By Emma Bithell PR Director of Prodo
Think PR is just for big businesses with even bigger pockets? Think again. In the world we live in it has never been more important to gain credibility and encourage positive word of mouth about your organisation, whatever the size.
Most people have heard about PR – when asked the question where they’ve heard it, some will mention Max Clifford or Alistair Campbell. But few of these will understand what PR actually means and how it can help their own business.
The actual definition of Public Relations by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations is that it is the “discipline that looks after reputation…the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill between an organisation and its publics”. What this boils down to in real terms is that PR is establishing and looking after the reputation of an organisation.
In fact, many people get PR confused with advertising. The main difference between each is that with advertising you pay for space with which you can use however you want, in most cases the space for a PR story is not paid for and so you cannot guarantee the amount of space your story will get.
Despite this, as the piece is written by the journalist and not yourselves, third party endorsement through an editorial piece can be an invaluable, credible way of reaching your customers.
When done properly PR can be the icing on the cake for your business strategy, as third party endorsement can encourage good public opinion about your firm which can help your organisation stand out from the crowd. So how can you make PR work for you?
Find the right agency
Firstly use a PR agency that you can trust. The Chartered Institute of Public Relations has a list of accredited PR agencies or of course use word of mouth for good agencies in your area. Using an agency is often the best course of action as they not only have the experience to back up any strategy they create, but they also have strong relationships already formed with many titles that could be relevant for you.
Secondly: strategy, strategy, strategy
Whilst press releases can make a fantastic initial inpact on an organisation, ensure your PR plan has a clear strategy. If your plan (or the one your agency has created for you) has a well defined over-arching strategy this will help coincide any PR activity with the objectives of the business.
Not only will this help define the brand and make any crisis management easier (as you have already established a company standpoint to use) but it will also reduce the chances of any bad publicity as this often happens due to incorrect messages or confused objectives.
It is imperative that the journalists for the target publications for your organisation know that they can come to you for honest, good quality news stories.
Whether you have employed a PR agency or are doing PR in-house ensure that whoever is responsible builds strong relationships with the press as this will have a positive knock on effect for possible stories.
Remember that now more than ever before there are more and more organisations trying to reach the same people. In order to stand out you need to ensure that your PR ideas are creative and will be talked about. Whether it is a news angle in your press release, or an all singing all dancing PR launch event.
Don’t forget about online
PR is now taking the web by storm – there is a huge public out there that have now switched to reading online news and blogs instead of old media. Ensure your PR strategy targets this market too.
Don’t just throw press releases out there without evaluating the coverage your organisation is getting. Ensuring you get your cuttings is imperative as not only can you find out who is talking about you and what they are saying, but you can respond where necessary and also evaluate the effectiveness of your PR campaign.
And finally – be realistic.
It’s important that from the start you have realistic expectations of your PR campaign. Being realistic about the time and effort involved, the results you’ll see and when you’ll see them (eg magazines have lead times of three months) will ensure that you will appreciate the PR programme properly and are not disappointed.
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