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Tuesday, 14 April 2015 00:00

The Power of P.R. - Body Shop Edition

Written by Tom Franklin

Most people think they know what "P.R." means when they see it. Movies, TV, recorded music and other forms of entertainment rely heavily on promotion and most people think that P.R. is just a synonym for "promotion." But the fact is P.R. stands for "public relations," a very distinct aspect of marketing. The dictionary tells us "public relations" consists of "methods and means by which a person or an organization seeks to promote a favorable relationship with the public." It is often confused with "publicity" which is the effort to get favorable mention is media and the press.

Some shops create favorable public relations by holding events, sponsoring schools, sports teams and family oriented activities that will reflect well on the concerns and generosity of the shop. Very few are successful in obtaining broad media, publicity, and press coverage of their P.R. activities.

The heart and soul of good publicity is the attention-grabbing story. Children, pets and traumatic experiences are some of the favorite subjects of publicity stories. This is where a typical shop could excel at adding powerful publicity to its spectrum of marketing tactics. Day in and day out shop estimators are presented with stories of accidents and driver and passenger trauma. Probably the majority of these stories are uninterestingly similar, but the occasional oddball story can be just what is needed to put a spark of life and interest into the shop's marketing messages.

It's well known that attracting repeated, ongoing visits to one's website, will require regular updating with content that is attention-grabbing. A shop's site that is heavily into promoting its state-of-the-art equipment and technical knowledge may be of interest to insurance executives looking for a DRP shop, or a dealership principal choosing an authorized collision shop, but few average drivers will pay much attention to this technical detail. But adding an additional dimension to the site with newsworthy stories of accidents, drivers and events could bring new, regular traffic to the site.

There is a problem in getting a goal like this realized in most shops. Estimators are focused on getting the necessary information needed to present the estimate, capture the job, collect the keys, and then get the job in process.

Adding a requirement to draw out the accident story could be regarded as interference with their job or just a waste of time. The entire process has to be made painless and trouble free. Fortunately today's smart phones all have a memo-recording feature. All the estimator need do when the conversation begins is switch on the memo-recording feature on his or her smart phone. If desired, the customer can be asked to listen back to check for any errors in understanding. Or the story can be forwarded to the shop's marketing person to see if the story really has P.R. potential and to clear it with the customer for use on the shop's site and other media. Customers that don't object to the use of their story may also be willing to provide photos, or allow shop photos of their vehicle along with the story. At this point the entire story may be appropriate for YouTube, Facebook and other media.

While the customer stories can provide good update content for media, weekly or monthly, another story has great potential to build customer loyalty. Most shops were started by one person or siblings or by an entire family. Very often that story is one of overcoming difficulties and possibly even hardships to arrive at the thriving, stable enterprise it is today. It is often a story of help received, from family, friends, suppliers and even potential customers. People are drawn to stories of perseverance and deeply felt caring. An effective story can make the viewer feel he or she is a participant in the struggle and trauma that evolved into the customer friendly business that it has become. I recall one shop that had photos of three generations that built the business posted in the waiting area. Naturally these photos on the website and related media will add great depth to the story.

Of course this story should have a special, permanent place on the shop's site, but it can have even more P.R. value if it is told to audiences whose members' vehicles could one day become jobs. Owners who belong to chambers of commerce, civic government or social groups, or other organizations that meet regularly, could have an opportunity to tell their growth and development stories. Especially young people with an entrepreneurial bent can be inspired by speakers willing to talk about their struggles to get where they are today.

The purpose of P.R. is to promote a favorable relationship with the public. There's no better way to create a favorable impression than telling an inspiring or entertaining story.

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