Jordan Blakesley Answers the Question: Do You Really Need PR?

Jordan Blakesley Answers the Question: Do You Really Need PR?

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Jordan Blakesley is the founder of B Public Relations (BPR), a company that manages 24 PR professionals in five cities. In addition to SMB boutiques and independent hotels, destinations, and restaurants, the company works with many multi-location brands, including Snooze, an AM Eatery, Next Level Burger, and King’s Seafood Company.

We have observed at Street Fight that many multi-location (MULO) brands do not focus on public relations (PR) as part of their overall marketing strategy. The focus seems to be on digital media and specific industry trade publications rather than more conventional media exposure.

PR is considered “earned media.” In other words, brands can’t buy media exposure, although many publications recommend that they treat PR as part of an overall communications campaign, so that press exposure is integrated with other media within their marketing strategies.

We recently sat with Jordan to get a better understanding of why and how PR can be part of an overall marketing strategy and why she believes it’s still critical today for MULO brands.

How do you define PR?

“PR is communicating and relationship-building in a way that both increases awareness and trust around a brand in a more organic way.”

Why is it imperative?

“PR is one of the best ways to build not only a brand’s awareness but also its credibility. When consumers learn about the amazing things a brand is doing from a trusted third party, such as a media outlet or a trusted influencer, it means more than hearing about it from the brand itself, as is the case with traditional advertising. PR also allows brands to tell their stories in more meaningful ways – from a human-interest lens rather than one that comes across as marketing-focused.”

What are some of your agency’s finest moments that prove the value of PR?

“We’ve had several clients lately that have hired us for a regional launch in a city in which they needed strong local connections, only planning for a short-term project with us for a single location.

More than one has been so impressed by the work and fond of the partnership that they’ve then hired us to launch locations in additional cities and then later asked us to handle their national brand PR – Next Level Burger and King’s Seafood Company are two examples. Nothing makes me happier than proving the value of our work to a brand and then having the opportunity to grow with them.”

What do you say to companies that don’t want PR because they don’t believe it drives sales?

“I don’t usually try to convince someone to dive into PR if they don’t think they need it – I’ve found that to be a losing battle. But for those who are skeptical, I’ll often ask them how they learned about a restaurant they recently dined at or when was the last time they made a purchase off Instagram based on something they saw someone utilizing or talking about in a positive way. The answer almost always comes back to a version of PR – they read about a restaurant in a “best new restaurants” list or googled “best restaurants” in their city, and a listicle popped up.

Maybe they saw pictures of an influencer dining there and bookmarked it. While consumers typically need to see a brand multiple times before they act on a purchase, PR is almost always part of where their awareness stems. The difficult part is it’s hard to track. Luckily, if a client decides to give PR a try, even if they’re a little skeptical, they usually see the results and then become quick believers.”

What about companies that don’t want their competitors to know what they’re doing?

“I understand the need to keep proprietary information private – some companies even have legal limits around what they can share. With PR, there’s often a way to share the story without getting too much into proprietary information, but not always. I have had to tell clients before that if they’re not willing to share the info that makes their story compelling, they might as well skip PR because the media won’t bite on it.”

How do you calm down clients who are impatient to get “ink?”

“I do have to remind clients that good PR is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to build trust with journalists, to facilitate an experience with the brand on their behalf, and for content to be created and published. Seasonality and lead times are a real thing, and sometimes, it can take a year for an amazing story to go live. Once you start the communication process, however, the opportunities continue rolling in. It’s not unusual to work with a freelancer, for example, who places multiple stories within a variety of outlets from just one hosted experience.

We have an advantage as an agency that only works within a couple of select industries – food and beverage, culture and travel – as we already have strong relationships with the regional and national beat media our clients are looking to connect with, and we’re well-versed on industry trends, what they’re covering and other nuances that can take a while to work through for a firm that works with industries across the board and is tasked with new research, building relationships, etc. every time they take on a new client.”

Remember, too, that earned media (PR) often takes time. Just because a brand thinks that something is newsworthy, that doesn’t mean a writer or other content provider wants to write or post about it at exactly that moment.

That said, we at Street Fight are always open to compelling stories about MULO brands and encourage agencies and clients to reach out to us with their news and insights!

Nancy A Shenker, senior editor with Street Fight, is a former big brand (Citibank, Mastercard, Reed Exhibitions) marketing strategist and leader. She has been featured in, the New York Times and Forbes.
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