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.
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.