If you’re looking to promote your business to prospective new customers, one of the best tools to use is PR. By understanding how PR fits into classic marketing and sales funnels, businesses can use PR strategically to raise brand awareness, pique people’s interest, build trust and grow new customers. But what exactly is a PR funnel? And how can it help your business? Our article explains all.
What is a PR funnel?
A PR funnel is the planning framework used to promote your business through media outlets, such as newspapers and magazines (print and online). It allows you to reach beyond simply raising awareness of your business by helping you think strategically about how to target the right audiences in the right way to achieve your goals.
PR funnels nurture prospects into customers. It starts with media coverage that generates brand awareness, but the funnel also allows you to plan content that will excite and interest prospects through the distribution of compelling stories. Funnels will also help you to plan messages that build trust and credibility through earned media placements. Crucially, the PR funnel is a tool to help you drive traffic to your website, bringing you new customers.
What is the difference between marketing, sales and PR funnels?
Many articles quibble about the differences between sales, marketing and PR funnels. While you theoretically could plan your communication strategy with three separate funnels, we wouldn’t recommend it. The best communication plan should holistically integrate sales, marketing and public relations. This will save you time, encourage team collaboration and transparency, and ultimately lead to better results for your business.
As such, it might be more useful to think of your marketing, sales and PR funnels as one integrated communication funnel. The best thing about joined-up communication funnels is that they put prospects first by delivering them a seamless experience of your brand.
What are the different stages of communication funnels?
A communication funnel essentially covers the basic stages of the customer journey. It starts from the top of the funnel (TOFU) where prospective customers first becomes aware of your brand, through the middle of the funnel (MOFU) where they learn more about your products and/or services, down to the bottom of the funnel (BOFU) where they buy a product or commission your services.
Most classic marketing funnels add a level of granularity by splitting the funnel into five distinct stages: awareness, interest, decision (sometimes also called desire), action and advocacy.
- Awareness: A prospect becomes aware of your business or products.
- Interest: A prospect begins to take an interest in what your business has to offer.
- Decision: A prospect decides whether or not to make a purchase or get in touch with your business.
- Action: A prospect actually makes a purchase or reaches out to your business.
- Loyalty: A customer or client becomes loyal by making repeat product purchases, or by continuing to use your services.
- Advocacy: A customer or client recommends your business or products to others.
One of the most useful communication funnel templates is Smart Insight’s RACE Planning Framework, which adds an extra ‘plan’ stage at the start of their framework.
Where does PR fit into communication funnels?
Don’t make the common mistake of thinking that PR fits in just the awareness stage of the funnel! PR should play a role in every stage of marketing and sales funnels. We’ve broken down how PR fits into every stage of the funnel:
When planning for a PR campaign, it’s essential to have clear objectives so that you can understand what you want to achieve with the message you are trying to send. Researching trends, reviewing competitor coverage and introducing yourself to writers and journalists will help you to plan what content you need for your funnel, from press releases and case studies, to more detailed thought leadership or research papers.
Crucially, you’ll need to identify your target audience and then create a plan for how you’re going to reach them. Researching and understanding your audience is important because different segments of your audience will likely read different publications, from national print and online media to trade or niche speciality magazines. They will also each have different needs and desires, and this is where using a PR funnel to plan your communications can have real benefits, as it allows you to prepare compelling and relevant content for your target audience for wherever they are in the comms funnel.
In the awareness stage, PR generates media coverage that will make potential prospects aware of your business or product. This form of media coverage is typically achieved through the distribution of press releases about new business developments, such as a new product launch or through fresh insights, such as statistics from recent surveys.
In the interest stage, PR secures media placements that will pique prospects’ interest. To get journalists excited, you must tell a great story about your business, product or service. This is often achieved through thought leadership or by enticing a journalist to try your product or service so they can write about it first-hand.
In the decision stage, PR builds trust and credibility through earned media placements. Earned media is positive press coverage about your company that’s not originated from content that you’ve paid for or distributed. To achieve this, you must nurture relationships with journalists so that they’re aware of everything your business does so, if the right story comes up, you can be featured as an example.
In the action stage, PR drives traffic to a company’s website or product page. This is essential for growing your customers. Featuring in third-party ‘top ten’ or ‘best’ lists can be a powerful way of achieving this. Keeping an eye on #HARO (help a reporter out) and #JournoRequest on social media can be a good way of spotting these opportunities but, again, it’s often about the relationships you’re able to build with publishers and journalists. Suppose a journalist is aware of your excellent products or services; if you can quickly supply them with high-quality imagery and product details, your business will be much more likely to feature in these influential articles!
PR can help build brand loyalty by creating media coverage that promotes shared values and creates lasting connections with customers and clients. To do this, you will need to craft your brand identity and communicate this through effective brand storytelling through the media.
Forbes calls brand storytelling “the future of marketing”, describing it as “the cohesive narrative that weaves together the facts and emotions that your brand evokes. In addition to giving your customers reasons why they should buy a product or service, businesses need to start sharing the story behind their brand, why it exists, and why this matters, consistently across all communication.”
In the advocacy stage, PR amplifies case studies or glowing customer reviews on social media. Journalists often ask for case studies, so it’s wise to prepare a few in advance so that you don’t miss out on opportunities for coverage. Advocacy is often the most exciting part for your brand because amplified customer feedback creates a tangible buzz around your business!
Need help with planning your PR strategy?
PR isn’t just for brand awareness. We know from our experience of working with customers like GoBoony that, with the right planning and execution, it can also rapidly grow your customers. We work with sales and marketing teams to help create power comms funnels that will deliver on your specific business objectives.
If you’d like advice on how to reach your target audience please get in touch for a chat. We’d love to help.