April, 2015
Strategies
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



How Public Relations Can Work For You

ALAN CARSON

Public relations (PR) is a form of marketing that

includes a broad range of communications with the goal of persuading an audience to use your service. It is a promotional activity directed at a target group - homebuyers or real estate sales professionals, for example. The medium may be online, print (e.g. newspapers or magazines), radio, television, or live events. You may or may not pay a fee for public relations. Sometimes, home inspection companies get paid for doing public relations - it’s great to get paid for your services! That happens if you are paid to be a presenter, for example.

Here are some examples of public relations activities

  • Press Releases
  • Newsletters
  • Blogs
  • Newspaper and Magazine Columns
  • Appearing on Radio or Television
  • Speaking at Events
  • Sponsoring Events
  • Exhibiting at Events

Some PR campaigns don’t cost you any money. Your only cost may be your time. For a new business, this is ideal because many new business owners have more time than money. You can do it on your own or hire a public relations company to help you.

The goal is multiple contact points with your target audience. Clients often choose your company because they heard about you from a number of sources. When people say, “I hear your name everywhere!” you know your marketing is working.

Not Self-Promotion

Public relations messages are not advertising. PR messages do not focus on the features and benefits of your service. They more often position you as an expert or authority. People assume you are competent and qualified because media or event organizers recognize you. PR can be effective because it is seen as more credible than paid advertising.

PR puts you on the Map, Over Time

In our experience, PR is a good way to get your name out, but it may not result directly in business. Building brand and credibility take time. Some people refer to PR as background marketing because, unlike advertising, there is typically no immediate call to action.

PR Comes Before Asking for Business

Public relations is the first step in a two-step process. Many think of it as a door opener. The public relations event introduces you to your target audience, but the next step is the follow-up advertising where you ask for the business.

With homebuyers, Step 1 may be a series of events or messages. Step 2 may be homebuyers choosing you because they have seen you speak or seen your messages. Step 2 may also be a follow-up offer to the attendees of a seminar.

The public relations efforts alone do not drive business to you. They are a piece in a puzzle. Some home inspectors and home inspection companies do a good job with the first step, but fail to follow through on the second. If you do not follow up, PR is just background marketing and very few businesses will grow quickly with background marketing as their sole marketing tool.

If you do not market to the real estate community, skip this paragraph. With real estate agents, Step 1 may be public relations events or a series of messages. Step 2 may be a phone call to top agents inviting them to lunch or offering to meet with them in their office.

PR Bolsters Sales Effort

Most home inspectors don’t like making the sales call. They don’t like confronting an agent and asking, “Will you refer business to me?” Many choose marketing campaigns that are less personal, like writing a blog. If you ask a home inspector to list all of the marketing campaigns he or she does in a year, inevitably the campaigns will include “comfortable” events like blogs or newsletters. While there’s nothing wrong with a blog, it’s just not as effective on its own as in combination with other activities.

Distribution

Blogs can be effective, but are less effective if they just appear on your website. Sharing blogs, sending them as part of newsletters and distributing paper copies are all part of getting the word out. It makes sense to leverage the time and effort you put into writing a good blog in as many ways as you can.

Sales calls are hard work for most people. These calls are often easier and more successful if your audience already knows your name and your company as a result of your PR efforts.

Summary

Public relations can be more effective than advertising because you are taking the position of an expert or authority. Your message is more subtle than advertising and more effective in establishing your credibility. There are public relations firms available to help.

PR sets the table for advertising and sales activities, helping to make both more effective.

Sailor Care Packages

ASHI staff celebrated National Hug a G.I. Day March 4, 2015, by sending care packages to six sailors on the USS Carl Vinson. We’re grateful for all the men and women who have served in our armed forces.