Just what is Public Relations? You could ask 100 people and get 100 different answers.
Is it writing press releases? Is it taking journalists to lunch? Public information? Investor relations? Public affairs? Corporate communication? Marketing? Customer relations?
Yes, I can be this and a whole lot more. The bottom line is that PR is about reputation management. Reputation is the key to survival and success for any organisation for company, no matter how large or small.
Every one has an opinion both influence makers the general public. What matters is that they have the ‘right’ opinion so far as your company or organisation is concerned. This will help determine how they perceive your company and shape how they relate to you.
When and why?
PR should always be an important part of the whole marketing mix. It can be a very cost-effective means of giving added value to any marketing campaign.
Don’t think about PR as a bolt-on but build it into your campaign early for maximum effect. If funds are tight there are actions you can take in-house, if not there are no shortage of specialist PR agencies on the market.
Top tips for success
Research and evaluation – What are the messages you want to communicate? Who do you want to communicate them to? What media channels you going to use to do this? Evaluate the programme regularly and put measurements in place to help decide future strategy.
Planning – This can involve analysing problems and opportunities, defining goals, planning activities and measuring results. Be sure to liaise with management and clients throughout. It sounds obvious but the messages being communicated by both marketing and PR should go hand in hand. Consistency is the key to success.
Writing - We use the printed word as a key method to reach large groups of people: press releases, newsletters, articles and features, speeches, booklets. A good understanding of English – spelling and grammar is essential.
Media relations - You’ve identified your story, now you’ve got to get it out there. This is done through developing and maintaining a good working relationship with the media. Local and national papers, magazines, radio and television as well as websites are all valid and useful channels. Face to face relations over lunch or over drinks after work can work wonders!
Corporate identity – You are the first media point of contact for your company. Developing and maintaining an organisation's identity or a company's name and reputation is sometimes more important than its products.
Speaking – PR is all about effective communication both internally and externally with individuals and groups through meetings, presentations, and platform participation.
Special events – Be creative and proactive with news conferences, exhibitions, facility celebrations, open days, competitions and award programmes can all be used to gain the attention of specific groups.
Learn from the best - A difficult one this. The best PR will not be recognisable as such to the untrained eye. It will simply look like a genuine news story or picture in the media. Products don’t get simply on shopping pages by accident, celebrities don’t just happen to attend parties. PR is as much about creating news as understanding it!
Costs and benefits
PR can cost as much or as little as you can afford. Big budgets can allow for the staging of major events while companies with tighter budgets have to think creatively.
If taking on an agency, be clear on your objectives, your budget and what you can afford. Asking three or four to pitch will give an indication of the costs involved and what can possibly be achieved within your budget.
The benefits of PR can be far reaching. Marketing can purchase advertising space. PR with a journalist’s endorsement is never guaranteed but when it works it the value can be phenomenal. Extra mileage to any marketing campaign can be made with a little cost and effort. PR can work for you too, if you let it!
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) is the UK’s leading public relations industry professional body. They have more information on good practice and working in the industry, or selecting an agency.
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