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It’s no secret that the automotive industry is facing more change – and disruption – than at any other time in its history. The trends of electrified, connected, autonomous and shared vehicles are rapidly changing the game … not only for automakers but also for the entire vehicle technology supply chain ecosystem.
This shift is driving entirely new vehicle architectures and attracting a whole new range of software, sensor, electronics and technology suppliers into the automotive industry, as they seek emerging vehicle markets worth billions of dollars.
In the past 30 years, our firm has helped many traditional auto suppliers (including 11 of the world’s top 100 suppliers) as well as new technology suppliers (such as LiDAR manufacturers) of all sizes to stand out in the North American automotive market.
During that time, we have also dealt with many changes in the traditional and digital media and public relations environments.
And we have also heard many opinions, presumptions and theories about the relevance and the impact of automotive PR.
Despite all the current change and disruption in the automotive industry, there are still a few things that have not changed. Among them are seven myths or misconceptions we have heard from a few supplier and technology company executives:
1) We don’t need PR, our technology will sell itself. The adage of “if you build it, they will come” does not apply in the new mobility space. There is simply too much competition for attention, too much noise and too much confusion in the marketplace.
The auto business is essentially a relationship business. Automakers are in it for the long haul, and they want suppliers that will be able to partner with them and to stand behind their technologies for years. Therefore, today, auto and vehicle technology suppliers need to be more strategic than ever, to rise above the competitive din with credible, clear communications about their technology expertise, products, services, features and customer benefits.
PR can help you leverage all-important earned media in trusted, credible industry journals and news websites – and provide a solid springboard for your technology to become known and perceived as a leader and a preferred partner in the industry.
2) We don’t need PR, because our customers and prospects get all their information from our website or portal. Conducting an aggressive inbound marketing campaign or building an expensive portal or a content-rich website is helpful – but there’s no guarantee that a prospect will even see it if you haven’t built an audience. Media coverage in trusted publications that have established, engaged audiences can help you to build your own audience and drive traffic to your website.
Remember, most customers are not interested in your story; they are interested in solving their own problem. So, if they conduct an online search, they are looking for a credible solution, not for a company’s story. Will your company come to the top of those searches? Today, online success starts with search engine optimization (SEO).
Media coverage in respected, credible and high-authority media outlets can be extremely powerful – in several ways:
• Offering objective information and an implied-third-party endorsement of your company and positioning your company and its executives as experts;
• Boosting your rankings by search engines such as Google and Bing, as search engine algorithms rate authoritative media much higher than press releases, blog content and your own webpages; and
• Creating an appetite for more detailed information, while driving interested prospects to your website, where you can engage with them and provide additional touch points as you move them along the sales process.
3) We don’t need PR, we only have 15 automaker customers, and they know our salespeople.Do your salespeople knowall the hundreds of new entrants and top tied suppliers emerging around the globe? There are literally hundreds of new EV startups around the world that could be the next Tesla Motors.
Beyond that, are you sure that ALL the people at your prospective customers – all the many players who influence the specifying and purchasing process – are aware of your company, and all your products, services and expertise?
With corporate restructuring, downsizing and retirements increasingly changing the decision-makers at automakers and major suppliers — as well as the constant migration and movement of executives among global companies — your connections to your customers’ key engineering, purchasing and manufacturing decision-makers are always at risk.
What are you doing to stay top-of-mind and build trust with the new generation of executives that are moving into the top jobs? Do the new automaker players that are moving into the market know you? What about new potential technology partners?
PR can help you build continuity in your overall brand awareness, positioning and relationship building with all the right people.
4) We don’t need PR, because the automakers base their purchase decisions solely on price. If your product is viewed as a commodity, the buying decision will ALWAYS be based on price … and your business will ALWAYS be at risk.
Automakers are looking for suppliers who can help them differentiate their vehicles with consumers – and command higher value. So, as a supplier or technology provider, demonstrating and differentiating the value that your product brings will help you rise beyond the commodity providers to be seen as a valued (and valuable) partner.
PR can help you effectively communicate how your product or service adds value, creates consumer interest, improves utility, reduces warranty cost or boosts emotional appeal … which in turn can help you command better profit margins.
5) We don’t need PR, it’s too expensive. Actually, PR is usually the most cost-effective of all promotional activities in today’s marketing mix, especially considering the targeted audience and the powerful credibility it brings. Media coverage in the right media outlets is viewed to be up to 10 times more credible that advertising or sales promotion messages.
Shared on your social media, that earned media coverage can provide social proof, one of the most powerful sales tools.
PR can help to enhance, support and amplify your advertising, digital, social media marketing, trade show and sales promotion activities. Beyond that, as added benefits, good PR can also help you attract desperately needed talent, build community support where you do business and enhance shareholder value.
6) We don’t need PR, because we’re using social media to reach our customers. Social media can be an important part of your PR and marketing mix, as it can help amplify and extend the reach of your messaging. However, it cannot carry the load alone in the automotive industry supply chain because of the unique characteristics of the business-to-business automotive OEM market.
Social media is not the silver bullet. It is just one tool in a complete marketing toolbox.
But when used in tandem, strategically, with more traditional and digital PR techniques, you can crystallize your messaging, extend your reach, amplify your company’s position as an expert or thought leader, boost your search engine visibility and actually drive more traffic to your online properties … and ultimately to the sales funnel.
7) One PR firm or integrated marketing agency is as good as another. Nothing could be further from the truth. Though they may share some of the same skills, the difference between an automotive-focused PR firm and a generalist agency is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. An automotive expert PR firm will be more efficient and effective, while savings you time, trouble and missteps.
The bottom line: PR is crucial for success in the automotive supplier environment, especially for new Silicon Valley technology firms who are trying to break into the automotive sector.
If you want a powerful and effective partner in achieving that success, you should seek a PR firm that:
• Is firmly embedded in, and specializes in, the automotive industry;
• Attends all the key auto industry events, shows and conferences;
• Maintains deep relationships with the right journalists and media outlets;
• Understands the key industry trends, drivers and issues;
• Offers extensive experience in working with automotive and technology suppliers;
• Has a strong handle on the industry’s top influencers and thought leaders; and
• Has experienced staff with deep automotive supplier experience who will work directly on your campaign.
If you want to learn more about that kind of PR partner, email Jim Bianchi at email@example.com or call 248.269.1122 for a free consultation.
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