Public relations. Everyone has heard of it … but how many people really understand what it is or what public relations professionals actually do? In this blog we’ll set out to clarify exactly what public relations is, explain a bit about how a public relations strategy works, and hopefully dispel a few of the myths about the profession!
- What is public relations?
According to the Public Relations Society of America: “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” Does that help? We suspect not!
Public relations is the business of persuading and storytelling – or perhaps more accurately, persuading by storytelling. What this means in practical terms is developing and implementing a PR strategy that creates an image of the brand in the mind of the public, whether that’s through traditional media, social media or communications.
In a sense there are two sides to the public relations coin. The first is finding positive messages about a brand and turning those into positive stories to be presented to the public. The other side of the coin is reacting to bad news or negative publicity; an effective PR professional or team will act quickly to minimize damage to the brand’s reputation.
- Is PR the same thing as marketing?
It’s common to think of marketing and public relations as being interchangeable, but they’re really quite different functions. The main difference? Marketing – or advertising – is paid for. As we’ve noted above, public relations is more about persuasion. A good public relations strategy involves convincing reporters, editors or media outlets to write positive stories about a brand because that story itself is interesting, or positive, or informative – not because you’ve paid them to publish the story. It’s sometimes referred to as “earned” as opposed to “paid” media.
Earned media has one clear advantage over paid media. For better or worse, surveys consistently show that paid ads are near the bottom of most lists of “most-trusted sources.” Earned media, on the other hand, is more likely to be considered trustworthy because it is coming from an independent third-party source.
- How does social media fit into all this?
Some people would have you believe that traditional media – including print, television, and radio – is dead or dying when it comes to getting brand messages to an audience, and that going forward it’s all about social media. In reality it’s a lot more complicated than that.
When brands use social media it’s often a hybrid of marketing/advertising and public relations work. For example, one social media post might be a paid ad with an attractive visual and a clear call to action. Another post might be a carefully crafted PR response to a negative incident involving the brand that has gone viral. Social media can be an important tool for both marketing and public relations, and with the growth in popularity in both video content and live streaming there is a lot of potential for the future.
However, it’s important not to underplay the importance that traditional media still has in a successful PR strategy. Having your CEO quoted in an important story or feature in the New York Times, or appearing for an interview on a respected news or current affairs show, can do a lot to promote your brand as a trustworthy and influential thought leader in your industry.
- How do you measure the success of a PR strategy?
Measuring the impact and effectiveness of public relations efforts can be tricky. It’s unfortunately not as straightforward as, for example, measuring the success of a properly tracked digital advertising campaign. Having said that, there are various models that seek to assign a measurement to public relations activity.
Arguably the most widely accepted method is the Barcelona Declaration of Research Principles, otherwise known simply as the Barcelona Principles. These comprise seven guidelines established by PR professionals that aim to measure the efficiency of public relations campaigns. They provide a consistent framework within which PR activity and its resulting outcomes may be assessed and evaluated.
We hope that this blog has provided some insights into the world of public relations and that you might now have a better understanding of what we do! If you want to discuss your PR strategy needs and how we might enable you to achieve your goals, contact us today.