All too often, PR gets eliminated from a financial institution’s budget? Why because no one can see how public relations supports the bottom line. While many financial marketers view it as “nice to have,” PR can play a meaningful role in an institution’s long-term growth and financial success. The key is how you leverage the output of your program, and whether PR is appropriately synched with business development to ensure business and revenue goals are realized.
PR Should Be An Extension of Business Development
First, your PR program should be engineered to support your revenue goals. For instance, if your bank or credit union is aiming to acquire more auto loan customers in Topeka, then your PR and marketing should focus on auto buying consumers in that market. Makes sense, right? And yet how often are PR campaigns completely divorced from an organization’s business strategy? More often than not. That’s why it is critical that your PR people be viewed as an extension of your business development team. By linking the two closely together, financial institutions can more seamlessly integrate its public relations efforts into its overall organizational goals.
Within this partnership, your business development team must provide continuous and ongoing input. Regardless of how well your PR team may know your organization, things change — products and goals evolve, and market demand can easily shift.
Public relations professionals also rely on the business development team to help provide them with the raw materials that build strong PR campaigns — things like case studies, suggestions for PR topics and story ideas. Business development professionals work in the trenches and speak with real-world consumers on a daily basis. They know who might be willing to share their story with the media. They also know what questions people are asking and what barriers are preventing deals from closing — the pain points that make great fodder for PR campaigns. There are few things as powerful as sending a consumer a published article that addresses their concerns.
Leverage & Repurpose PR Results for Greater Impact
To gain new customers as well as grow relationships, business development teams need to leverage and repurpose the materials and results generated by PR programs. Continuing with the earlier example, if your goal is to acquire more auto loan customers in Topeka, simply securing an article in the Topeka-Capital Journal isn’t going to guarantee that every individual in need of a new car calls you tomorrow. They may never see the article (and it certainly doesn’t help if the article isn’t even related to buying a car!).
To maximize your PR efforts and support the bottom line, business development needs to use the articles and materials the PR program produces. For example, your team can include positive press in their sales presentations and meetings with prospects. Include articles and press releases in new business information kits to boost their credibility.
Additionally, PR materials can be incorporated into sales letters and newsletters. A simple caption like, “Look Who’s in the News!” can further ensure that people are reading the right articles about you. Case studies are also powerful tools for the business development team because they illustrate how your organization solved a problem and met the needs of someone who may be in a similar situation.
For existing customers, a letter from the president detailing the growth of the institution should be included within the context of a “media coverage recap.” This not only reassures current customers that they have made the right decision to stick with you, but it helps keep you top of mind for other bank services. This can also lead to more referrals to friends and family.
The more you share good news about your organization, the more you reinforce consumers’ good feelings about your, resulting in improved customer retention and satisfaction scores.
Social media should also be leveraged to consistently promote positive press coverage, PR releases and case studies. These materials should be shared on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and on your website, ideally in a centralized online press room. An online media center makes it quick, easy and convenient for business development professionals to leverage your PR resources in their sales efforts.
( Read More: 12 Best Practices in Online Newsrooms in Banking )
Track Your Leads
You must effectively track business activity generated by your public relations work. This means adding Google Analytics or a similar web traffic analysis service to your online newsroom. This is the only way you can appropriately benchmark the inbound marketing value of your PR campaigns.
Your business development team should include public relations activities as a source in any lead reporting system, such as “Article” or “Press Release.” To successfully measure the success of your PR efforts and ensure that it is aligned with the revenue goals, you need to know exactly where leads come from. If your sales system doesn’t have an option tied to public relations, then obviously your organization is going to have a hard time tying PR to sales — if there’s no data, there will be no apparent ROI.
Ultimately, if no leads can be tracked back to your PR efforts, it’s time to regroup and reevaluate. Often times, all you need to do is leverage your public relations to strategically align with your organizational goals.
Mary York Cox is an account director at the William Mills Agency, the nation’s largest independent public relations firm focusing exclusively on the financial services and technology industries. You can find William Mills on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the company’s blog.