Measuring Audience Engagement

Many of us are out there hitting the pavement, social media channels and PR circuits to build a following for our brand, organization or product. How do we determine if our efforts have been successful?

Engagement chart

What’s Your Relationship Status?

We often to talk with clients about two main types of relationships:

  • An exchange relationship: Person A does something for Person B only because B has provided equal benefits in the past or will do so in the future. It’s an exchange of something for something.


  • A shared relationship: Person A and Person B both act out of genuine concern for the welfare of the other and value the relationship without expecting anything in return.


Exchange relationships are most common, but shared may be the strongest. You probably have a mix of both, and that’s good. The key is to understand the type of relationships and what it takes to manage exchange versus shared relationships.

Get to the Action Already!

There’s a scale we often use to build momentum among a given audience. It has four steps:

  1. Awareness: “I think I’ve maybe heard you have a new product because I stumbled across your company’s website once.”
  2. Understanding: “You design fashion apps, and I know you have a new one coming out soon. I know what you’ve blogged about because I occasionally lurk there.”
  3. Engagement: “I’ve talked to my friends about your product. I once posted a review of your latest launch.”
  4. Action: “I bought your product. I’m a blog follower now and comment regularly.”

Volume of Followers versus Engagement

The goal is to move people from Awareness to Action. You might have 1,000 people who are peripherally aware of your company and its products, but those numbers don’t matter much until you can convince you audience to go our spend money on your product or service, or actively support your efforts to build a larger following. The level of engagement is perhaps more important than volume. 


Take a look at your relationships with your audiences. What are your exchange versus shared relationships? Where on the Awareness/Action spectrum do they fall? And how can you move them closer to action?

Call us, we’d love to talk.

Social Media

Just Be Nice: Rules for High-Quality Media Relationships


When you have a big story to pitch, it can be easy to have a “quantity over quality” mindset. After all, putting your big product announcement or success story in front of the greatest number of people is the goal, right?

We want to send our stories to anyone and everyone who might be interested, but with limited time in the day, trying to send hundreds of emails out can lead to poor results – obvious errors, wrong names and impersonal BCCs can limit the success of your releases. No one wants to feel like an afterthought!

Taking the time to build connections with reporters and editors can guarantee your stories will hit their mark with greater accuracy. It may seem counterintuitive, but focusing on a smaller group of connections can guarantee more placements than sending releases to hundreds of reporters at a time.


Be Strategic

Reporters often specialize in certain beats, and knowing these beats can make your media relations strategy more effective. A reporter focused on business likely won’t be the best target for a story about your art show, and a healthcare reporter won’t know what to do with your release about a financial management tool.

Researching reporters’ and editors’ focuses and beats through publication website or databases like Cision or Meltwater shows the contact you respect their time and makes them more likely to want to work with you.

Be Nice

You’re never too busy to show a little kindness. Simple things like the addition of a greeting and a thanks can make a media contact much more likely to consider using your story. Remember that they’re human too – treat them with kindness and you’ll start building a rapport that can help when it comes time to publish your next important news.


Be Respectful

Once a reporter or editor has placed a story you’ve pitched, you have a relationship with them. Treat them well! Assume they know enough about your organization to get a less general, more specific pitch the second time around. Give them technical or industry-specific information you know they’ll be interested in using. Consider offering them exclusivity on certain stories. Maintaining a good working relationship with these contacts will make getting placements with them easier each time you have a good story to tell.

Reporters and editors aren’t just useful tools for doing your job – they’re doing a job too! Making it easy for them to place your story and being kind and patient is mutually beneficial, and can lead to better, easier placements in the future. When it comes to media contacts, quality beats quantity!

Catching The Transparency Wave: Four Steps To Improve Healthcare Price Transparency

The wave of interest at the state and federal levels to increase healthcare price transparency is growing more powerful. Consumers become more responsible for their healthcare costs with high deductible health plans. Government actors are pushing for hospital price transparency. Now is the time to develop and improve your abilities and capabilities to provide consumers with accurate price estimates.

The Wave

Identify high-volume services

A first step in catching the transparency wave is identifying the lower-price, higher-demand services. Patients are more likely to seek price information on these services since they are commonly delivered. State and federal governments also are targeting theses services as part of their price transparency plans. It’s also important to link cost data with other important information sources, such as relevant and publicly-reported quality and patient safety scores. This helps patients identify high-value services instead of just lower cost healthcare.

Med Money

Posting pricing information online

How healthcare systems publicize information will depend on state and federal regulations. California, Florida, Maryland and some others operate websites with hospital charge master and pricing information. The federal government is pursuing similar, but different rules on publicly posting prices for healthcare systems and drug companies.

Posting pricing information online may help you get ahead of the healthcare price transparency wave. Allowing access to hospital prices online also may be more convenient option for patients. As smartphone adoption rises and technology advances, patients are seeking cost information in the palm of their hands.

Med Bill

Bundled Pricing Strategy

Another way to catch the price transparency wave likely could include bundled pricing. When patients undergo a procedure at a hospital, they typically receive a series of services included in an episode of care. A total joint replacement, for example, can include pre-admission planning, surgery, post-acute care and complication management.

Care episodes can complicate prices estimates. Patients may seek pricing information for the surgery, but really want to know the total cost of care for the procedure. Hospitals and health systems that offer bundled pricing may be in a better position to service their patients and offer more accurate price estimates. All-inclusive bundled service offering is one way to build volume because it’s more like the traditional retail experience. A successful bundling strategy also may lead to better brand recognition.

Money Chart

Educate Staff on Patient Financial Responsibility

As consumers gain greater access to hospital prices, one of the more likely sources they’ll turn to for advice are healthcare providers and their staff. How prepared are you clinicians and staff to answer pricing questions from patients? Only 23 percent of providers in a recent survey said they always discuss patient financial responsibility with their patients prior to care delivery, while 36 percent admitted to never having the talk with their patients.

Provider inexperience with patient financial responsibility talks can wipe out many of your efforts to improve price transparency. Effective communications will be key to ensuring your patients understand pricing and their financial responsibility, especially since insurance coverage often affects how much a patient actually pays.


To accurately communicate pricing information, the American Hospital Association advises providers and staff to:

  • Emphasize that prices are estimates
  • Notify patients of cost changes that may occur based on a patient’s health or complications
  • Explain what is and is not included in the estimate (physician fees, lab costs, etc.)
  • Tell patients what other medical bills they may receive for the service


Use and Offer Price Transparency Tools

Technology and software can support with price transparency. Some healthcare systems have developed more of a retail approach with tools that gather pricing information on outpatient services and links the data to information on financial planners for consumers to use before, during and after the services. These transparency tools also can help to decrease costs. Putting transparent, accurate pricing information into the hands of patients and providers can help health systems direct patients to lower-cost clinicians and alternatives within the health system’s network. Accurate pricing estimates also can increase point-of-service patient collections.

You Are Not Alone

Perhaps the good news is you are not the only one struggling to develop meaningful ways to inform consumers of their financial responsibility. A group of researchers recently found that only 21 percent of hospitals had the ability to provide a complete hospital price estimate for a primary hip replacement. That could be seen as an opportunity to differentiate your hospital or health system in the marketplace.


The healthcare price transparency waves will continue to hit the healthcare beaches for years to come. Healthcare consumers are increasingly becoming more responsible for their healthcare costs with the continued growth of high deductible health plans. State and federal governments are starting to demand it. The industry leaders will take advantage of this opportunity and realign their healthcare systems with this new reality. Give us a call today to learn how we can help your organization manage and optimize price transparency.


Public decision-making is typically the domain of interest groups or highly specialized experts. Generally, it’s the most influential or well-organized group concerned with an issue that is best positioned to steer public decisions to its advantage.

The Role of Experts Versus the Most Organized

When it comes to the role of experts, public leaders often view highly trained experts as the only reliable source for the development of sound policy decisions. The logic of this approach to decision-making is clear and familiar: trained and specialized minds are the best suited to crafting public decisions, while the most organized and influential groups are those with the best shot at translating proposals into public policy. 

To the extent that citizens are considered, it is usually as consumers or clients of government. As a whole, the public is most often viewed as an audience to educate or problem to manage. In this framework, citizens are rarely viewed as vital resources or potentially powerful partners.

To be sure, there is sometimes a nod toward gaining a degree of “input” from “customers” or “end users.” In these cases, an advisory committee, a public opinion survey or some form of public hearing might be put into play. In the best case, these measures add a degree of input and legitimacy to a planning process. At worst, empty gestures prevail, as in the rigged “town meetings” with participants screened and questions carefully controlled. 


Momentum for Change

Authentic public engagement taps into the powerful resources inherent in any community: citizens. Rather than relegating people to the sidelines, it invites them to join the public dialogue and provides the tools to do so effectively. As a result, leaders know where the public stands as problem solving progresses, while citizens contribute to solutions through their input, ideas and actions.

Authentic and skillful engagement with strategic stakeholders improves results by:

  • Bringing together multiple points of view in order to inform decisions
  • Creating legitimacy and a sense of shared responsibility by involving stakeholders and the broader public in the decision-making process
  • Fostering new allies and collaborations
  • Stimulating broader awareness and momentum for change and decisions

People Map

Engagement Principles

While broad-based public engagement is not possible or appropriate for every decision, variations of the theme can be the right move for addressing many kinds of public decisions and initiatives – particularly those whose success and sustainability will depend upon the support and concerted actions of many varied stakeholders. 

Based on our experience, the following principles are key to designing effective public engagement:

  • Begin by listening.
  • Attend to people’s leading concerns.
  • Reach beyond the “usual suspects”
  • Frame issues for deliberation.
  • Provide the right type and amount of information at the right time.
  • Help people move beyond wishful thinking.
  • Expect obstacles and resistance.
  • Create multiple, varied opportunities for deliberation, dialogue and feedback.
  • Respect and respond thoughtfully to the public’s engagement.
  • Build long-term capacity as you go. 

Engagement Word Cloud

Bottom Line provides services in partnership with organizations. When an organization or community engages us to help them with an initiative, we are deliberate about establishing a collaborative working relationship, in which we respond to the needs of the organization, and learn with the people involved, rather than imposing our methods on them. Our approach is constantly adapted in response to the individuals involved, so that the users drive their own agenda and the process is truly customized to your needs.

Community Engagement

The best practice model we deploy defines the different types of engagement (see model below). Each type (Inform, Consult, etc.), has an associated goal and promise. We use this model to help us define together which type of engagement is appropriate for this project or for particular stakeholders or segments of the community affected by the project. Once we have jointly defined the engagement purposes, we can decide which tools and tactics will best meet your goals. Give us a call or send us an e-mail. We’d love to learn about your challenge and what you see as opportunities for true engagement. 

Community Engagement Best Practices

Communicating the Heart of Patient Experience

Healthcare is poised for increased consumerism in 2019 and beyond. This focus on consumer experience isn’t a new trend, but it’s one that’s gaining traction with the rise of retail care and wearable fitness devices. Traditional healthcare must look for ways to reinvent itself in the eyes of consumers. Keep your system or organization relevant and loved with our advice on leveraging communications strategies in four key areas.

Patient Experience Chart

Know Your Consumer

  • Put a face, or many faces, to your patients with market research that goes beyond the surface. Deepen engagement and true “voice of the customer” through focus groups and online or onsite surveys.
  • Don’t assume research is “one and done.” Create a process to capture consumer insights at regular intervals, for a variety of population segments and for a variety of health-related topics. This gives you the most informed cross-section of consumer data from which to plan and act.
  • Once you’ve vetted valuable insights, share them. Be sure everyone from the CEO to the frontline patient care rep understands the key takeaways and how those should inform their day-to-day actions.

Know What They’re Actually Experiencing

  • When was the last time you walked the full patient journey at your facility or organization? No matter the answer, it’s probably time to do it again. Nothing gives you perspective on the need to improve the consumer experience like experiencing it yourself! Set up secret shopping excursions at several different levels of your organization and your competitors’. What’s good? What’s bad? Where are opportunities to differentiate?
  • Competitive intelligence also can provide marketplace expertise and insights about your organization, your competitors and perceptions in the community.
  • The consumer experience doesn’t begin or end at your doors. Consider how healthcare billing, appointment scheduling, or ancillary partners are affecting patients’ view of their experience with you.

Everything is Patient Experience

Improve It

  • It can be a big leap from identifying improvement areas to enacting actual change. Smooth the process with good change communications for staff. Roll out large-scale initiatives with strong communications support to help activate and hardwire the changes faster and with fewer bumps.
  • On the macro side, stay diligent about monitoring government relations issues that positively or negatively impact the consumer experience. Telehealth legislation affects access and convenience, for example. State regulations may affect how patients can see secondary clinicians. Anticipate barriers and opportunities and address them to your patients’ benefit.
  • Convenience is essential for today’s busy consumers. Explore scheduling apps, online platforms for doc emails, consults and bill pay, and ways to connect your care with places patients already visit often. Need inspiration? Check out this great example from Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.
  • Avoid jargon and complex language in patient communications. Translate medical terminology into easy-to-understand language or visuals, and deliver your message in a variety of formats to meet the preferences of multiple generations and styles.

Patient Experience Map

Help Consumers Know You

  • Be visible in the community. Town hall meetings or coffee groups with senior leadership go a long way toward helping consumers feel comfortable with and confident in your care.
  • Work with local media on bylined columns that highlight physicians, nurses or leadership talking about issues that matter to the community.
  • Reach business leaders with targeted relationship marketing outreach that gives you the opportunity to both educate and listen during one-on-one meetings.
  • Use social media or a vibrant printed piece to stay top-of-mind for consumers, even when they’re not actively engaged with you.

At the heart of a great consumer experience are communications that are genuine, heartfelt and consistent. How are you leveraging yours? Call us. Let’s talk about how to get better faster

Boost Telehealth Adoption Rates: Three Steps Forward

It’s routine today. “There’s an app for that.” We use our smartphones to hail a ride to the airport, order takeout or buy just about anything. In healthcare, this kind of innovation happens much more slowly, and adoption of new technologies can be glacial-like. Take telehealth; please!

The Advisory Board reports that 77 percent of patients are willing to use virtual care, and 90 percent of patients feel no obligation to stay with a provider that does not offer virtual care. Though they know they could save money, time and hassle by using virtual visits, only 19 percent have taken advantage of their provider’s telehealth offerings.


So what gives? What’s holding patients back from giving telehealth a try? What are the barriers? One big reason virtual care has not taken off as predicted is many patients are unaware the service is available. That’s an opportunity for healthcare systems to increase awareness, educate patients about the benefits of using telehealth and make it easy for them to try telehealth. Consider these three steps to boost telehealth adoption:

  • Build awareness with communications and marketing. Clinicians are one of the most trusted sources of health information. Patients are far more likely to give telehealth services a try if they hear about it from a healthcare professional. Patients with chronic conditions are almost twice as likely to use virtual care if the primary physician recommends it, according to recent Advisory Board report. Prompts from insurance companies and employers also can drive adoption. That means creating buy-in from all these constituencies.

Tech savvy consumers are the most likely patients to try telehealth. Social media and targeted digital campaigns are the most effective ways to reach these audiences. Digital marketing also allows you to target specific groups, such as female patients within a certain age group or geography.

The best kind of marketing is word of mouth. Patients who have had a positive experience with telehealth will tell their friends and family about it. Make it easy for patients to share their enthusiasm. Send them feedback forms and online surveys, and make it easy for them to post to their social networks.

telehealth mom and baby

It’s often easy to forget traditional forms of advertising and marketing. In-office posters and pamphlets are still effective at driving patients to use virtual and other new care delivery platforms. Direct mail and other forms of community advertising also can help support the behavior change.

  • Address concerns about quality of care. While 85 percent of patients say they want and expect virtual care access, many of them have not used it because of concerns about the quality of care they might receive. However, studies have proven that the quality of virtual care visits compares favorably to in-office visits. And patients who have used telehealth services often give extremely high satisfaction marks.


One effective way to boost patient satisfaction in telehealth is to link their care to providers they’re comfortable with. Patients may worry that they’ll receive care from a stranger or someone unqualified. By linking telehealth with their primary care doctor, patients are assured that any follow-up visits for their current condition can be handled. Assuring them that their care will be provided by their own doctor or another clinician within their trusted network builds patient confidence.

  • Treat every patient interaction as an opportunity for engagement. Beyond the obvious forms of marketing, some of the best ways to get patients to try telehealth are more grassroots. Marketing provides a few, dedicated channels for patient communications, while opportunities within the organization are numerous — and many are free.

Administrative staff often are the first point of contact between a healthcare provider and a patient. The scheduler or person taking the call can suggest the patient seek virtual care rather than waiting to come into the office. Call center employees also can recommend telehealth. Once a patient is in the office, the person checking them in or out can recommend telehealth the next time the patient needs care. It’s also a great opportunity to hand patients pamphlets or other printed materials promoting the use of virtual care.

telehealth doctor on computer screen

A recommendation to try telehealth from a healthcare professional — medical assistants and nurses — carries great weight. That recommendation comes naturally if the patient is seeing the doctor for a condition or symptoms that could be addressed easily through virtual care, like a cold or ear ache.

Having a smart telehealth strategy is increasingly essential. Success depends on more than simply building a virtual care platform and expecting patients to come. Educating and encouraging clinicians and patients to use virtual care can improve outcomes, increase provider loyalty, reduce clinician burnout and add a boost to the bottom line. No money, no mission.

The gap between those who are willing to use telehealth and those who have actually taken advantage of it can be closed by strategic marketing and good communication. Learn more about how smart, strategic communications drive change by visiting our website:

Media Relations: A Marathon – NOT a Sprint

Alert the media! We have a shining business over here! Who? You!

You may not realize it yet, but your business is full of exciting stories and expert insights the media, and more importantly their readers, viewers and listeners, want to hear about. Not sure what kind of stories to share or which media outlets to target? That’s where an ongoing media relations strategy can help.

A strategic, ongoing media relations campaign allows organizations to connect with their target audiences and raise awareness of their brands. We’ve helped countless clients more than triple their media relations coverage through continuous media relations efforts over the course of several years.

“Media relations takes patience and persistence and it truly pays off! Each placement brings a new opportunity to expand your reach, share your knowledge, and engage with a new customer or future business partner. The Bottom Line team has been a true partner and a member of our team, helping our business grow to new heights.” – Ted Uczen, CEO of FEI Behavioral Health

A common misconception is that media relations is a sprint, not a marathon, and a few months of pitching results in instant hits across numerous platforms. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. To have successful results, media relations requires continuous work and ongoing pitching to create relationships with the media and get your company’s name on their radar. Think about how long it takes your sales team to turn a lead into a customer – the same is true with media relations.

How it works

We train for the media relations marathon by pitching your expertise and story ideas to various publications in your industry and target markets. When media are interested in publishing an article on your business, we help remove the barriers to provide them with a professionally written content piece or arrange an interview with one of your experts. Placements across local media and trade publications raises awareness of your services to consumers in your target markets as well as generates new leads, in turn creating more business opportunities for you.

For example, the first year we did media relations for a community health center, the organization received eight placements and 462,664 impressions. Not a bad start! That interaction snowballed as the media became more and more familiar with its brand, and in just two years, its media relations reach expanded by 69 percent with 38 placements and 1,500,499 impressions. This included placements in multiple local print outlets, spots on local TV stations and a monthly column in a trade publication. This kind of media engagement turned a local health center into a household and community name.

If you’re interested in getting your name out there and expanding your business, give us a call! Let us help run down some leads and showcase you as an expert in your industry with the help of a media relations program. We’re ready to help you win the race!


Bring Your Brand’s Future into Focus

So you want to take your business to the next level. Knowing what your customers, employees and the public want and what they think about your brand is sure to set you up for success. Since we’re not psychics, we can use focus groups in place of a crystal ball to see inside the minds of your audiences and bring the future into focus.

Crystal Ball

Focus groups can be used for a variety of marketing projects, including product launches, employee engagement campaigns, brand assessments and more. Focus groups are a useful tool to benefit your customers, employees and overall public perception.

Walk a mile in your customers’ shoes

You’re serving your customers, so you should be aware of what they think. When conducted by a third party vendor, customer focus groups create an engaged discussion providing you with an inside look at your audience’s thoughts on a number of topics. For example, we partnered with a national real estate developer to facilitate focus groups that gauged residents’ satisfaction with rental units, staff and amenities to find what sets the developer apart from competitors. Additionally, you can experience the language of your customers and weave that into future marketing campaigns to better target potential customers. The expression, tone and attitude of an individual also can be captured and added to the research results.

Focus groups can be especially beneficial if you have a wide customer base of differing demographics. Splitting up your participants into groups based off of similar characteristics, such as age and gender, will create engaged conversation specifying their feelings, perceptions and opinions. It provides you with the opportunity to compare and contrast the views and opinions of varying groups and utilize that information to enhance your brand.

Keep your ear to the ground on the front lines

Focus groups aren’t just for gaining insights from consumers. You also can observe your internal audiences and set up a focus group for your employees. Our same real estate developer client held employee focus groups in addition to customer focus groups. This allowed the developer to discover ways to improve processes and procedures to make work more efficient and improve employee happiness.

Creating a team of satisfied employees carries outside the office and creates a great reputation for your company. Internal focus groups led by a member of your HR team, or by an impartial third-party like Bottom Line, can ignite opinions from employees they’d be hesitant to share in regular business meetings. This type of focus group can elicit discussion and give you an honest assessment of job satisfaction from across your workplace to help identify discontent and areas of improvement.

Employee focus groups can identify gaps between leadership and frontline perspectives. Feedback from frontline employees can often get isolated and fail to make its way to the leadership team. Make sure all levels of employees are engaged in the process to gain valuable insight and keep your employees happy and your brand strong.

Take a look at the big picture

In addition to gaining the inside scoop on your customers and employees, it’s time to examine how the public views you. The public’s perception of your brand identity is essential when it comes to growth and awareness. By only focusing on the customers you already have, you can become stagnant and sales can decrease. Focus groups allow you to manage your reputation in the market and gain an understanding of what draws people in or pushes them away.

Focus groups provide for engaging interactions and cook up new ideas for you to improve the interaction between your customers, employees and overall public. Not only is it accurate, it’s directly received and allows for companies to take action immediately.

Tired of staring at a blank crystal ball and guessing what your target audiences are thinking? Contact Bottom Line Marketing & Public Relations to set up a focus group based on your company needs and we’ll bring results into focus.   

New Year, New Plan – Using a PR Agency for Next-Level Strategic Planning

We’ve counted down and popped some champagne, so it must be true – it’s the New Year! With each New Year come resolutions – what will yours be this year? Will you eat healthy, get to the gym more or just resolve to smile? It’s great to make personal changes in the 2018, but consider what resolutions you can make for your organization as well. We at Bottom Line suggest a strategic planning resolution – don’t just prepare for a single new year, but three to five by creating a strategic plan!

A strategic plan is important to help set the direction, vision and expansion of your organization. Just like New Year’s resolutions, strategic plans don’t last forever. If five years—or more—have passed since your last planning session, it’s time to look at revising and changing your plan.

Not sure where to start? Here is a guide for achieving this New Year’s strategic planning resolution:



Like any good New Year’s resolution, begin your strategic planning by gathering ideas and establishing your organization’s goals, guiding principles and mission. These will reinforce the direction for your plan.

Next, gather information on your organization’s strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats, things going well and things to be improved. Engaging staff, decision makers and stakeholders can give you a diverse pool of information to analyze for key results and new ideas.


After information has been gathered and key takeaways have been identified, it’s time to gather to create your actual plan.

It’s important to ask a number of questions in your planning sessions: what do you want to accomplish? What will you do to get there? Who will be responsible, and how will you track if you’re making progress?

After these questions have been discussed and your ideas have been built on, it’s time to draft a plan to be shared with stakeholders and, eventually, finalized.


Don’t let your strategic plan be something you write and forget. After it’s finalized, it’s time to put it into action!

Depending on the size of your organization, it’s likely not everyone was in the room for planning. If so, be sure to distribute the plan and explain it to all employees of your organization. Responsibilities also should be delegated to involved parties (action teams) by managers and leaders as specified in your plan.

Once the plan is in action, managers should make sure to track progress and monitor how successful the implementation has been.


Keep in mind, your strategic plan is a living document. If something isn’t working, change it!

Weekly or monthly meetings with managers and actions teams can reinforce goals, deadlines and responsibilities, and reporting on what’s working and what isn’t can help keep the plan up-to-date. If major changes need to be made, you may need to reconvene planning groups to make changes, update your plan and circulate those changes to employees throughout your organization.

Resolve to better yourself and your organization this New Year. Hiring an external public relations agency can make a world of difference in your strategic plan. Our approach is flexible, offering everything from day-long planning sessions to several shorter sessions spaced out over months to match your organization’s resources.

Give us a call! Our best practice strategic planning process and third-party facilitation will guide your team to a tangible plan and a path to begin executing that plan, helping your organization make serious changes in 2018.

Elevate Your Brand in Today’s “Trust Gap” World: PR Answers the Call

Trust GapPublic relations can deliver the authenticity and distinctiveness to elevate a brand, bridging the trust gap in today’s world in ways that advertising cannot. Numerous studies over the years have suggested that public relations often may be more important to building and maintaining brand value than advertising, especially for purchasing decisions related to complex products and services.

Consumers are demanding greater transparency in nearly all aspects of public life: transactions in the financial services industry, executive compensation, government spending, even transparency for social networking websites. In this environment, the most effective messages likely will be those that are transmitted through trusted third parties or by word-of-mouth.

As third-party validation becomes more important, public relations also matters more to brand value. In a recent Nielsen report, researchers asked consumers what factors would increase confidence in the safety and soundness of their financial institution. Only 21 to 25 percent reported that consistently seeing internet and regular advertising would boost their confidence. Nearly 45 percent of consumers reported that reading positive news stories would increase their confidence.

A recent study by Content Analytics assessed how both earned media and advertising spend contribute to brand value. By looking at the relationship between brand value, the study found that media prominence accounts for 27 percent of the variation in a brand’s value compared to only 2.3 percent for advertising. For perspective, research using similar methodology has demonstrated that high SAT scores account for only 10 to 20 percent of the variation in whether or not the first-year college student will earn a high GPA. 

In his book, Unleashing the Power of PR, Mark Weiner reported on AT&T’s marketing mix. In the model, he compared public relations to outbound telemarketing, direct marketing and advertising. The model revealed that positive media coverage of AT&T increased the success of other marketing efforts, but the effects were not reciprocal.

A key takeaway: the more complex purchasing decisions a product requires, the more likely it is that buyers will research the category and seek information that they can trust. The current cultural tensions and the economy only serve to amplify the importance of trust and marketing via third-party influencers and neutral venues. These third parties vary widely, from mainstream media to blog, to forums to friends, but consumers are going to rely more and more on trusted third parties for advice.

The bottom line: public relations can be just as effective, and often more cost-efficient, than advertising for building long-term brand value. How are you using public relations to build brand value, both short and long term? Let’s have a conversation.