The importance of public relations in the marketing of pasta11 June 2013
Public relations can be an important activity for promoting small and medium-sized pasta factories.
by Marino Rossi
Within the series of marketing activities defined as “promotion”, a prominent place should be reserved, even in small pasta factories, for public relations (PR).
As with many other activities designed to support sales, now even PR, thanks to the Internet and new technologies in general, can give excellent results with minimum financial outlays.
In fact, we need to do away with the preconceived idea that PR is all about holding parties packed with famous and overpaid star system celebrities or enormous events held in dream locations.
For a small – medium company, handling PR means dealing with very concrete activities, such as how to handle relations with all the media (not just the press), how to prepare and send newsletters and various other communications and how to plan, organize and realize local events.
PR essentially involves all those activities related to communication between the company and the outside world. If properly planned and realized these activities can lead to an assured benefit in terms of the ratio between results and costs which, as we shall see, can be limited.
So there is no reason for not addressing the issue of PR seriously: PR is always necessary, even when business is booming.
In fact, it is also necessary as a preventive measure, making sure the company’s presence is visible on all means of communication. This is even more true today: submerged as we are in floods of messages, in order to compete successfully in the market it is crucial to stand out.
PR is necessary because it involves the way the outside world perceives the company, and this image must be kept under control.
Historically, small businesses have often had problems with PR activities, this is due both to the fact that media agencies are more interested in business enterprises with substantial budgets, and to the marked differences in the culture and approach of these two worlds.
Media agencies usually find it very hard to understand the mentality and needs of the small business owner.
This “difficult” relationship often leads small businesses to neglect a really essential marketing lever.
And by so doing, you risk missing out on the benefits which PR activities can bring, among which are:
• selection of the (potential) target customers and relative message;
• possibility of standing out in markets by having people talk about your company;
• credibility of communication (an article in Pastaria or a radio transmission, for example, are far more credible than a company advert, simply because the authors are third parties);
• viral effect, i.e. word of mouth (anyone who reads the article talks about it to colleagues/customers/suppliers);
• reduced costs (organizing a small event or sending out press releases is without doubt less expensive than even the smallest advertising campaign);
• corporate image enhancement and the strengthening of relations with customers (reading favourable comments on the products bought can’t be anything but reassuring to customers);
• increase in sales (this comes from always taking care to publish the details of the website, agents/dealers and other business references).
All of these goals can be achieved either by making use of an external partner (agency or professional PR expert) or by using internal resources: the latter choice seems preferable for small pasta producers, provided that they don’t suddenly consider themselves an expert in PR matters or plan to use “amateur” personnel.
On the contrary, in such cases, it will be necessary to rely on properly trained staff.
Returning to the case where there is no choice but to turn to an external partner (lack of available staff and/or time), it is a good idea to stick to some guideline criteria:
• avoid large agencies and famous names, way too expensive and in any case not suitable for small business needs;
• it is far better to find a professional (e.g. journalist, PR expert) by consulting (also on-line) lists of associations, such as Ferpi (Italian Federation of Public Relations) and Gus (Journalists Press Office);
• if possible choose experts in the pasta production sector;
• pay attention to the contract in all its parts;
• agree on the minimum goals and work schedule in writing;
• establish the evaluation criteria for the service provided;
• demand a customized PR plan based specifically on your needs;
• examine the projects they have carried out for other clients (preferably clients operating in the same sector);
• if the job is to be assigned to a team, agree upon and meet the team members;
• establish terms of payment based on the results obtained;
• last but not least, consider the atmosphere and feeling created: being as PR work involves the company’s image and how it is perceived, there must be an optimal level of feeling.
Always in view of minimizing costs, a small producer may also consider “hiring” a journalist: rent-a-journalist is a type of Temporary Management which involves using a qualified journalist for a set time.
Said journalist will spend a certain amount of time in the company, organizing (if necessary) or improving the group dedicated to PR and the press office. Furthermore he/she can also train and help develop the skills of suitable persons, transferring know-how and professionalism.
The benefits of such a choice to the company are both the immediate savings and the idea of capitalizing on an investment in training: the company finds itself with professionally enriched internal resources.
If, on the other hand, PR activities are handled by internal resources, it is necessary to appoint a person to be in charge of the communications office; this could be the sales manager or the marketing manager (if the company has one).
Please note however, that it should not be taken for granted that said managers already have the necessary aptitude for dealing with the media nor the necessary communication skills.
Appropriate training must be taken into account, being as the aims of the sales manager is to sell, while PR above all involves spreading information.
A typical PR manager must also be creative, being as he/she will have to look for company information to be transmitted to the outside world.
To supplement an inadequate communications office, the company could turn its attention to public relations undergraduates or graduates, offering internships to help limit costs.
The primary objective to get people talking about you, is to create an archive of journalists and media contacts.
There are some ideal services available for small businesses, which at the cost of just a few thousand Euros allow you to build a suitable database (see, for example, Mediaddress book).
Then, if the target is limited or requirements are episodic, you can buy all the magazines of relevant interest, call the editorial staff, and then make a note of the names, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of the editors, chief editors, and directors: thus keeping costs to an absolute minimum.
To access lists of specialized and sector magazines, you can visit www.windpress.it, which brings together over 1,000 newspapers.
The drafting of a press release is a far from trivial matter: it involves writing a small article to be sent to journalists and the media, therefore it must follow standard forms and contain precise information.
Start with the words “press release”, followed by the date and location and then a short and appealing title. This should be followed by a brief summary and then the actual text (no more than one page) which needs to be well written and answer all the frequently asked questions of who, what, where, why, when and how.
Comments of “important” people are allowed and at the bottom you should always put the contact details (name, role, telephone number, e-mail) together with a brief company profile.
The content must be prepared for publication in the media, paying great attention to accuracy, style, relevance and accuracy. A press release is an ideal way to report an event.
Its diffusion is crucial: the best way is to send it in the morning, via e-mail, to the chief editor or director (for smaller newspapers) or to the sector expert, if known. You should always follow this up by calling the recipient.
It is advisable to provide supplementary materials (press kit), offering ideas for closer examination.
It is of fundamental importance to keep track of the various contacts in a logical manner, always remembering to send a note of thanks to the journalists who have written about your company.
The press kit must be well prepared, and should contain:
• company logo;
• brief history;
• range of products / markets;
• business objectives (mission);
• concise data;
• acknowledgements / certifications / awards;
• top management;
• photos of products / head office / events etc..;
• business card of the person to contact;
• contact details (telephone and e-mail);
• any CD or USB stick containing all the relative information;
• catalogues and samples (a pack of pasta if you think it’s appropriate).
After sending out the press release or press kit, it is essential to check what gets published, i.e. the press review.
It is beneficial to send out this collection of articles, press clippings or similar to customers (also via e-mail), suppliers, employees and branch managers of the bank/s you work with.
There are special services you can use, L’Eco della Stamp (The Press Echo) or similar and you can also take advantage (at no expense) of Google News Alert, which sends e-mails indicating links on news which may be of interest.
It is a good idea to include an area in the company’s website for collecting all the articles of interest in pdf format.
So even a small pasta producer can benefit greatly from PR activities if they are handled with the right amount of commitment and adequate preparation.
Keep reading, download the magazine
PASTARIA DE (digital edition) 2013 n. 3 (ITALIANO) (21.4 MiB, 2,673 download)
Registrazione necessaria. Sign-up to download.
PASTARIA INTERNATIONAL DE (digital edition) 2013 n. 3 (English) (25.0 MiB, 1,302 download)
Registrazione necessaria. Sign-up to download.