The tertiary sector of the economy, widely known as the service sector or service industry, differs from primary and secondary industries only by the type of value it creates. This is why a company in the service sector needs to maintain its public image just like a company in the other sectors.
In other words, to establish and maintain their reputation, services companies should put effort into building beneficial relationships with the general public. The role of PR in the service industry proves it can significantly boost those efforts.
The role and functions of PR
Building and maintaining a positive brand image through strategic relationships with stakeholders—that’s the main objective of public relations. Most importantly, it correlates to the tertiary sector as well; particularly, small businesses can benefit from PR strategies and technologies. Hence, a PR specialist affiliated with a service industry company should keep the following relationship-driven functions in mind:
- Advising, creating, and implementing public exposure strategies
- Attaining and securing a favorable public image
- Analyzing public sentiment, and
- Counseling and mitigating consequences after a crisis.
Mainly, the role of PR in the service industry is brand building through impact on public awareness. Fortunately for public relations, their once minor role in marketing strategies evolves.
PR approaches that support the service sector
PR should aim to depend less on advertising to build and maintain service brands. Instead, it should ride the wave of an increased number of internet users and new trends the pandemic has spurred. Public relation specialists should capitalize on PR’s two-way communication with the target audience.
- Cross-marketing. Companies whose services complement each other can significantly benefit from this tactic. Cross-marketing expands the consumer market, establishes cooperation between service businesses, and reduces their promotional expenses. Examples of compatible service industries: hospitality and medical, logistics and insurance, environmental services and engineering, accounting, and legal services.
- Experiential marketing. The main benefits of experiential marketing for service businesses are building strong brand awareness and establishing long-term connections with customers through a face-to-face approach in a physical setting, resulting in higher sales and more reliable customer engagement. Examples? Interactive webinars and conferences, event marketing, contests, in-person surveys, and in-store experiences.
- Video marketing. The goal of video marketing is to highlight services to the target audience utilizing the production of creative and engaging videos. Quite an affordable communication tool, it includes the creation of customer testimonials videos, service demo videos, behind-the-scenes and viral videos.
Depending on the service industry and company marketing goals, businesses and their PR professionals should combine various practices and tailor the best possible plan of action. The key is in a balance between an in-person and online approach to a target audience.
The benefits and the role of PR in the service industry
Public relations professionals are focused on public opinion, not solely as communicators but advisors and thought leaders, to increase company value. Essentially, they fulfill the company’s marketing needs by enhancing its brand image and online presence, promoting its core values, and developing and nurturing its relationships with clients.
Brand image management
Building and maintaining brand reputation is at the heart of PR activities. Relying on press releases through prominent media outlets and trusted individuals grows the brand authority and repairs any reputation damage.
The boost in a brand image often happens after the praise comes from a reputable third party. Service providers need PR to provide a channel to those parties. In a way, public relations serve as a conduit.
Enhancing online presence
A strong online presence, in a world where digital connections surpass physical in number, is of utmost importance. However, it is vital to note that the public image becomes fragile if unattended. Solid public relations take time to develop. However, once they have grown, they provide a buffer for a service industry business. Building a strong online presence helps in times of crisis as it can offset negative publicity and put the company back on track.
Promotion of brand values
Quality assurance is at the core of clients’ trust. Also, a positive, ethical, empathic, inclusive, environmentally responsible, and transparent approach to business builds confidence in service and enhances brand loyalty. Public relations should promote these core values and weave them into networking strategies.
Opening and maintaining numerous lines of communication with the public can boost a company’s credibility but can’t weather the potential crisis on its own. Thus, PR should report on actual efforts the brand made to do what’s right.
Building ties with the public means dedicating time to old and new clients. PR in service industries implies creating and improving client relationships through active participation in day-to-day life. Therefore, being a part of the society, just like the community itself, builds brand image but also its reliability and influence.
Public relations models, methods, and technologies can be powerful tools for service brand building in the hands of a dedicated PR professional. Still, it is not only PR specialists who need to understand the purpose of PR in the service sector, but service providers, too. In general, service businesses recognize the importance of advertising. Although, they often do not know the difference nor have the resources to engage in public relations.
Instead of tapping into the potential of PR, they are missing the opportunity to establish a strong company presence and become highly competitive. Perhaps the first and the most important role of PR in the service industry is something else – to clearly differentiate from other marketing instruments. Finally, it should approach service providers as a tool that doesn’t affect the sales directly but increases company reputation and builds long-term relations with all stakeholders.