Public relations (PR) is the practice of distributing and responding to information about your company in order to influence public perception. It’s an on-going activity, but a worthy investment indeed.
Not only does a good PR strategy help build awareness for building materials manufacturers, but it can cultivate credibility by bringing your values and accomplishments front-and-center. Plus, your PR strategy can help you respond swiftly and effectively to any negative publicity that may come your way.
The thing is, crafting and executing a PR strategy takes time and forethought — especially for the building materials industry where publicity often has to be sought out and earned. Fortunately, the world now consumes information in countless ways, and today’s PR goes far beyond submitting a press release to the local newswire.
For building materials companies serious about building and managing their brand and reputation, they need a multi-faceted approach to public relations that leverages social media marketing, a mix of PR campaigns, and proactive media relations. If that’s what you’re after, here’s what it’s going to take.
The Fundamentals of PR in the Building Materials Industry
Building materials manufacturers might try to build rapport with many different target audiences, but it’s important that you properly define each of those audiences and that you fully understand which one you’re targeting with each PR campaign you invest in.
Case in point, some building materials manufacturers sell strictly B2B, which means their target audiences may consist of retail stores and construction companies. On the other hand, those selling direct-to-consumer may need yet another facet in their PR strategy to get in front of the homeowners, the DIY crowd and purchasers, like interior designers, contractors and installers.
Whoever your target audiences are, the first step in laying out your PR strategy is coming up with a reader persona to represent each of them so that you know exactly what you’re speaking to with every piece. For instance, if you were to model your ideal D2C customer, you’d want to note things like their key challenges and project scope.
If you have a marketing team that’s dedicated to growing your company, you likely already have your audiences and personas mapped out, which gives you a great leg up in planning your company’s PR approach. From there, you need to think about the story you want to tell about your brand.
The way you build and shape your brand image will influence how people perceive your company and whether or not your various target personas think of you as the perfect match for their needs. Some manufacturers brand themselves as practical, budget-friendly providers and others position themselves as heirloom-quality materials providers, but branding goes beyond what you produce.
When thinking about how you want the public to perceive your company, think about the people behind the scenes, how the company got its start, and the overarching values that drive you in every decision you make. Being family-owned, made in America, or erasing your carbon footprint are all examples of details worth weaving in.
It will take some time to do, but once you have painted a clear picture internally of how you want your company to be seen by the world, you can move forward with executing PR campaigns that support that vision.
Crafting Your PR Strategy
Before investing time and effort into any sort of PR campaign, you need to set clear objectives and reasonable expectations for the road ahead. Like all things in the world of marketing, positive results aren’t guaranteed for any given campaign and certain strategies will prove far more effective than others.
In order to make the most of your PR team and their budget, you need to establish metrics early on and set benchmarks so that you can compare apples to apples and decide exactly where your efforts need to be focused. It will involve some trial and error, but if you’re measuring specific results, you’ll be able to narrow in on the effective strategies far sooner.
The objectives you set for your PR efforts will also influence which communication channels you ultimately pursue, along with the messages you put out there. For instance, if your company has decided that it needs to build awareness for its D2C sales, then you will pursue very different channels trying to reach end consumers than if you were focused on increasing B2B relations with vendors and partners.
If you have multiple objectives, be sure to treat them as separate endeavors each with their own goals and metrics. Additionally, make sure that you research the available communication channels and strategies that match up with each one (more on that down below) and the key messages you want to convey given the target audiences of each.
This planning stage will take a substantial amount of time, just as laying out your audiences and brand story will, but it’s these foundational efforts that will determine the overall success of your PR strategy, so don’t skip the details.
PR Strategies For Building Material Companies
With clear objectives and deep familiarity with the messages you want to convey to your different target audiences, you can go forward in selecting certain channels and formats to test out for your PR strategy. There are countless ways to go about creating a PR plan for your building materials company, but here are some of the most popular components that you can integrate into it.
Press Releases and News Wire Distribution
One of the oldest forms of PR is known as the press release. Press releases are a fundamental part of public relations because they give you a direct line to announce important company news, like expansions, acquisitions, new products and campaigns built around your core values.
There are turnkey services that will write and distribute press releases for you when you have a big announcement. This will generally get your press release onto at least one hundred news affiliates (like local CNN station websites) across the country.
You can also submit your press release to a news wire service for increased visibility as some services will get it onto industry-specific publications and into other outlets with a wider, perhaps more targeted audience. However, press releases in general tend to have very broad reach.
One of the biggest upsides of news write distribution is that, when done right, it can greatly boost your SEO efforts by building credibility — since you can add an “As Seen On XYZ” label to your homepage — and creating backlinks to your website.
The cost of this strategy varies depending on how you approach it, with the most affordable method being to write the press release in-house and submit it manually to local news outlets and the most expensive method being to use a national service like PR Newswire, which can cost a few thousand dollars for each press release you want to put out.
Media Relations: Pitching and Building Relationships
While a press release is a short, to-the-point article making one announcement about your company, that is repeated across hundreds of outlets, media pitches allow you to get in front of a highly targeted audience of a specific publication with an entirely unique article.
With enough time invested into media relations, you can build relationships with top editors at industry publications and either work with them to get a piece you have written published or even collaborate with a dedicated journalist and have them write a story about your company. In any case, it’s a great way to build credibility and reach a wider audience.
One of the ways building materials companies can utilize media relations is to target home improvement magazines and TV shows that can give them product exposure. You can also pitch someone on your team to appear as a guest or expert source for a morning show segment or podcast.
As you can imagine, the time investment for a media feature is far greater than any press release requires, but the payoff is equally big. Additionally, you can hire a professional ghostwriter who can find, pitch to and write articles on behalf of your company to earn you features without eating away at your PR team’s time.
If your building materials company is trying to reach a D2C or even a B2B audience, partnering with industry influencers could be an excellent way to promote your products. TikTok, Instagram and YouTube influencers have immense reach in the DIY, interior design and contractor/installer spaces, among others, giving you a direct link to your target audience.
Influencer projects tend to be highly targeted and they can drive incredible results since the audience you’re reaching already has great trust in the influencer who is talking about your product. The cost will vary depending on the size of their audience, but it is often on par with the cost of an ad campaign that has similar reach — except it can drive far better conversions.
Aside from simply asking an influencer to talk about your product, you can also sponsor influencer projects and design challenges. These can present your brand in a more memorable and interesting way, and also attract more attention to the sponsored content, getting even more eyes on your placement.
Whichever route you decide to take, the hardest part of influencer marketing is choosing the right person or channel to collaborate with. You will want to do your research and ensure that your company’s values don’t clash with the personality you will be associated with, in order to avoid creating a PR problem.
Even if you are a regional or national building materials manufacturer, there is no underestimating the power of being well-known and well-loved in your local market. Making a positive impact on your community is worth it alone, but when you’re able to intelligently leverage local contributions as PR stepping stones, that’s even better.
Some of the ways building materials manufacturers can make the most of their local community contributions include engaging with non-profit organizations, like Habitat for Humanity, and making donations to help families in need, both directly and through charities.
Sponsoring local events, including children’s sports teams and other gatherings, can also build awareness for your company and put a humble spotlight on what you’re doing to help your community thrive. Of course, if your overarching goal is to drive PR results, you’ll want to keep your audience top-of-mind when choosing what actions to take locally.
Participating in Industry Events and Trade Shows
Industry events and trade shows present a fantastic opportunity to network with potential vendors and partners and build relationships with companies that you might be able to collaborate with in the future.
As a building materials manufacturer, there’s no shortage of events you can attend, so it’s important that you take the time to choose the right ones. Consider size, specialization, and the other types of vendors who will be present.
If there’s an opportunity to get someone on your team involved in a speaking engagement or demonstration at a trade show or event, that’s even better. With an engaging booth, the right messaging, samples, salespeople and a pre and post-show communication strategy, manufacturers can make a measurable impact. You just need to plan accordingly.
Product Demonstration Events
If you’re a building materials manufacturer dealing with a particularly unique or innovative product, there’s a good chance that your marketing team already spends a great deal of time trying to explain exactly how it works, why it’s better or different and what people need to know before purchasing your products. If that’s the case, live demonstrations could give you a major leg-up.
Whenever a company comes out with something new and exciting, even if it’s simply a matter of making a tedious process simple, live demonstrations can get an audience invested in your idea and build credibility around your promises. Additionally, giving potential customers the chance to get hands-on with your product could sell them on the spot, depending on the nature of your offerings.
Potential investors, industry influencers, target customers and industry professionals should all be invited to live product demonstrations. Not only is it a chance to show off your products, but it’s a chance to get feedback, making it a win-win for your company. Offer something in return, like samples or promos, it won’t be hard to attract your audience.
Crisis Communication Planning
As a building materials manufacturer, it might be hard to fathom a situation where bad publicity hits, but you should be prepared regardless. A disgruntled employee, a broken deal or an unfortunate incident involving one of your products or customers could all result in negative coverage, and a crisis communication plan will help you mitigate it.
A crisis communication plan should:
Identify potential risks, example scenarios, and example responses
Determine a hierarchy that explains who is responsible for communication
Prepare stakeholders and representatives for unexpected events
Define answers to potential questions and specify key messages
Without a crisis communication plan, companies can be left scrambling to respond to media inquiries when something goes wrong and the longer you wait, the farther bad news can spread, wreaking potentially irrefutable harm on your brand. While major PR crises are rare in the building materials world, you don’t want to be caught unprepared.
Designing a thoughtful crisis communication plan early on will ensure that all the hard work you’re going to invest into your PR strategy can’t be undone with one bad event. Instead, you’ll be well positioned to use even negative publicity as an opportunity to restate your values and convey a message that maintains trust in your brand.
Measuring the Success of Your PR Efforts
As with any time you’re testing something new, you’ll likely need to try different formats and channels out a few times, trying to control variables between campaigns, before you can decide what truly works the best for your business. As you go about doing that, make sure you’re setting measurable objectives.
There are countless metrics you could track as part of your PR efforts, but some of the most common include:
Social media mentions and engagement
Search volume and website traffic
As you invest in your PR plan, you’ll come to see how efforts can exponentially increase your brand reach through earned media. For example, if you make a big and exciting announcement about an innovative new product, any number of publications could decide to write an article mentioning it. Likewise, if people start willingly sharing your viral influencer partnership, that’s another form of earned media.
Earned media is a majorly desirable outcome of any PR campaign because it means that you are getting your message out in front of even more people and it’s happening in a way that shows that your message truly resonated with your target audience. With that said, in order to measure this reach, you need to have the right analytics tools in place.
Fully and accurately measuring the results of any given PR campaign means having deep insights into what’s happening on your website, on social media and across the web. This might mean tracking pixels and various third-party tools to track trending web searches, brand mentions and new backlinks. If you have an SEO strategy in place, you’ll likely already have these things in your arsenal.
While a lot of planning goes into laying out a PR strategy, the day-to-day execution of it can bring immense awareness and a whole new sense of excitement to your building materials company, especially if you’re delving into newer methods like influencer marketing.
With continued changes in how people communicate, interact and make purchasing decisions, there is even more exciting opportunity on the horizon for manufacturers who are getting into the PR game right now. For instance, augmented reality could bring live demonstrations right into a person’s own home while AI-powered chatbots will make it easier than ever for potential customers to get matched with exactly the right product.
Even still, PR doesn’t have to involve anything particularly challenging or expensive. Delving into a strategy with some basic components like social media marketing and press releases for your big announcements can easily move the needle, as long as you take the time to lay out a solid foundation for your PR plan.
If you need help building awareness as a building materials manufacturer, Venveo can help. Using proven processes, Venveo can guide manufacturers down the path of cultivating recognition, trust and lasting partnerships with their ideal customers. Contact us today to learn more.