A few years ago now, when I first started in PR and proudly told my friends what I’d be doing, the standard response was not to ask which businesses I would be working for. It was “who”.
This sums up one of the misconceptions of those who haven’t had contact with PR – the idea that it’s about celebrity. Thing is, it’s much more concerned with more targeted campaigns for businesses. It’s about ringing tills, not a big but empty name.
It’s something that you see occasionally if you keep an eye on the news. There’s no shortage of people who want to be famous for something, even if it’s not especially connected to what they do. Sure enough, their business eventually suffers because nobody knows enough about it.
On the other hand, it’s almost impossible to promote a retail business whilst relying on the brand name as the only discernable identity. People like to connect with other people. It also means any news will be limited to official corporate communications – new product lines, offers and the like. In terms of building a rich media profile, you may as well just send out a set of posted flyers, cross your fingers and hope for the best.
The answer instead is what we PR types call thought leadership – using particular people in the business who have expert knowledge that a whole industry can benefit from. This not only creates media opportunities in itself, but it also gives news organisations a more human angle to work with.
Retail businesses – whether stores or suppliers – have a smorgasbord of detailed knowledge amongst their management. So, for example, positioning a supermarket’s well-experienced head of brand development as one of the key authorities on retail branding will give that business more integrity for investors, the wider industry and, of course, shoppers.
Likewise, to position a supplier’s managing director as a key expert on the future of in-store design shows how much insight that business has, together with how good its people are at keeping ahead of the curve. In essence, it builds trust.
In the end, good retail PR is all about getting more people through the door. Thanks to the public awareness of a business’s high standards through good thought leadership, the industry won’t have to question ‘who’ its luminaries are.