Public Relations… what actually is it?

Historically, the definition of Public Relations (PR) has been the focus of much debate. And often confused with other traditional marketing techniques – especially in today’s digital world – people have questioned its value.

But PR forms the basis of any robust marketing strategy, and the value added is undeniable.

It’s true that it can’t be measured using the same metrics that you see alongside advertising spend or PPC campaigns, but the long-term impact is far greater than any ‘paid-for’ method.

Reputation first:

Used to establish and maintain a company’s reputation, PR presents itself in many forms. As Warren Buffett says “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

Without a positive reputation, all businesses suffer. An effective PR strategy helps to develop and protect a firm’s reputation, and also differentiates it from its competitors, something that is crucial in today’s ultra-competitive economy. PR also aims to build mutually beneficial relationships between organisations, the public and other key target audiences. In essence, PR is the art of persuasion. It’s influential. And, perhaps most importantly, it’s strategic.

Organic methods and channels:

Different from other marketing techniques, PR makes use of earned media channels and formats. From news and press to social networks, media outreach and spokesperson opportunities, no money changes hands. All results are organic and achieved through relationship building, trust and – eventually – reputation. And the ability to build your reputation from the ground up, using nothing but strategic communication, is pretty powerful.

Activity that you’d typically find in a PR strategy includes:

1. Press release creation

2. Creative writing, usually in the form of topical blogs

3. Social media posts

4. Media and influencer relations

5. Case studies

6. Spokesperson strategy

Crisis communications:

PR isn’t just about spreading good news, it’s also an effective tool in the face of adversity. Of course, prevention is always better than cure, but in some circumstances that’s not possible, so a robust crisis communication plan should always be in place to mitigate unforeseen circumstances.

First things first, it’s important to anticipate any crisis communication needs. Your plan should identify go-to spokespeople, key target audiences and crisis holding statements as a bare minimum, but you should never communicate without fully assessing the situation. This is the only thing you can’t do ahead of time, but it’s important that you get it right as it sets the scene for everything that follows.

The art of attraction:

Once you’ve established a strong brand reputation and developed a plan to mitigate the impact of any bad press, your company becomes much more attractive to potential clients, employees and investors, too. Of course, for the latter the business still needs to be financially stable with clear growth opportunities and investor benefits, but reputation is where it all begins.