In public relations, certain terms are hard to distinguish from each other due to a strong similarity. For example, public relations, or “PR”, is often conflated with related terms like marketing and advertising. But such practice areas can work compatibly with one another, while still serving a unique role. The same goes for grassroots marketing and guerilla marketing – two terms that are often confused for the same thing. Understanding the difference between the two is helpful, especially for those interested in implementing either of these tactics within a business. Today, we’re drawing the distinction for you – so you can be confident in the next step.
Let’s start by defining grassroots marketing. Grassroots marketing targets a small audience in hopes that the specified chosen group of people spread the intended message to larger audiences. One of the best ways to encourage others to share a brand’s message is through emotional triggers. In 2013, Canadian airline Westjet targeted a group of passengers all traveling on the same flight, using social media to individually ask them what they wanted for Christmas. While the passengers were airborne, Westjet rushed to buy the gifts that the passengers asked for. Once the plane landed, Westjet placed the gifts on the baggage claim carousel for the passengers to retrieve. The campaign encouraged people to share their stories through social media, the place where the company originated its interaction with the passenger-customers.
Conversely, guerilla marketing is best known for unconventional and unique tactics that raise brand awareness by targeting a larger audience. Guerilla marketing stands out because of the way that it doesn’t interrupt its audience. It catches its audience somewhat by surprise, appearing in normal day-to-day life. In 2009, Bounty showcased the absorbency of their paper towels by placing two large spills from a coffee cup and a popsicle in New York and Los Angeles. The brand executed this by advertising itself in a unique and eye-catching way while also providing a solution to the “mess.” Note that this campaign did not target a specific audience but instead was designed to reach as many people as possible through social sharing.
Now that the two types of marketing have been defined, let’s highlight the key difference between the two. Grassroots marketing starts by targeting a very specific and intentional demographic or audience. Guerilla marketing is designed to target and reach a larger audience. Distinguishing these two terms all comes down to the size and intent of audience. However, both types of marketing can employ the same strategies and techniques. And since grassroots and guerilla marketing both aim to increase sales and raise brand awareness, both have the potential to generate effective marketing results within any business.
Eric and Allison recently had an opportunity to sit down with Hannah Smoot, one of the newest reporters on staff at the Charlotte Observer. Hannah shared all about her background in journalism, thoughts on the future of the newspaper industry, and some fun stories she’s covered in the past. Check it out!
Tell us about yourself… where are you from, and what brought you to Charlotte?
I grew up in Raleigh and went to college at UNC – Chapel Hill. When I graduated in 2017, I went straight to Rock Hill for a job with the Rock Hill Herald. I worked down there for a couple of years for the same company that owns the Charlotte Observer, so I had been working closely with some of the editors and reporters in Charlotte. I really loved living in Charlotte and being part of the community, so I wanted to get up here as soon as possible. When this job opened up, I just had to apply for it and had to get into Charlotte… so its been really great being able to live and work in the same place!
What beats did you focus in Rock Hill, and what will you be covering here?
In Rock Hill, I was focused mostly on politics and business. Now here in Charlotte, I’m on the business desk focusing on healthcare and aviation, and a little bit of retail as well. Its definitely a lot different than what I was doing… but the reason I was so comfortable making the shift is because I always liked taking hard to understand topics and translating it to how it affects people in their everyday lives. I think there’s a lot of opportunities to do that in all of these beats, especially in Charlotte.
So now that you’re here in Charlotte… what does your day to day look like?
I’m still figuring that out! It’s still new, so it’s a lot of reaching out to different PR people or spokespeople and meeting them. Right now, I’m really focused on building relationships in the community. I’m planning on being in Charlotte for quite a while, so I wanted to take the time to build up those relationships and get to know people.
Knowing that the media landscape has changed dramatically in recent years, what do you think the future of the traditional newspaper industry looks like?
Of course, I think digital is going to be so important… we’ve already seen that in other industries. I’ve seen this in covering retail, since this is something that retailers are focused on. People are going online to shop… people are going online to read our news… people are going online to do everything. So I think it’s going to be very important for us to figure out how we can get our news to people while also building a community online. For years, people would sit down at the kitchen table and read the newspaper on a Sunday morning, and we have to learn how to create that same effect online.
What’s one of the most memorable stories you’ve worked on during your career as a journalist?
There’s been a couple of interesting ones… One of my favorite that I really enjoyed was actually one of my first stories in Rock Hill. I got to report on the BMX World Championships that was held in Rock Hill a couple years ago. So as a part of that, I got to go and ride a BMX bike down the track… which is TERRIFYING, but also a lot of fun! I did wipe out (my editor told me before I left that I wasn’t allowed to break anything 😉) I did sprain my ankle, but otherwise it was a lot fun. Personally, I really enjoy those stories when I can go out, get hands-on, and try something new.
The term “PR” (public relations) is often conflated with communications-related references like press, buzz, and publicity. However, while public relations practitioners frequently consider such ends in a PR strategy, simply garnering publicity for a client is rarely, if ever, the end goal. If you’re surprised to hear that, let us help you make the distinction. Here are four clear ways PR is different from publicity:
- Publicity considers the now; PR sees tomorrow – PR professionals develop communications strategies that are anchored on an ultimate business goal. This requires a holistic approach to planning and execution that occasionally involves publicity-generating as a tactic, if it is appropriate within the context of the organization or individual’s current story. To put it simply: sometimes a business, organization, or individual needs publicity for something one-dimensional. Alternatively, a PR strategist crafts measured steps toward a goal-oriented future that learns from the past and is thoughtful in the present.
- Publicity focuses on quantity; PR is all about quality – ‘Good publicity’ and ‘Good PR’ aren’t always interchangeable. A publicist can achieve success by securing maxed-out event attendance or high volumes of press inquiries. A PR professional, on the other hand, has succeeded in a tactic when an organization or individual achieves the intended communications objective, be it proactive or reactive. PR teams must navigate nuance and sensitive messaging with ease, and be agile when executing on a campaign. For PR campaigns, results aren’t always quantifiable.
- Publicity is one-dimensional; PR adopts many forms – A publicist’s work generally revolves around amplifying a positive turnout, announcement, or story. Conversely, PR is about setting the tone and controlling a narrative, no matter the context. Often, a PR campaign isn’t something overt or clearly visible; many can work behind the scenes, subtly influencing customers or tactfully working to shift perceptions on a hot topic. As a result, success varies widely for PR initiatives. For example, low press interest can often define a successful campaign, thanks to a PR team’s ability to keep a crisis or misstep under the radar.
- Publicity is a transaction; PR is a partnership – Where publicists can execute quick campaigns, PR teams counsel businesses, organizations, and individuals every step of their communications journey. It is often appropriate to hire a contract publicist for one-time or limited-time events or messaging campaigns. On the other hand, PR teams can best fulfill their maximum potential inside long-term partnerships. Because public relations is best practiced as a long-game, extended partnerships between PR teams and businesses are advantageous; and when PR teams truly walk alongside organizations, anything is possible.
We hope these points provide some clarity the next time you overhear someone refer to ‘Good PR’ or ‘Good publicity’. We also hope hearing ‘Good PR’ reminds you of PIVOT PR – because we can do it all.
Every organization is different. Depending on your size, industry, region, product/service, employee skill set, etc., you’ll likely find yourself with a unique set of marketing and public relations challenges. Oftentimes, it’s difficult to pinpoint your areas of need, so ask yourself these three questions when considering if you should hire a PR firm.
1. Does your marketing team need PR support? Most organizations have a modest marketing team tasked with a bevy of responsibilities- sales support, inbound marketing, advertising, design, social media, collateral, and website maintenance to name a few. They likely don’t have the time or experience to execute on public relations, which is very much a niche within the marketing umbrella. Most small to mid-sized companies don’t require a full-time person, but typically 25 – 50 hours per month.
2. Do your stakeholders truly understand your value proposition? Many organizations struggle to articulate what they do, and as a result, their customers don’t fully appreciate the product or services they offer. An outside agency, with an outside perspective, will force you to evaluate your organization’s true identity. Only then can you have the appropriate market positioning, messaging, and content to speak to your customers effectively.
3. Can you afford a public relations firm? Most companies spend 5-10% of their total revenue on marketing, and around 10% of that should be spent on public relations. Figure a few thousand dollars a month at minimum, but it really depends on how much assistance you require and how quickly you’d like to reach your goals.
If you’re interested in working with a PR agency, let’s discuss your specific needs and see if we’re a good fit. Here at PIVOT PR, we won’t lock you into a long-term agreement, which minimizes your risk exponentially. Why, you ask? Because we’re confident in the value we provide to our partners, and we know you’ll appreciate working with a local, boutique, and tenured team who loves what they do!
By 10 am this morning, chances are you saw a digital advertisement for something you merely thought about over breakfast. Ads are everywhere; especially on the many devices that keep us connected. It’s no surprise that, as digital advertising gets more savvy, brands across the globe are spending record amounts of money to reach customers online – surpassing historical spends in more traditional mediums like TV and print.
True, digital advertising is effective, and for those with the budget, it’s usually worth the spend. But as online influencing and selling increasingly become a pay-to-play game, how do businesses with smaller budgets keep up? We’ve put together 4 budget-friendly tactics to help your messages stand out between the ads:
- Keep a schedule – A sporadic approach to content-sharing never helps anyone. Followers are more likely to stick around when there’s regular, interesting content they’ve grown to appreciate. Content themes can and should change on a week-to-week basis, but the frequency and types of posts – outside of limited-time and rare major promotions or events – should stay consistent.
- Remember, it takes two – Brands should strive to establish and maintain a two-way relationship with audiences online. That means making a concerted effort to listen, not just feed content. So whether it’s opening your page for a contest asking for feedback submission, hosting Q&As, or simply breaking the “sell” cycle with a feel-good message before the weekend, be creative and always seek new ways to invite followers in.
- Keep it real – Stock images should always be a last resort. Many of the most successful paid digital ads lead the way with a compelling image that tells either a relatable or aspirational story; the same standard should apply to unpaid content on your owned channels. Whether it’s a storytelling infographic that educates and motivates action on your issue, or a photo of a real customer enjoying your product, these images convey authenticity. Keep them coming.
- Leverage suspense and surprise – Building momentum is a great way to keep current followers engaged and attract new ones. Have a big announcement to roll out, but don’t have the dollars to promote a big-splash campaign? Use your social feeds to tease the news in a series of posts that feature succinct captions and cryptic, playful images that gel with your brand. Invite followers to tag their friends on the posts so they don’t miss out, too.
The moral of the story here: Quality content can still compete with high quantities of ads paying for customers’ attention. Don’t let intimidation by the big shiny campaigns hold your brand down! Along with proper attention, listening skills, and creativity, following these guidelines over time will enable you to cultivate a loyal followership, while spending less.
Who knows? In no time, your followers might just start thinking about you over breakfast, too.