PR: The Ultimate Tool for Building Customer Trust and Relationships

Tara Figg
 Posted on 26, Jun 2023

The advent of the digital age has revolutionized the business landscape, creating an environment where businesses are no longer evaluated merely on their products or services but also on their reputations, values, and relationships with their customers. In this new era, public relations (PR) has emerged as an invaluable tool for businesses, playing a crucial role in building trust and fostering relationships with customers. But how does PR accomplish this, and why is it so critical in today's market?

The Power of PR

Public relations is all about managing a company's image and fostering positive relationships with its stakeholders, which include its customers. It involves creating and spreading information that paints the company in a positive light, building its reputation, and earning the public's trust. PR is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.

PR: An Integral Part of Brand Building

A strong brand is one of the most valuable assets a company can have. It's the way customers perceive a company, and it's what sets a business apart from its competition. However, building a strong brand involves more than just offering quality products or services; it involves fostering a strong, positive public image and establishing trust with customers. This is where PR comes in.

PR strategies help shape the public's perception of a company. Via carefully crafted press releases, media outreach, crisis management, and other PR tactics, companies can control their narrative, shape their image, and build a strong brand. When done right, PR can help a company establish itself as a leader in its industry, earn the trust of its customers, and foster long-lasting relationships.

Building Trust Through PR

Trust is the foundation of any strong relationship, including those between businesses and their customers. In a world where consumers have endless choices at their fingertips, trust is often the deciding factor in their purchasing decisions. PR plays a crucial role in building this trust.

PR activities like press releases, interviews, and public appearances give a company the opportunity to show its authenticity, transparency, and commitment to its customers. It allows a company to showcase its values, mission, and dedication to quality and service. When customers see that a company's actions align with its words, they're more likely to trust the company and become loyal customers.

Moreover, PR can help companies manage crises and mitigate damage to their reputations. When a crisis occurs, a well-executed PR strategy can help control the narrative, address the issue transparently and honestly, and repair trust with customers.

Strengthening Customer Relationships

PR also plays a vital role in strengthening relationships with customers. PR consistently communicates a company's story, values, and mission, helping customers feel connected to the company. It helps create an emotional connection between the company and its customers, fostering loyalty and long-term relationships.

PR strategies like community outreach and corporate social responsibility initiatives can also help strengthen customer relationships. When customers see that a company is committed to giving back to the community and making a positive impact, they're more likely to feel a deeper connection to the company and its mission. This connection can foster a sense of loyalty and increase customer retention.

Leveraging PR in the Digital Age

In today's digital age, PR has become more critical than ever. With the proliferation of social media and online review sites, customers have a platform to share their experiences and opinions with the world. This shift has given customers more power and influence than ever, making it essential for companies to foster positive relationships and maintain a strong, positive online presence.

Digital PR strategies can help companies navigate the online landscape, manage their online reputation, and engage with customers in a meaningful way. Tactics like social media engagement, influencer partnerships, and online press releases can help companies reach and engage with their target audience, build their online presence, and foster positive relationships with their customers.

Real World Examples

PR can be a thought-exercise - you can read countless articles or books on the subject, but what does it look like in real life?

Examining real-life PR case studies is crucial for a multitude of reasons. They offer valuable insights into the strategic thinking and decision-making processes behind successful public relations initiatives, highlighting both the challenges faced and solutions devised. As you study these examples, you can discern patterns, understand what strategies work under specific circumstances, and learn from the mistakes or successes of others. 

Johnson & Johnson’s Tylenol Crisis (1982): This classic case is often cited as the gold standard of crisis management in PR. When seven people died after consuming cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules, Johnson & Johnson could have seen irreparable damage to their brand. Instead, they put consumer safety first, recalling 31 million bottles of Tylenol nationwide at a cost of over $100 million. The company's swift action and transparent communication with the public helped them regain trust, preserving their relationship with customers, and in fact, Tylenol regained most of its market share within a year.

Patagonia's 'Don't Buy This Jacket' Campaign (2011): Outdoor clothing company Patagonia's groundbreaking campaign encouraged customers not to buy their products in a bid to reduce environmental impact. This bold and counterintuitive move emphasized their commitment to environmental sustainability over profits, effectively boosting the trust of customers who shared these values and fostering a stronger relationship with them. 

Starbucks Closing Stores for Racial Bias Training (2018): Following a widely publicized incident of racial bias in one of their stores, Starbucks announced they would close over 8,000 company-owned stores in the U.S. to conduct racial-bias training. This PR move showed the company’s commitment to addressing the issue head-on and sent a strong message to their customers about their values, helping to restore trust.

JetBlue’s 2007 Crisis Management: JetBlue Airways faced a crisis when an ice storm forced the cancellation of nearly 1,700 flights over five days, leaving many passengers stranded on the tarmac for up to 11 hours. The company’s founder and then-CEO, David Neeleman, took full responsibility for the operational failures and detailed their plans for dealing with such situations in the future through a comprehensive 'Customer Bill of Rights'. This included compensations like refunds and vouchers for future flights depending on the length of delays. JetBlue's transparent and swift response to the crisis effectively regained customer trust and helped strengthen their relationship with customers. 

Dove's "Real Beauty" Campaign: Dove, a personal care brand owned by Unilever, launched the "Real Beauty" campaign in 2004 to challenge beauty standards in media and society. Featuring women of all shapes, sizes, and colors, Dove used this campaign to show its commitment to inclusivity and body positivity, which resonated strongly with customers and significantly boosted trust in the brand. This campaign was a pivotal moment in Dove’s brand history and is still ongoing, proving to be a potent tool for maintaining strong customer relationships. 

Nike's Colin Kaepernick Ad: In 2018, Nike chose Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback who knelt during the national anthem to protest racial injustice, as the face of its advertising campaign. Despite the controversy surrounding Kaepernick, Nike's decision to stand with him sent a clear message about the company's values. The campaign, under the tagline "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything," was widely praised and helped build deeper relationships with customers who shared these values.

These real-world case studies provide a context-rich understanding of how theory translates into practice. This kind of analysis equips businesses and PR professionals with the knowledge to craft more effective PR strategies, helping them navigate crisis situations, communicate more effectively with their target audience, and ultimately, build stronger relationships and foster trust with their customers.

Something To Believe In

So why is all this so important? Trust is a fundamental cornerstone in the relationship between customers and brands. In an era marked by information overload and a plethora of choices, consumers are increasingly leaning towards brands they can trust - companies that consistently deliver on their promises, uphold high ethical standards, and exhibit transparency in their operations. Trust fosters loyalty, influencing consumers to choose a trusted brand over competitors, even if the trusted brand's products or services are higher priced. A brand that earns and maintains customer trust benefits from enhanced reputation, stronger customer retention, and ultimately, better financial performance.

PR plays a crucial role in establishing and nurturing this trust. Good PR strategies involve clear, transparent communication that both promotes the brand and ensures consumers are well-informed. PR is instrumental during crisis management, where trust can be quickly eroded due to misinformation or poor handling of the situation. With timely, truthful, and empathetic communication during crises, PR can protect and even rebuild brand trust. Moreover, PR initiatives that emphasize a brand's commitment to societal values, sustainability, or community engagement can significantly boost customer trust. When a brand is perceived as not just profit-driven, but as a responsible entity that contributes positively to society, it can build deeper, more meaningful relationships with its customers, which are founded on trust.

Connect With Your Audience With PR

PR is an indispensable tool for businesses in today's digital age. It plays a crucial role in building a strong brand, earning customer trust, and fostering strong, lasting relationships with customers. Using PR strategies, businesses can navigate the complexities of the modern market, manage their public image, and create meaningful connections with their customers.

A business with a strong PR strategy is a business that values its public image and relationships with customers. It's a business that understands the power of trust, the importance of authenticity, and the impact of a strong brand. As we navigate the evolving business landscape, PR will continue to play a crucial role in building customer trust and relationships, proving its worth as the ultimate tool for business success.

Imperium Group is an American public relations and marketing consultancy firm. Founded in 2016, it specializes in guaranteed placements, creating utmost transparency for its clients. Imperium Group generates over 15M impressions a month for its clients. Its team is based out of New York, Dallas, and Los Angeles.

For more information about Imperium Group, please see


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