Sunday, January 10, 2010

What is USP in Public Relations?

I must say my students keep me on my toes, and it is one of them again who has prompted me to write about this subject of USP or Unique Selling Proposition.

The term "USP" originated in the 1950s and was initially referred to in advertising, namely what the advertising proposition to the customer should be: "When you buy this, you'll receive a specified benefit." The proposition must be unique, something that competitors don't offer or promote, and so intriguing that it encourages individuals to act. But now this word "USP" has been modified and one can find its use in areas other than advertising.

How Do You Find Your USP?

There are three important questions that will help you get the answers:-
1. What benefit is unique to what you offer?

2. Who is the target market that is most interested in this benefit?

3. What USP is already used by major competitors for this target market?


I guess the above questions help one dig more deeper into the study of any project to be undertaken and can help us find more on the issues to be promoted for.E.g. this could be applied to an NGO, a political party or even an invidual who you plan to prepare a media, or non-media plan for.

So for example if your client is an NGO, you will have to find out how your NGO stands out amongst the many NGOs who are crusading for similar issues.The most important part is ofcourse your target publics, this has to be amply clear in your mind before you write a plan or chalk out a budget for the communication plan.

Last but not the least the competitors, one must never forget them, you need to be constantly reading about what other organisations in your field are doing, as you never work in isolation.

Once this is clear you can use the innumerable tools of public relations to create a communication plan which will implement the objectives keeping in mind the USP.Oh yes lets not ever forget the social media tools on our web.


  1. Quite interesting and to the point. USP was also once called 'unique sales proposition' also. Definations, whether it is advtg. or PR almost change often, as in any other area.

    For example, in early 50s, it was 'staff dept.'. Later improved to Dept. of Personnel'. With the Govt. having a separate Ministry for HRD. the same came into vogue in Public Sector Undertakings also.

    There was a time, the expectationfrom a PR person was to Book air-tickets, arrange lunch/dinners, see thecomforts of Board of Directors when they land from different parts, to attend a Board Meeting, apart from organising 'sight seeing' arrangements for the better half of Director, in case she has accompanied the Director. Interacting with Media was never his job.

    Slowly things changed. PR became more prominent, as top management realised the importance of media power and the cost factor between paid advt. and getting 'free media coverage' which had more credibility.

    Now it is 'Corporate Communications' and if I am not wrong, thecompany in India to promote/appointa PR person as a Director on Board is Faizer (ever heard of Neelakandan, a great GURU in PR - ) who took the initiative to organise the first 'world PR Meet' in India in late 80s in Delhi.

    With more and more foreign companies having set their offices in India after liberlisation, realising the vase potential future market, the PR too got a boost in India.

    There was a time, only Bhavans in Bombaywere conducting a recognised one year course on PR. Later when the Govt. started Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi, things changed drastically.