If you have been in marketing or communications for almost any amount of time, you have undoubtedly been asked, “How can we generate more awareness?” To answer that question, one could rattle off any number of traditional PR tactics. That is enough for some companies, but it shouldn’t be. After all, more awareness for awareness’ sake will not help a company compete or grow.

For example (albeit an extreme one), more people became “aware” of Wirecard after Dan McCrum of the Financial Times began reporting on discrepancies in the company’s accounts. Now, the CEO has been arrested and the company has collapsed.

So, if your company engaged in corporate fraud on a scale rarely ever seen and is asking about awareness, you should probably call a lawyer. Otherwise, we recommend answering their question with one of your own: “Awareness in service of what?”

Today, effective PR strategy is more than simply plugging your CEO’s name in a news article or tweeting to your heart’s content. It must be tied to broader organizational objectives and achieving differentiation from peers. While there are many paths to do so, here are four that are becoming increasingly important this year:

  1. Differentiate. Effective PR generates the kind of awareness that helps companies be seen for their unique inner strengths in order for them to compete in commoditized markets. Most B2B companies are forced to compete on price since there are similar companies with similar services. However, in every B2B company, there are people, processes and intellectual property that can help you stand out in your audience’s eyes. An effective PR strategy will both identify what your audience needs to see to choose your company and how your existing resources can help make that happen.
  1. Acquire talent. Good PR is about helping companies be seen as an employer of choice at a time when the battle for talent is raging. As noted above, your talent is a key resource in your fight against commoditization but companies that can’t happen if they don’t have the right talent or enough of it. PR can help potential employees understand the value of working with a company and feel energized about becoming part of the team.
  1. Be authentic. PR can differentiate companies with the opportunity to be known, authentically, for their diversity among staff and in leadership roles. It goes beyond just touting an organizational survey showing the company has ticked boxes. It’s about elevating and amplifying the voices and expertise of your diverse talent pool. In short, it’s not just about talking about diversity, it’s living by it. 
  1. Spotlight your leaders. Your company chose its leaders for a reason. A strong executive visibility program generates the kind of awareness that gives a company a face and a voice, building a level of trust that far supersedes what you can say about your products’ features and benefits. Competitors can easily imitate your products and services. It’s much harder to imitate your CEO’s abilities.   

Identifying your company’s needs beyond awareness is key to setting an effective communications and PR strategy in motion. To start, instead of asking “how can we generate more awareness,” the right kind of PR helps companies answer a very different and more meaningful question every marketing leader should be asking: Why should anyone do business with our company?

As supervisor, Taylor converts ideas into results across Stern’s media relations, content marketing, book launch, and conference/speaking outreach competencies. He works with clients – from individual thought leaders to Fortune 500 companies in a spectrum of industries – to design and execute uniquely impactful communications programs tailored to meet their business needs. When he’s not at work, Taylor can be found surfing, snowboarding, or golfing.