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  • 02.24.11

The 2 New Roles for Public Relations in a Digital Age

If you’re like most marketers, you very well may not. Or so says a recent Harvard Business Review article based on a study of 20,000 consumers, which takes careful aim at marketers’ spending habits and lands a clean shot. According to the post’s author, David C. Edelman, 70% to 90% of marketing spend goes to advertising and promotions that hit consumers at the early consideration stage where consumers are just beginning to sniff at options, or alternatively at the end game buy phase. However, according to Edelman, consumers are often more

If you’re like most marketers, you very well may not. Or so says a recent Harvard Business Review article based on
a study of 20,000 consumers, which takes careful aim at marketers’ spending
habits and lands a clean shot.
According to the post’s author, David C. Edelman, 70% to 90% of marketing spend goes to
advertising and promotions that hit consumers at the early consideration stage
where consumers are just beginning to sniff at options, or alternatively at the
end game buy phase. However, according to Edelman, consumers are often more
open to influence at the evaluation stage where they are researching options
and at the post-buy advocate stage where they may want to tell friends about
their new purchase.
As Edelman puts it:
“New media make the ‘evaluate’
and ‘advocate’ stages increasingly relevant. Marketing investments that help
consumers navigate the evaluation process and then spread positive word of
mouth about the brands they choose can be as important as building awareness
and driving purchase.”

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While the article focuses on consumer marketing, it has important implications for B2B marketing
and PR. professionals. In the very important evaluation phase, according to Edelman,
consumers are vetting review sites like that of Amazon.com, adding and
subtracting products to their decision set. At that point in time, it’s also
important to create content to give consumers a sense of your brand. That is
true not only in the B2C realm, but also in the B2B arena where consumers where
consumers are equally hungry for information about your product or service.
Edelman suggests that companies take on the role of Publisher-in-Chief, creating
content that gives “consumers a clear sense of the brand and lets them better
articulate attributes of specific products.”
So too do B2B marketers and PR professionals need to ramp up their publisher
function. That means creating everything from white papers to case studies to
videos to product comparison sheets to blog posts to social media engagement to
webinars. Anything that will increase your share of voice and make it easier
for prospects to evaluate what you’re offering.
Too often a marketer and PR person’s job ends at the buy stage. Edelman’s research
is significant in pinpointing the increasing importance of what he calls the
“advocacy stage.” By that he means the post-purchase stage, which has taken on
new life thanks to social media where consumers can give an amplified shout out
to their favorite brands. So too in the B2B arena. While B2B PR people have
always recognized the importance of case studies and customer testimonials as
word of mouth endorsements, B2B can also do more. Why not for example, supplement your blog with guest customer posts and establish a customer prospect community. And don’t forget the potential of an advisory board or leaders council, where customers can provide direct input into your business.
I also like what small business guru John Jantsch said in a recent post on turning customers into advocates:
“The final stage of the
customer development system is to engage your customers as advisors. Some
portion of your customer base should be looked at as form of marketing advisory
board and invited to share their opinions on marketing initiatives, content and
product or service development. By bringing your customers to
this level you develop loyalty that manifests in something like a volunteer
sales force.”
Follow @FastCoLeaders for all of our leadership news, expert bloggers, and book excerpts.
Wendy Marx, B2B PR and Marketing Specialist, Marx Communications

About the author

Wendy Marx is President of Marx Communications, an award-winning boutique B2B Public Relations agency known for turning companies and executives, including start-ups, into thought leaders. Follow her on Twitter @wendymarx and on Google+ @ plus.google.com/+wendymarx.

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