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If you want customers to understand what your company does, and have a favourable impression of you, then you need a sound Public Relations (PR) plan.

PR is more than media relations, publicity and promotion. It isn’t the same as marketing. And it is the opposite of advertising.

PR is all about reputation management. Used appropriately, it is the way to promote, enhance and defend your reputation or brand image. And you do this by communicating with everyone that has an interest in your company. Whether you are a new start-up or a global multinational, everyone can benefit from a clear PR strategy and a regular programme of PR activity.

Terminology explained

Marketing = an umbrella term which covers your products/services, pricing, distribution, physical environment, processes and promotion. Often confused with publicity. All marketing activity is designed to generate sales.

Publicity = the output generated by any form of promotion, whether that is PR, advertising, social media, an event etc.

PR Strategy = a plan of all your target audiences, the messages they need to hear from you.

PR activity = how and when you will communicate with your audiences.

Media Relations = is a central activity undertaken by a PR agency/person. It involves liaising with the journalists and bloggers to gain coverage of the client’s story. The end result is a piece of editorial, which is published or broadcast free of charge but is out of your direct control.

Public Relations: the Cinderella of marketing

Public Relations (PR) has always struggled with its identity. For many years it was seen as the poor relation to advertising. Big firms often spent millions buying space in publications, on billboards and on television, whilst the PR Department struggled to win a big enough budget to allow it to demonstrate its prowess.

In the 1990s PR firms were synonymous with the television character Patsy Stone from the cult BBC show Absolutely Fabulous. They were seen as spin doctors and often satirised as champagne-drinking yuppies.

Yet PR is one of the most important roles within an organisation.

When something goes wrong, share prices plummet, public confidence dips, and the media turn up on your doorstep, who are you going to turn to – your PR adviser!

Your audience is much more than your ideal customer

As a company and a brand, you are constantly challenged to focus on your ideal customer as a way of directing your messages. With PR, it is important to consider all your audiences. Take a look at the following list.

  • Employees
  • Board of Directors
  • Shareholders
  • Parents
  • The media
  • Professional bodies
  • Governing bodies
  • Local businesses
  • The local community
  • Politicians
  • Funding bodies
  • Local support agencies
  • Charities
  • Academia and so on…

The list is huge. Once you stop to consider everyone who is impacted by your business or who has an interest in its activities, then you really start to understand the importance of talking (or communicating) with each of them. How you do that and what you say to them is PR.

Public Relations in a digital age

When I first started out in PR, we had a fairly limited number of channels we could use to communicate our client’s message. We relied heavily on getting articles in the media, events, stunts and celebrity endorsements. We produced printed documents to tell their corporate stories and held press conferences when we had something important to announce. (I am talking the dark ages here. For younger readers, imagine if you can, a time before the Internet, mobile phones and social media!)

Today the PR landscape is very different. News flows around the world in seconds. Reputations can be made and damaged in minutes. Everyone has the potential to be a journalist and publish stories – fake or otherwise.

Whilst traditional media outlets have shrunk in number, online channels have exploded. Nowadays social media is part of the PR toolkit as are blogs, vlogs, listicles, videos, newsletters, briefings, bots and chat.

The secret of success is identifying which audience you are targeting and finding the channel to reach them.

Know, like, trust

These three words underpin everything we are trying to achieve as a business. We can only create sales if the right people know and understand our products and services. And like and trust us to provide them with a satisfactory experience. It is by using PR that we build that understanding and foster trust.

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