Coupons as PR

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It’s the age old question: can coupons be used as a public relations tool, or are they firmly in the marketing camp? Business experts have argued about this for ages, and the influence of the Internet hasn’t exactly helped settle the score.

In fact, it’s probably blurred the lines even more. Websites like Groupon and Foursquare are changing the face of the coupon and making it more of a way to interact with customers rather than simply get them in the store.

Whichever side you’re on, marketing or PR, it barely matters: what matters is getting those folks through your front door and buying your stuff. And coupons are a great way to do that. So how can you effectively use them as a PR tool?


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One thing websites like Foursquare do so well is to create “hype” around a store’s coupons. Managers have been known to pull off some pretty elaborate situations for their businesses, resulting in a veritable swarm of new (and recurring) customers.

For instance, becoming “mayor” (basically checking into a place the most times) of a restaurant can get a customer free stuff like drinks, food, or even merchandise. One place near my house gives away free meal coupons if you stay mayor long enough, usually a couple of weeks or a month.

How does that translate into public relations – and, possibly more importantly, into sales? To stay mayor that long, you must go to the store to check in. If you’re holding a contest to get these coupons, then people have a chance to talk to you and to their fellow customers about the experience. This translates into PR quite easily, especially if you also combine the experience with other social media like Facebook.

Other Social Media

Speaking of other social media, this is also a perfect way to bring public relations to your store while also giving your customers a break. Many businesses will give out deals if folks “like” their page, and that’s fine. That’s a great way to bring in new people. But users also need a reason to stick around.

The promise of future coupons can be a great way to ensure those users don’t jet as soon as they’ve gotten what they need from the initial coupon. Let everyone know even BIGGER things will come if they keep your store on their page – of course, this means you need to back the claim up!

The more I think about it, it seems like using coupons for public relations is mostly about the “experience” of getting them. Coupons come in the mail all the time, but you wouldn’t say that’s interacting with customers at all. But give people an opportunity to “earn” them, like coming to the store and using their phone to check in, then it becomes something else entirely. It becomes an opportunity to chat with the business owners and help spread the ever-important word of mouth.

How could you use coupons in your public relations campaign?

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download your free copy of the Beginner’s Guide to Writing Powerful Press Releases here:

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