Using PR to Win the Battle For Your Target’s Mind

“Once it (positioning) is accomplished and the company establishes share of mind, it will be translated into share of market.  Therefore, positioning is really sales and return on investment.”

--Andy Marken, marketing and communications consultant

I’ve long believed — and continue to believe — that psychological (aka brand) positioning – the position you own in your target’s mind relative to competitors – is the critical success factor for marketing success.

This is especially true for new and early-stage companies.

Positioning is one of the 6 P’s of Marketing.  Historically, there were 4 P’s of marketing (product, price, place and promotion).  Most marketers believe there are six today.  The fifth P is positioning and the sixth P is public relations.

The fact is, you can’t build a company/brand if you can’t win the battle for the mind.  A company or product has to build a distinct and differentiated brand vs. competitors in the target’s mind.  You have to stand out as unique in some way.  If you’re not standing out relative to customers in the customer’s mind you’re not positioning – at least effectively.  Ideally, your company or product will own a word, phrase or concept in the target’s mind.  That’s what positioning — when done effectively — does.  

Of course, you must translate your word or words into action to fully support the position you’re after.  EVERYTHING a company does must reinforce the position it wants to own or create.  As an example, if your desired position is “The city’s friendliest bank,” then you must not only have friendly tellers and loan officers, but friendly ads and be a friendly corporate citizen in the community, etc.

You can never FAKE a position.  If a brand promise isn’t true, you not only won’t earn a position in the consumer’s mind, you’ll alienate him/her, developing negative brand equity.  For example, if you claim to have the “best service in town!”  You better walk the talk!

Traditionally, advertising has been the communications tool of choice for establishing a position in a prospect’s or customer’s mind.

But there are two significant problems with advertising when it comes to positioning for start-ups and young growth companies:

  • Advertising is very expensive.

  • Advertising lacks credibility in most consumers’ minds. You can control the message but the fact advertising lacks credibility lessens that advantage.

So, what is a company in its embryonic-stage of growth to do?  Use PR.  Public relations is a powerful positioning tool.  It’s actually preferable to advertising except in the rare instance.  Why?  PR has two important advantages over advertising when it comes to positioning strategy development and execution:

  • PR is significantly less expensive than advertising.

  • PR provides third-party credibility that advertising can’t.

To get a new company or brand started from scratch, the validity that third-party stories or endorsements can bring are critical in establishing psychological positioning relative to competitors.  That’s why a well-planned and well-executed PR campaign should be a high priority for new and early-stage companies.

And it all starts with a strong positioning strategy.

Ken Reed is a Senior Communications Advisor at CoPeace. As a forward-thinking holding company, CoPeace is building a portfolio of carefully selected for-profit companies with measurable social and environmental impact. To learn more about impact investing, check out CoPeace’s Intro to Impact Investing.