Public relations (PR) is a crucial yet often underestimated and unused tool for automotive dealerships. PR is an integral element of any dealership’s strategy, far from being something reserved for OEMs and large dealership groups.
5W PR correctly states that “PR …can transform the future and profitability of a business.” It provides the roadmap to navigate complex challenges, manage crises effectively, and curate a positive brand image in an intensely competitive industry.
And best of all, if you need any ROI justification, all of that PR work will also get you more leads. AutoSuccessOnline says, “When the media presents the dealer’s message favorably in a newspaper article, TV story, or the like, it has the effect of supercharged word-of-mouth marketing — the best kind of referral available.”
So, what does PR encompass, and why should it matter to a dealership? Essentially, PR is the strategic management of communication. It involves creating and disseminating narratives that reinforce your dealership’s standing. The perks of robust PR are manifold, including amplified visibility, elevated credibility, and solid relationships with customers, media, and the community at large. If you don’t manage your PR, the public will.
The diverse landscape of PR strategies
The PR toolkit boasts various strategies, encompassing media relations, press releases, social media engagement, and event sponsorships. For instance, consider the potential impact of a dealership sponsoring a community charity run or home-building project. It’s a valuable PR initiative that underscores the dealership’s commitment to its community.
A case in point is a fictitious yet effective PR campaign launched by Mitchell Motors. Through a consistent cadence of press releases highlighting their innovations and local event sponsorships, they augmented their visibility and established themselves as a dedicated community stakeholder. Their engaging social media sessions and in-store classes on car buying have become platforms for nurturing trust and fostering robust interactions.
The Cornerstones of PR
A comprehensive understanding of its core principles is essential to truly excel in PR. These tenets involve fostering a positive brand image and articulating compelling messages. The underlying ethos of successful PR is transparency and active community engagement. People gravitate towards brands that inspire trust and are genuinely integrated into local communities.
Media Relations: The Ace Up the Dealership’s Sleeve
Media can serve as an influential ally in a dealership’s PR endeavor. Cultivating robust relationships with journalists can dramatically boost PR efforts. Launching a new car model? A well-drafted press release, in your dealership’s voice rather than the OEM, can secure your dealership’s prime media coverage. Responding to media inquiries? A timely and professional response enhances your appeal to the press.
Community engagement and online reputation management
Proactive involvement in community initiatives is more than good PR – it’s a growth-oriented business strategy. Whether facilitating a car safety workshop or sponsoring a local sports team, community engagement ideas like these elevates your brand and resonate with your audience.
Furthermore, PR-focused online reputation management is crucial since customers have an “online first” shopping strategy. Online reviews and social media discussions significantly shape public perception and provide opportunities to show how you resolve conflict and engage with your future customers.
Crisis communication: navigating choppy waters
Finally, crisis management is a critical aspect of PR that is often overlooked. Just ask any Hyundai or Kia dealer. While it may be unsettling to contemplate, a well-crafted crisis communication plan is indispensable.
And it would be best if you sent your public-facing executives to train on how best to navigate through adversarial press conferences and properly address questions.
When adversity strikes, transparent and prompt communication can mitigate the impact and pave the way for recovery. Remember, the question is not if a crisis will occur but when.
Managing your PR is a necessity
A proficient PR strategy is not an optional luxury but a necessity for every automotive dealership. A judicious mix of open communication, community outreach, and crisis preparedness can drive your dealership’s PR initiatives to new heights. It’s time to harness the power of PR and steer your dealership to enduring success.