It is great news for the industry that more brands are choosing to focus more on PR these days, but what are the reasons for the current rise in brand PR? Here we explain why PR is the go-to for marketing so many products, and list companies that are particularly good at getting noticed for all the right reasons.
1. Good stories make brands stand out
Joshua Daniels, managing director at ecommerce agency Go Amplify: “Brand PR is becoming essential for an omni-channel presence and supplementing other marketing activities such as SEO. Not only does brand PR improve your ranking on Google, but it also increases web traffic. Additionally, consumers are looking for brands that stand out. Anyone business can post on social media or send out an email campaign, but it is only those with great stories, a reactive edge and creativity that can continuously land PR.
“Brands that are great at this are: Pretty Little Thing; eToro; and Epic Games. We're moving into an era of storytelling instead of hard-selling, PR works perfectly for this.”
2. Unbiased advocacy gives brands credibility
Laura Gibson, director at property and destination PR agency Calvermont: "We have seen a strong rise in the demand for PR services over typical marketing by brands, even in the field we specialise in, which is property and destination.
“One reason is because brands are seeking credibility and how better to achieve that than by third-party advocacy such as a major news publication or glossy consumer mag that is unbiased and genuinely rates their services or product?”
3. Digital footprints never fade
Laura Gibson: “In today's world a positive feature or press mention lasts forever - it's part of a company's digital footprint and adds value to a client's search on the history of a new potential PR partner. Brands are starting to realise this and want to build up their digital footprint accordingly. Of course it also helps their SEO and website traffic for the right targets too.”
4. There is trust in the written word
Laura Gibson: “Marketing is literally everywhere, including directly on your phones thanks to apps that allow you to market to those in a catchment at a certain time, and the world of advertising is pretty saturated, so messages go missed. But there is trust in the written word and brands see that it's a way to cut through to the right audience and amplify their messages in a way that they haven't necessarily done properly before."
5. PR is more engaging
Lee Dobson, head of client service at agency Bulldog Digital Media: "The rise in brand PR indicates a larger shift in how companies communicate with their customers. Customers today expect more business engagement and transparency, creating an opportunity for brands to use PR to build relationships with their audiences.
“Brands like Nike, Apple and Airbnb have effectively used PR communication to increase their visibility and create an emotional connection with their customers. We expect this trend of using PR as a primary marketing channel will continue into the foreseeable future."
6. PR is not boring
Tom Rouse, creative director at agency Pitch Marketing Group: “Modern brands are competing for attention - not just with each other, but with creators, traditional publishers and our friends and family.
“But audiences don’t want to hear from them - we ignore digital ads, blank OOH and skip through TV commercials. Why? Because most ads are boring and so senior marketers are turning to PR as a primary brand channel. Because the one thing PR can’t afford to be is boring. If we bore journalists, influencers or the public, then our campaigns die without a trace.
“It’s why brands will always turn to PR - John Lewis’s Christmas ad is designed for earned audiences, whilst Louis Vuitton’s recent ad featuring Messi and Ronaldo playing chess was an PR stunt with a paid trigger. More recently, Elvie’s Leak Happen and Pumps On Parade activism campaigns are brilliant examples of how PR can drive conversation and grow a brand.”
7. It allows brands to show their authentic selves
Catherine Warrilow, managing director of family attractions website daysout.com: “Brand-driven PR is definitely surging and it’s because brands are finally warming up to showing their true authentic selves and their people. Now, this can backfire - the behind-the -cenes approach, the adlib, the ‘day in the life’ - but done well with integrity, it can really engage an audience and grow trust in a totally unique way.
“Brands doing this well include Richard Walker of Iceland from a media relations perspective, he’s largely very genuine and relatable.
“Gymshark, Thursday and Ella’s Kitchen all do content creation for PR particularly well, showing the way their businesses are run, how decisions are made and the evolution of products.
If you can make consumers feel like they can ‘see inside’ and have a say on the journey, it’s a winner - something as simple as Monzo thanking a consumer for spotting a typo in an app release creates great PR fodder.”
8. It makes financial sense
Darryl Sparey, managing director of marketing communications consultancy Hard Numbers: "One major driver for the increased investment in PR is the significant inflation that brands have seen in the cost of bidding on generic or product category-based search terms on paid online advertising. As we’ve seen from client briefs, if they need to drive incremental growth of their business, and they're getting a total cost per lead which is unsustainable via paid, they need to pull a new lever. And, that lever is often increasing awareness of their brand and getting consumers to search for the brand first. The greatest case study of this is Airbnb. Consumers search for Airbnb + the location they're staying in. Or they search "hotels + location". No other travel brand has the brand search power of Airbnb. If you’re looking to drive sustained growth, move away from bidding on generic terms to drive short-term traffic, instead move toward brand to drive longer-term value."
9. People prefer brands that align with their values
Ashley Rudd, director of fashion PR agency Moda PR: “A brand’s mission and values will be integral to its storytelling and there is no better credible or authentic channel to do this than PR.
“Audiences want to purchase from brands that align with their values - more than a ‘recyclable’ label on their packaging or changing their logo to include the pride flag in June. They want to see that brands are walking the walk and not just talking the talk. If the brand is inclusive to all, what are they doing during the whole year for the LGBTQ+ community for example?
“Brands can no longer hide behind smoke and mirrors, consumers want to look behind the scenes and see that founders, along with their brand, are really sticking to their sustainability, philanthropy, and social justice missions - this isn’t a trend it’s a permanent shift in the PR industry.”
10. PR offers ideal anti-crisis strategies
Mary Poliakova, co-founder of PR agency Drofa Comms: "First of all, PR is primarily about forming an image, building reputation and maintaining trust of a brand. And this can`t simply be immediately launched and executed like typical marketing campaigns with tight deadlines. PR is a longer-lasting story that not only creates the brand itself, but its past, present and the future. PR helps brands to build a legacy for their business.
“Last year was a challenge for many market players - companies had nothing left to do but to turn on the moneysaving mode. And as we can see, the winners are those who haven't saved on PR, as persuasive communications are necessary in the fight against bad news. Corporations and brands have to make official statements about their not-so-good financial status, operating results at the end of the year. On top of that, 2023 started with a ‘mass-layoffs flash mob’ from companies. Brands have realised that in order to navigate this, they require strong PR solutions with an anti-crisis strategy. And we can already see their PR teams working hard, whilst striving to keep the high bar reached by their brand.
“In my opinion, it was the crisis and the upheavals of 2022-early 2023 that became the reason for the victory of PR in the battle with marketing. Which brand does it best? Look at Microsoft - four weeks ago there was a real media fuss about its layoffs. Now everyone has already moved forward. Thanks to PR, the current tabloids are filled with positive news about Microsoft`s investments in ChatGPT, its new AI focused strategy, growth of company`s shares on the stock exchange. And I want to assure you - the number of those who would like to work for Microsoft after mass layoffs has not decreased. This is the true power of strong public relations."
It is no surprise that so many brands have woken up to the power of PR, long may it continue!
If you enjoyed this article, sign up for free to our twice weekly editorial alert.
We have six email alerts in total - covering ESG, internal comms, PR jobs and events. Enter your email address below to find out more: