How PR Impacts and Benefits from Brand Advocacy

How PR Impacts and Benefits from Brand Advocacy

Ambera Cruz
10 January 2014
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Why You Should Care About Brand Advocacy

I recently read the fantastic Forbes article, “8 Essentials Of Creating A Sustainable Advocacy Program.”  Not only does it cover the creation of an advocacy program, it also does a great job highlighting the value of brand advocacy. Written by Ekaterina Walter, the article curates key statistics as proof points for the value of advocacy, such as:

  • Marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than 2X the sales of paid advertising (source: McKinsey Quarterly, April 2010)*
  • Customers referred by other customers have a 37% higher retention rate. (Source: Deloitte)*
  • Brand advocates spend 2x more than average customers on favourite brands. (Source: Zuberance)*
  • Brand advocates are 50% more likely to influence a purchase. (Source: Marketing Charts)*

I highly recommend this brand advocacy article; Forbes and Walter are spot on!

PR Impact on Brand Advocacy

A typical sales funnel stops at the purchase, but an ideal customer journey ends in advocacy. Relationship marketing disciplines like social media typically touch customers at the top and bottom of this funnel.

As Walters points out, advocates have immense brand value – but how does PR play a role? A quick look at a standard customer purchase funnel helps to illustrate where PR comes into play at every stage.

  • Awareness: PR drives brand awareness, which is the first step a customer takes into the customer purchase funnel. The PR that makes your potential customers aware of your product or brand have a significant impact to their initial view of your brand.
  • Consideration – Loyalty: PR plays a major role in corporate image. As a customer moves from consideration to loyalty, the corporate image becomes a key component in how that customer feels about your brand.
  • Advocacy – It is the holistic brand experience that builds an advocate. Elements include product experience, customer service, brand image and more.zz0wngizzdi3ztziotuwmmvkymnhowy0ogyymjzlmtqwyg

How Brand Advocates Benefit PR

In PR we’re always looking for third parties to sing our praises, its why we love it when a journalist or blogger writes about our brand. A third party endorsement from an advocate is no different; they are telling the world about your brand.

Since recommendations are now considered the most credible means of communication, we must be sure to use brand advocates in our PR strategy. By using a social listening tool, we can pinpoint existing brand advocates that are talking about us, but not to us. There are thousands of conversations taking place online, so a social listening tool such as Meltwater is needed to guide us to the chatter that’s relevant. Filtering conversation by sentiment is one way of doing so.

From using the Meltwater tool we were able to identify brand advocates for fashion retailer Asos, first by looking at general sentiment and then zooming into the positive comments only. We then went on to filtering the positive conversations by reach in order to identify the most influential Asos lovers. The same process can be applied to finding disgruntled customers so we can attempt to make amends and work with the critics to improve our relationship and reputation.

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After we discover brand advocates, we need to put them on pedestals and offer them a wider platform to distribute their love for us. Have them be the face of PR campaigns, work with them to create case studies, encourage them to speak at events on our behalf. GoPro are specialists at doing just that. Their website has a GoPro channel featuring user generated content. This has helped the brand create an engaged community of advocates showcasing how versatile the gadget is.

Organic vs. Manufactured – Brand Advocates or Brand Ambassadors?

Whenever the topic of brand advocacy comes up, I ask for clarity: “Are we talking about brand ambassadors or advocates, organic or manufactured?”

The difference is simple: are we paying them? If we are, they’re ambassadors.  If not, they’re advocates.

Organic advocates become advocates on their own, based on their experience with your brand. These are the folks who have worked their way through the funnel (see above). My mom and Alaniz fall into this category.

Manufactured advocates (aka brand ambassadors) are the people you find and pay to advocate for your brand. They fall into many different categories, but the most common example would be celebrities, promotional models, spokespeople, etc. Michael Jordan may love Nike, but he doesn’t endorse the product for free – he is a paid ambassador.

Both have their merits, and both can be created and nurtured through PR (often in conjunction with social media).  That said, since most of us like to think of PR as a free medium, I tend to direct more PR focus efforts towards nurturing advocates than ambassadors.

How to Find and Nurture Organic Brand Advocates

The good news is that you probably already have advocates. They are your customers, employees and partners; and there’s a good chance they are already talking about you online. A good social media monitoring tool will help you identify organic advocates already in action.

The best steps to take in building relationships with brand advocates are generally the same as those you’ll take to build a strong business, amongst them:

  • Thoughtfully listen to what clients are saying
  • Engage
  • Be helpful
  • Have great products
  • Have great service
  • Have differentiators customers care about
  • Be appreciative and thankful
  • Build social media communities

Why PR Should Care About Brand Advocacy

As a customer moves through the purchase funnel, they encounter PR in various forms along the way – but the magic happens when they reach the end and become advocates. As a customer evolves into an advocate, they go from consuming your company’s PR to helping to create PR for your company. A strong advocate becomes an influencer, and – as we’ve discussed -in today’s digital world an influencer can be just as valuable as a journalist.

I’m wondering what it took for my mom to make the journey through the same customer purchase funnel for the Marc brand. Certainly, her journey started with awareness, but I have a feeling she became an advocate in that same moment. I guess that’s one reason moms are so special: they skip quite a few steps and enthusiastically accept that they are your brand advocate. If only it was that easy to nurture brand advocates!

* Statistics originally published by Forbes in the article “8 Essentials Of Creating A Sustainable Advocacy Program.”