Most businesses are familiar with the term public relations, but don’t have a clear understanding of what it entails. You’ve probably also heard the term “bad PR,” but do you really know what bad PR can mean to your business?
This is an important question all businesses need to ask themselves because today bad PR can happen at the drop of a hat and spread quickly thanks to social media. And interestingly enough, social media actually plays a major role in PR today. So what is public relations and why do you need it? Read on to learn why every business needs PR today.
What is Public Relations?
PR is often viewed as the art of putting a positive spin on the facts. However, a good PR firm helps influence the facts to create a positive truth. While this sounds like a lie, it is not. Businesses need PR because it tells your audience and the general public what you want them to know about your offering, brand and what you stand for. It speaks to how you fit into your community instead of just your sphere of influence.
PR influences the way people see you and helps support your position while helping people understand what you’ve accomplished. It is strategic communication allowing you to build relationships and present your company in a positive light. It allows you to shape your image, support that image and continue an ongoing positive message while mitigating damage when bad news or bad reviews threaten to bring you down.
What Do PR Professionals Do for Businesses?
Many people imagine PR professionals simply writing and sending out press releases. Therefore, they don’t feel they really need to invest in a PR strategy. However, although this is one of the roles of a PR person or firm, there is far more to PR than sending out press releases. PR professionals handle the following for their clients:
- Media Training
- Spokesperson Thought Leadership Program
- Media Relations Campaigns
- Press Release Writing & Distribution
- Influencer and Blogger Outreach
- Crisis Communications & Issues Management
- Online Reputation Management
- Press Kit Development
- Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy
- Community Relations
- Monthly Market Analysis & Reporting
- Media Stunt Development & Execution
- By-Lined Content Development
- Award Nominations
- Speaker Proposals and Nominations
- Internal Corporate Communications
- Satellite Media Tours
- Podcast Management
- National & Regional Survey PR Programs
- Media Events
- Launch Strategies – products to grand openings
While not every business requires all of these services, each company does need to consider them as part of their overall strategy to help with their brand identity, positioning, and marketing. So does that mean public relations is simply a fancy term for advertising? No. It is something very different.
Public Relations vs Advertising
There are several differences between PR and advertising:
- An organization pays for their advertising campaigns, their PR is intended to be generated as free publicity
- You have to purchase your advertising, you have to earn your publicity
- Advertising is intended to present your products to sell, PR is intended to make your company more credible
A good PR strategy means you use persuasive tactics to show the public and media you are worthy of talking and writing about in a positive way. This allows you to appear more credible because you aren’t actually paying someone to say how good you are. A good example would be having a paid spokesperson represent your brand such as a former sports star, which is advertising, vs having someone like Oprah find out about your product or service and recommend it in her magazine.
For advertising, you pay a magazine to run a full-page ad, while with PR the magazine writers or editors choose to feature an article about you for free. In a nutshell, PR is validation that your products and services are trusted, while advertising takes more convincing.
Public Relations Creates News
Probably the easiest way to show the benefits of good PR is to simply mention the iPhone. Whenever there is a new version, the news is sure to show line-ups at retailers with customers waiting to drop over $1,000 to get their new phones. Good PR makes people care about a product or brand. It’s the difference between producing a single movie and creating a franchise with several sequels.
People might like your movie, but it fades after a while and becomes less important, while a franchise has people waiting anxiously for the next sequel. So PR keeps the story going, continues to raise awareness, and ensures people care about your brand and what you do next. However, it also helps establish expertise. This means you or your team become known and trusted experts in the industry and are the go-to people for the media when something is happening.
As a result, your brand is always front and center when something happens in your industry whether it is something in the stock market, a product recall, a lawsuit, or a rush on a certain product that suddenly everyone has to have. A PR company helps you become the story based on what your company is achieving, or what your experts know.
How PR Creates a Different Interaction
While many brands interact with their audience via social media, it is conversational messaging designed to promote sales. There is an ongoing tone you need to manage so your followers remain engaged or else you risk losing your followers and in turn trust. PR creates a different form of interaction because it doesn’t have an underlying urgency to push people to make a purchase. It is passive, while social media and marketing are more active with an ongoing call to action. PR doesn’t require a response but instead is more thought-provoking because people don’t have to take action and instead can absorb the information.
Why Social Media Isn’t PR
Social media is a very good amplifier for your brand. It can certainly draw attention to your company by influencers which is a very good thing. However, it is still on a much smaller scale and still lacks credibility even when it is third-party-generated chatter. Social media supports PR, provides a channel to discuss how you achieved PR like appearing on the news or in an industry magazine, but it is more of a tactic and is associated with marketing more than it is associated with public relations.
The beauty of social media is you can create a huge following which in turn gets consumers talking about your brand which can have a positive impact on your reputation. Without a PR strategy, it can also lead to negative commentary that can quickly spiral out of control. Even a brand that is beloved can suddenly become despised and “canceled” when something you post is misconstrued. Therefore smart brands hand their social media management over to a savvy PR company who ensures everything is “PC” and avoids social media disasters.
How PR Improves Social Media Strategy
PR and social media are intertwined. As mentioned, social media acts as an amplifier to get your message out. While ongoing conversations can create a long-lasting presence on social media, it is for the most part fleeting. On the other hand, published or news-related channels have a longer-lasting impact and are more far-reaching.
While social media has helped PR strategists to expand their targets and reach them effectively, if handled poorly it can have the opposite effect. PR expertise is needed to improve your social media strategy. PR helps ensure you maintain the right tone and message for your posts, so you never risk losing trust. You can use PR to help assist with your social media campaigns and choose the appropriate channels to aid in your efforts. PR firms consider angles for your social media such as developing thought leadership or looking for partnership opportunities with influencers.
It can also be used to develop corporate social responsibility and feature your social impact programs to become more meaningful and have more sway. Perhaps more importantly, PR also provides online reputation management, monitoring what is being said about you, reading online reviews, and ensuring your online reputation isn’t tarnished via social media or review platforms.
The Power of PR Media Training
In the same way PR can assist in keeping your social media on task and positively focused, media training does the same for you and your senior management team. Being in the eyes of the press is a sweat-provoking scenario that takes years of practice to manage effectively. While some people have an innate talent to interact with people with charm and aplomb, most of us could use a little help.
Media training is a very important part of PR as it teaches you (or team members) how to interact with the media. This requires tact, and quick thinking to ensure you represent your organization in the best possible light. It teaches you how to think on your feet, while also trying to predict the likely questions that might come up, both good and bad. As a result, you remain focused and can avoid traps the media like to set to bring intrigue into interviews. You understand where to focus your answers so you can effectively deliver your message without getting off track, or being bullied into reacting in a dramatic or inappropriate manner.
Enabling Successful Product Launches
Launching a product, business or service needs to be done properly if you want to reach critical mass. Product launches are more likely to fail because companies don’t have a strategy in place. PR experts help ensure you have a proven launch strategy to avoid the common issues that lead to failure. They help create word of mouth, so you have a firm foundation to build on your launch success.
When you exceed expectations and keep a drumbeat going that tells people you do so, you have a firm base to build your launch. PR experts consider product validation from both a qualitative and quantitative standpoint to ensure there is a market for what you are launching. Testing your product or hypothesis helps validate your plans so you don’t spend time and money on something that won’t fly whether it is a product, service, or opening a new store.
They also consider your current approach to communicating with your audience and ensure it hasn’t “worn itself out” with too much irrelevant information. This is important because when people grow weary of your message because it lacks value, they’ve already lost interest. Last but not least they ensure your launch is sustainable, so you have a growth strategy that doesn’t lose momentum.
Building Authority Through Public Relations
There are several aspects of PR that help build authority for you and your brand. A good PR strategy helps you become the person in your industry sought for interviews, featured articles, and promoted both on your own as well as through effective partnerships with other authorities and influencers. This is no mean feat as everyone today is competing to become an authority.
Content was always something smaller businesses depended on in hand with social media to build authority. Today this is an uphill battle. PR companies are experts at doing this effectively and quickly. There are proven tactics PR experts use to help build authority including:
- Media training
- Spokesperson thought leadership mentoring
- Media relations campaigns
- Influencer and blogger outreach strategies
- By-lined content development for leading industry blogs and magazines
- Award nomination submissions
- Speaker proposals for industry conferences and events
- Satellite media tours
- Podcast development and management
- Media events
Using the proper channels, networking and training, you can build your confidence and begin to build a reputation as a thought leader and authority in your industry. This is the type of attention that pays off as it is all free and keeps you top of mind in your industry.
Public relations helps build a strong foundation for your company image, build awareness of your expertise and brand, and help mitigate risk in the midst of a crisis.
Carson Renstrom brings a lifetime of experience in online and traditional marketing for his family’s catering business. After taking a break to serve in intelligence in the Naval Reserve and work in a nuclear submarine, he has recently returned to his marketing roots.
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