Contrary to popular belief among many first-time entrepreneurs, marketing and public relations are not the same thing.
PR is an integral part of a great marketing campaign, and the two must work together seamlessly. Without a strong, uniform message, your marketing can actually derail a great PR plan--or vice versa!
One recent example is Eva Longoria's SHe restaurant. In 2012, the television star opened the steakhouse for women, going against the stereotype that steakhouses were for men. Partnered with Morton's and located in the heart of Las Vegas, it seemed like a great idea. But marketing and PR were not communicating like the good married couple they should be.
In the press releases leading up to the grand opening, Ms. Longoria was quoted as saying that SHe would create a feeling of "empowerment for women."
The restaurant itself appeared to be well branded, but the look and vibe didn't strike many as "empowering." It featured soft, sensual lighting, smaller portions, a mirror on the menus to reapply lipstick, and a runway show in which scantily clad women performed for the diners. To make matters more confusing, the promotional video released featured sexy women suggestively feeding each other steak. Reviewers blasted SHe for being sexist.
Given the pricey menu and the PR message, you would think SHe's target audience might have been hip executive women in their 30s and 40s. The problem was that the marketing team seemed to assume that "women" was its own demographic and advertised solely to "girly girls." If this was the real demographic, perhaps the PR message should have been that it was a steakhouse where "girls can be girls." In any case, it shut down shortly after, which is very sad, because it really could have been a winner if the marketing and PR had been executed properly.
That is a classic example of how businesses can do themselves a disservice due to a lack of consistency in their branding. In many cases, entrepreneurs do not have the funds to hire a marketing/PR firm right out of the gate, so they have to multitask and do the work themselves. If this is you, make sure your marketing plan and PR are working together by asking yourself these questions:
1. Who exactly is my target demographic?
Who needs your product? Don't say "everybody." That is the quickest way to water down your brand's voice. It might be a product everyone uses, but who is yours specifically for and why? For example, everybody needs a cell phone these days, but Verizon's target demographic is "trendsetting young professionals." That demographic is old enough to have the money to spend on a more expensive smartphone, but young enough to use copious amounts of technology. Refine your target demographic. Know exactly who it is and be as specific as possible.
2. Does my website and advertising sound like my demographic?
You have to make sure that your website copy and the language used in your advertising sound like the voice of your target demographic. Otherwise, you will lose the chance to fully resonate with the people you are trying to reach. For example, if your target audience is the Forbes demographic, you don't want to come across sounding like the Cosmo crowd. Get into the minds of the members of your audience--become them!
3. Does my staff reflect that voice?
A great advertising campaign is quickly extinguished when the customer arrives at a store that does not reflect the brand. The staff members have a lot to do with this.
Say your business is a day spa. Your website features calming, natural colors. Your radio spot uses sea sounds and a voiceover artist who bubbles over with the dulcet tones of relaxation. So the interested customer books online and comes into a too-loud lobby with a manic receptionist. It's almost a guarantee she will not come back (and will probably tell her friends why).
4. Does my PR spokesperson reflect my brand voice?
Maybe you are your PR spokesperson; maybe it's a member of your staff. But whomever you choose to represent you on camera and in print, make sure the person embodies your company's voice. You might be a young bachelor who makes a product for mothers--and that's OK! Just ensure that you research and use the correct language to get those moms.
Whether you have launched yet or not, these elements are crucial to think about and will put you on the path to brand consistency--saving a lot of time, money, and backtracking!