PR should be considered as a key sales generator by brand owners. Because PR leads to trust which leads to sales.
PR Leads To Trust
PR generates editorial content, and according to Nielsen, editorial content is trusted by 69% of consumers – more than TV ads, newspaper ads, radio ads, billboards, and cinema ads. And way way more than ads in search engines, mobile phone text ads and online banner ads.
PR has another string to its bow too. Great creative PR not only generates editorial content but also stimulates word-of-mouth. We know that consumers trust what they read about a brand in newspaper editorial, but trusting the information means they are more likely to recommend that brand to others – and the No1 trusted channel on the Nielsen list by far is peer recommendation – 90% of consumers trust ‘recommendations from people I know’.
Similarly, the third most powerful channel is ‘consumer opinions online’, which again can be influenced by PR. It is PR agencies who can most effectively influence ‘citizen journalists’. Yet despite the power of this ‘earned’ online recommendation, according to McKinsey & Company only 20% of digital marketers spend is allocated to Earned Media (PR territory) – the rest is spent on Owned Media (e.g. websites and apps) and Bought Media (e.g. banner ads).
While Owned Media can certainly inspire trust (brand websites come high in the Nielsen list) surely Bought Media is over-invested in (according to Mediamind the average global click through rate for banner advertising has declined from 0.12% in 2007 to 0.08% in 2010).
Trust Leads To Sales
Having established that PR is one of the most effective ways to establish brand trust, does trust actually lead to sales? Apparently, yes. According to marketing professors Arjun Chaudhuri and Morris B. Holbrook who have conducted extensive research into the subject, “Brand trust will contribute to both purchase loyalty and attitudinal loyalty. Trusted brands should be purchased more often and should evoke a higher degree of attitudinal commitment.”
Research from Mext Consulting showed that “83% of consumers agree they will buy more products and services if they trust a brand” and “81% recommend a brand they trust”. What’s more “47% agree they would pay a premium for a band they trust”.
A final word from Millward Brown: “The bond between customer and brand is 50% stronger among brands that consumers say they both trust and recommend. And a stronger bond leads to greater sales”.
PR Leads To Trust Leads To Sales
In summary, PR communicates through channels which are the most trusted by consumers (editorial, consumer opinion online and peer recommendation) stimulating brand trust, and this trust results directly in sales. So while PR may not deliver the data that some other disciplines do, it can certainly deliver the sales, which many marketers are currently under increased pressure to deliver.
Gary Freemantle is CEO of the UK's Clarion Communications