“If I was down to my last marketing dollar, I would spend it on public relations”
That’s a widely circulated quote from Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, and shows PR in a very different light to the world of Absolutely Fabulous where Edina and Patsy were uncorking the champagne at breakfast.
PR is about reputation and that’s what Bill Gates, and many of the world’s leading companies understand. If the reputation of a company is poor, it will make selling its products or services, recruiting and keeping staff or fundraising extremely difficult.
PR, when executed well and effectively, creates a nurturing environment for the business to develop and grow. It helps to ensure that when you go knocking on the door of a potential customer, recruit, or investor, the first reaction isn’t “Who are you?”.
Now, this two-letter acronym gets criticised a lot and sometimes for good reason. In its truest definition, it is an integral part of running a business successfully in the long term.
PR, or public relations to use the full term, is how organisations communicate ideas, their capabilities to the people most important to them and how well that information is received.
Whilst on paper the concept is straightforward, the execution of successful PR campaigns isn’t always easy, as many different elements must be considered when looking to manage reputation or how your company is perceived.
What is PR?
In the past PR was often conflated with getting your name into newspapers, magazines, radio or TV.
However, it covers much more than this. In fact, any method of communicating through any channel, including social media, could be considered PR.
This definition is more reflective of communications undertaken in today’s modern world where reputation can be sullied in an instant on social media everywhere, and people no longer have to wait for weekly newspapers to find out about a company scandal.
What’s the difference between PR and advertising?
PR differs from advertising in that you do not pay the channel to publish the information; they publish because it is relevant and interesting. Advertisements are used to build up exposure whilst allowing the owners to retain complete creative control, whereas PR is used to build trust and often costs less, however it is ultimately up to the editor what is published in the case of magazines.
What activities count as PR?
There are several ways for an organisation to improve their reputation using PR, examples of
these include, but aren’t limited to:
Feature articles: Written by either an expert in a certain field or by a journalist, a feature article provides a more in depth look at certain topical events. They can be used to explore a particular newsworthy subject from a less objective, more subjective point of view.
Case Studies: In the field of PR, case studies are used to identify the challenges faced by customers and how these challenges have been overcome. Undertaking these are fairly inexpensive in contrast to the value of the data that you are able to promote, as it can explain to your prospective clients how your capabilities can support them.
Social Media: As mentioned above, you might associate the term PR with print media, however this isn’t necessarily the case. Social media can also be viewed as a form of PR, and this could be a real-time, open discussion between a business and their clients. By having an account on several social media platforms you have your very own media channel, to promote your work and demonstrate your business’ technical capabilities within your industry.
Newsletter: PR on a more personal level. Newsletters aren’t only a pr tool which can be used by media publications but also by individual businesses themselves. Newsletters can be used internally within your business to boost the morale of your employees and spread important messages within your workforce. Push this wider afield, and you can exploit the use of newsletter to send content to your existing and prospective clients.
Exhibitions: Get out and about, showcase your business to the world by attending industry specific events. There’s no better way to tell people about what you do than face-to-face. People will begin to take notice and recognise you even if they don’t have chance to stop by for a conversation. If you market yourselves correctly in the run up to the event then you can reap the rewards whilst you’re there, with more visitors who are aware of your products and services.
What’s the difference between Good and Bad PR?
Despite the adage that there is no such thing as bad PR, the staff of a leading high street jeweller that went bankrupt in the 1990s after its CEO described the product as rubbish, will disagree. It was reported that he lost his company around $1Bn in a matter of 10 seconds! Some organisations do not invest nearly enough on improving their ‘public’ perception.
The simplest answer to the above question is that good PR will increase the number of people who are aware of a product or service or increasing understanding of a company’s ability; poor PR does the exact opposite.
How can we improve our reputation with PR?
When looking to improve PR, your direct relationship with editors and other key figures within the media cannot be overstated. Editors are your direct point of contact to accessing the public and showcasing to them your key ideas and values. Therefore, you’re going to need to ensure that they trust your knowledge and that they build a working relationship with you for future projects. Methods you can employ in order to do this include being open with information that you wish to show, valuing their time and effort by being responsive, and even just choosing to occasionally call them instead of sending an email.
Another way that you can go about improving PR is by attending selected, relevant industry events. Looking into and researching what events are happening and when, and programming them into your diary, ensuring that staff are trained and ready to spread the word’ could bolster your image very quickly. Attending, or perhaps exhibiting (budget permitting), allows you to interact with potential customers/recruits/funders
Now, the prospect of getting the ball rolling toward successful development and implementation of PR strategies can seem like a daunting task, especially for smaller companies, but it doesn’t have to be. There are ways to ease this burden. You can start small and do it yourself. And when you are ready to take the next step, when you realize the value of good PR, you could find external help, perhaps in the form of a specialised agency. At Aro, we offer a wide range of PR services. If this idea interests you, contact us today and discover how we can help make your business stand out from the crowd.