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PR? I can’t afford PR! Or can I?

One of the constant struggles for the boutique property is the cost of marketing. Every year the same questions come up during the budgeting process. How much should I spend on advertising? Should I use print, radio, television, online, etc? If print, which publications; if online, which websites? Should I be devoting social media ad dollars in an effort to increase fans on Facebook? How much should I spend on PR? Wait a minute … I can’t afford PR! No boutique can … or can I? That is the question we asked ourselves a few years ago. 

We were intrigued by the value of public relations, which brings invaluable third-party endorsement — in other words, credibility. This is especially important for a small, independent property because is it very difficult to gain the trust of a target audience solely using a paid advertisement. When weighing buying decisions against the larger brands, potential guests may be a little more reluctant to trust a relatively unknown property based on a good-looking ad. We find that positive press coverage can really help reinforce and support the paid advertising. Potential customers feel a stronger sense of trust when reading a third-party opinion of the property. 

Two years ago we decided to take a flyer on public relations and engaged with a professional PR firm out of Manhattan. What we found was that for a cost of about 15% of our annual marketing budget we were able to afford the services. The key for us to keep the cost manageable was to create a partnership and process that relies on our team at Mirbeau to create as much of the content as possible and to do as much of the legwork as possible. Our agency fine-tunes our content and identifies the opportunities to get it out into the press through its extensive contact database and longstanding relationships. The agency is also capable of using its contacts to generate press visits by writers Mirbeau could not attract without expert assistance.

The results have been impressive. The investment has been worthwhile, and I recommend it for other boutiques. PR is a very powerful tool that, if used properly, results in a form of marketing that is trusted by the majority of readers because it is written by a third party. The coverage usually contains an emotional context that works very well when communicating with your target audience. With the Internet and social media, PR consultants can reach more and more of your target audience than ever before. Based on our experience, this can be achieved for a fraction of the cost of reaching the same audience using only traditional print and online advertising.

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