations compared to “fluff” or “buzz” and not the driver of any real business impact. Harsh, right?!
Not necessarily. It is easy to see why PR gets cut from the marketing budget when an agency or practitioner is laser-focused on top of funnel metrics like impressions and circulation. Those days are long gone in my world because today’s top public relations pros focus on the full-funnel, from brand awareness to the bottom line.
Sure, we measure KPIs like exposure, influence, and reputation but the digital ecosystem we live, play and work in covers the full gamut of the customer journey. As McKinsey points out, the journey is much more complicated than a traditional top to bottom-funnel. It is a circular and rapidly evolving experience, directed by the consumer.
PR Approach to the Customer Journey and Conversion
Public relations funnels have four steps in the cycle: know, like, buy and loyal.
The first stage in the PR Funnel is “Know”
Start by generating awareness. Get your audience to know you exist and put your brand in their initial consideration set. Here’s how:
- First: Have the right landing page. Optimize the page with video content, and clear, informative messaging about the product or service with a call to action (CTA) above the fold. Consider multiple landing pages for each channel and add social proof to each page to show how much everyone loves your brand. For PR this landing page can be a newsroom.
- Use media outreach for coverage in local and national news. Pitch relevant and newsworthy content that’s topical and interesting.
- Participate in and create events that your target audience cares to attend.
- Write search engine optimized articles for relevant, top of funnel keywords that tie back to products or services.
- Promote content with social ads broaching new audiences with creative messaging designed to pique interest. Video is your best here. Quick, concise messages (under 0:15) with a strong CTA will drive action. Low production videos are often top performers. Test and optimize towards what works best in your niche.
Second customers move onto “Like” or the Consideration Phase
Side note: I’ve always liked the word “Like.” I don’t recommend it in verbal communication but I think it’s crazy that Facebook wants to remove Likes from the platform. Likes are the foundation of Facebook for goodness sake! I digress.
This stage is McKinsey’s active evaluation or consideration phase. The list of PR tactics used to attract customers here is vast.
Influencers are today’s trifecta. Influencer marketing offers the content, audience and reaches brands that just can’t cultivate on their own. The reputation side of the PR puzzle plays strong and if your brand jives with an influencer’s voice, partner up and stick to it. Third-party point-of-view provides value and credibility throughout the buying cycle.
Optimized content and online articles via guest posts and credible sources are a great opportunity to move audiences from the consideration mindset to the buying cycle. The borrowed influence will always speak stronger than the brand itself.
Social ads and PPC can be used through every stage of the funnel and especially adhere to customers that have interacted in the past and can be reached with a retargeting tactic.
Funnel up! Que the cash register for the third stage “Buy”
- If you’ve made it this far, you’re golden. Right? Wrong. Customers require a stellar experience both digitally and in person. This includes having reduced friction when buying online (que Amazon) and a deliciously packaged item when it arrives (my recent fave is Pura Vida bracelets with their warm-hearted, surprise and delight packaging inserts).
- The PR methodologies of getting consumers to the “buy cycle” are continued social ads, bottom of funnel blog content with deep link CTAs, email marketing, and influencer programs – using promo codes when applicable.
- In the past two years, consumers have gone from being afraid of Facebook ads to literally buying directly from a brand’s ad at first blush. Paid social circumvents the stages of the traditional funnel at its core.
- Affiliate programs through influencers are mutually beneficial, proving financial reciprocity for the influencer’s time while driving a sale.
- Align your message with peak seasons and relevant days of the year. Brands taking advantage of the Labor Day weekend or Black Friday for a sale know what I’m talking about here.
Funnel Rinse and Repeat
Your brand is winning when customers become Loyal
When steps one through three are fully functional and firing, loyalty comes. There will always be new competitors and a shiny object elsewhere, but if a brand’s proof points play out in the eyes of a consumer, there’s no reason to look elsewhere.
Cultivating a frictionless process with auto-ship, easy cancel and regular (but not overdone) communication is the goal here. Blue Apron does a great job of this with their meal service app that allows customers to cancel meals on the fly. They also offer great social PR customer service and resolve issues within moments on the Facebook channel. Keep in mind the page speed of your landing pages so that consumers are quickly getting to your message. Don’t make them wait.
PR’s POV in the loyalty cycle combines all of the above tactics: media outreach, social ads, events, influencers, optimized content, and email marketing. Deciding on which blend to use and when is the ultimate game of Tetris and quite the fun challenge for top online PR agencies.
Keep in mind to stay away from funnel activation until the brand’s foundation is laid. Craft the right message, to the right audience, with the right tone is imperative to begin. Knowing the creative angle that attracts your audience and speaks directly to the right persona can only be amplified by the PR funnel tactics mentioned in this article. Do testing to uncover the right creative, messaging and target audience first and foremost, then layer on the power.
If you’re looking for ideas on how to weave Social PR tactics into your buyer’s journey including the media, give us a shout. We’d love to talk through some ideas.