By Susan Venables

In today’s media-saturated culture, effective public relations (PR) is a crucial part of any public undertaking. Image and public opinion mean everything, especially in the increasingly influential realm of social media. The individual or group who wins the media race will win the ultimate goal: the trust of the people it needs to communicate with – such as customers, employees, investors, partners, et al.

But despite this I constantly, and frustratingly, find myself defending the PR ‘cause’ and defining the huge benefits it can bring to any organisation. PR tends to be overlooked during the planning stages of some marketing campaigns because many don’t fully understand the benefits. And, if PR isn’t overlooked all together, many times key decision makers don’t quite understand how it works or worse, don’t understand how to measure a PR campaign’s success.

So what does PR mean?

A basic definition of public relations is to shape and maintain the image of a company, organisation or individual in the eyes of an organisations‘s various ‘publics’. What is a ‘public’ exactly? A public, in PR terms, is anyone who ever has or ever will form an opinion about an organisation. And PR success requires a deep understanding of the interests and concerns of an organisation’s many publics.

PR is about communicating with a number of audiences – such as the media and analysts – and using various tools and channels – traditional and new – to disseminate messages and information. But the skill is knowing when, where and how to use these and it’s the clever organisations that employ PR experts who can do this for them, that is communicate effectively, both verbally and written, and understand how to make the most from the channels – particularly digital – available today.

So PR is not just about sitting behind a desk churning out press releases, it’s about managing the public face of an organisation, and it’s a brave, or even foolish, person that claims it is not important.

So what are the benefits?

1) Enhance your sales. Increased exposure in the media makes people want to find out more about you, your organisation and products and services.

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2) Position you and your organisation as experts. When quoted in the media it can put your name, and your company’s name, in the spotlight. Public relations will build your reputation and earn you credibility with clients and potential clients.

3) Increase visibility. Once you begin to appear in the media – in articles, on television, on radio, or quoted by analysts – potential customers will begin to associate you and your company as a leader in the field.

4) Increase your perceived worth. Media exposure brings credibility. If publications see value in printing your story this brings with it third party endorsement and perceived worth from customers, industry, and competitors.

5) Tell your side of the story. In every industry there are issues that need to be communicated. PR provides an opportunity to voice yours and those of the organisation.

6) Avert a crisis. Bad things happen and organisations need to know how to manage a crisis. With persistent, consistent public relations organisations should: “Tell the truth, tell it all, and tell it fast.”

When used correctly, PR can be a valuable marketing tool benefiting your brand position and bottom line. PR is not the only answer to a strong marketing campaign, but it is an important practice to employ in order to build credibility, legitimacy and value.

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Susan Venables

Susan Venables

Founder and Client Services Director
Susan takes a fresh approach to marketing and public relations. She established Highland Marketing in 2002 after a long career working with well-known agencies and clients ranging from SMEs to multi-nationals. During the past 20 years she has helped many companies within the technology and healthcare IT sectors to raise brand awareness and reach new potential customers. Susan is respected by clients, getting them and their services noticed when and where it matters, and by the media where she has many long-standing contacts.

“Effective marketing and communications demands a lot of passion, commitment and experience, and that's exactly what we provide for clients. Right from the start I match them with a team of people who each have at least ten years' experience, and who often know what it's like to run their own business. That mixture of maturity and determination is very potent. Clients really notice the difference, especially those who have previously worked with agencies that send in their top people to win an account then hand the actual work to inexperienced junior staff.”
A little about Susan:
  • Champion athlete - During her first year at Durham University she thought she would have a go at rowing. By the third year she was winning national competitions and was later part of the GB women's lightweight rowing squad.
  • Dog lover - Susan developed a love of dogs when she was a little girl in the Warwickshire market town of Southam when the family's pet used to protect her pram. These days she has a black Labrador, a golden retriever and a young Samoyed to exercise.
  • No second best - As a child she always had a rebellious streak combined with a determination to excel, especially at sports like hockey, athletics and netball. Those traits carried over into adult life where she found her niche establishing and building her own business rather than following a corporate career path.

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