What is Public Relations?
Every business has a brand identity they want to maintain. In 10 words or less, how would you describe your brand identity? Look at the list you’ve just created. Do you think your customer’s would agree that the list accurately describes your brand? That is where public relations (PR) comes into play.
The goal of PR is to align your desired brand identity with how it’s perceived from the outside. People are going to talk about your business no matter what. You can either be a part of the conversation or sit back and let it take its own direction. Clearly, it’s better to lead the conversation, so that you can mold your brand’s reputation.
The dictionary definition for PR is the practice of managing the spread of information between an individual or an organization and the public. This can be through traditional media channels, like television, the radio, print advertising and speaking engagements, or digital media, which includes social media, your company website and online advertising.
Listen and Learn on the Kickin’ it with Kapok Podcast
In the episode “Public Relations Tips for Small Businesses in St Pete” we explain public relations and how it often involves a blend of digital and traditional tactics. We also discuss how PR can help a local business succeed.
What’s the Difference Between PR and Marketing?
Although many businesses see the value in investing in their marketing strategy, many fail to consider the added value of PR. Another problem is that many fail to see the difference between the two. While marketing focuses on the promotion of products and services to be sold for a profit, PR promotes the goodwill and communication between a company and their customers. There is quite a bit of overlap between the two, but at the end of the day, marketing is about increasing sales and PR is about building connections.
One of the many pros to developing a PR strategy is that it’s cost-effective. What separates PR from advertising is that PR isn’t paid for, whereas advertising is. You may need to pay for someone to create your press release or messaging, but you aren’t paying the media outlet to publish your story. Instead, you are relying on your relationships and a newsworthy story to gain attention. Publicity that is organic is much more sought after than paid publicity because its is authentic and credible.
What are the components of PR?
When people hear PR, they usually think of press releases. But press releases are only a small aspect of PR. To effectively communicate to your customers, you need to think beyond press releases to speech writing, crisis control, networking, content creation and social media management.
A press release is a formal announcement that promotes company news to media groups. The goal is to persuade media groups in the area to cover your story. Media coverage doesn’t come easy, so you need to make your press release as appealing as possible. Now that social media has taken off, many PR managers rely heavily on popular social media platforms as a means of communicating company news, but there is still value and power in free coverage from third party media outlets. When a news station has decided to give you air time, or a local publication runs a feature, it lends credibility to your brand because they are essentially vouching for you. Hearing positive information about your business or organization from a third party has much more weight on public opinion than reading it on your company’s social media channels.
When your giving a speech as a brand executive, you’re not speaking for yourself. You’re speaking on behalf of your business, your investors and the people who work for you. Most executives who give speeches regularly have a PR team responsible for writing speeches that best represent the brand image they want to maintain. Even more important to consider is your audience. Your speech needs to be tailored to their wants and needs to effectively get your message across. One slip up and you may need to resort to crisis control.
PR is especially important when something goes wrong. If your company makes a mistake, the best practice is to address it head on. Hiding from the truth won’t fix the problem. Instead, it will only make it bigger because you’ll allow others to speak for you. Within the last year, we’ve seen big brands like Starbucks and H&M under public scrutiny because of mistakes the companies have made. Although it’s debatable how effective they were at addressing their crises, both companies issued public statements. They also creating action plans to prevent similar mistakes from happening in the future. Customers appreciate a brand that is proactive and honest. If you make a mistake, own up to it. But go a step further, and explain how you intend to alleviate the issue.
Building relationships with customers through communication is important, but so is building relationships with other businesses and organizations. No matter what industry your business falls under, networking is an important part of maintaining your image. Speaking to people directly is the best way to not only know what people are saying about you, but to mold their perception of your brand. The other obvious upside to networking is building relationships with people who you may potentially want to do business with. If you build strong connections, it will be easy to spark a collaboration in the future.
Everyone is talking about content marketing right now. The goal of content marketing is to provide your customers with value. This is where PR and other forms of marketing communication overlap. You’ve probably heard the saying “cash is king”. Well that has recently been changed to “content is king”. Blogging is a huge component to content marketing. Through your blog, you can share important company news, information on products and promotions, and ultimately educate your customers. Consistently posting valuable content will label you as an expert in your field.
Social Media Management
In the 21st century, there is no excuse for a business not to be on social media. Social media platforms allow you to engage with your customers in real time. You can use this opportunity to talk about topics that are important to you and your customers. Replying to your customers’ comments is the most effective way to build connections on a personal level. This is especially true if you are a large business with multiple locations and thousands of customers.
It’s not about the platforms you want to be on, rather it’s about the platforms your customers want to communicate on. Your messages should be timely and well crafted. Try to be as transparent as possible. The more open and honest you are about your brand, the better your connection will be with your customers.
Promotions are typically handled by a marketing team, but there is a PR aspect as well. For example, we’re all familiar with the popular shoe company Toms, mainly because of their pubic relations genius. For every pair of shoes they sell, they give a pair of shoes away to someone in need. This act of kindness has a strong impact on their brand equity. So much so that some people support the brand for this fact alone.
Many brands employ this strategy. For example, in the Tampa Bay area there are businesses who have collected supplies for families impacted by hurricanes, businesses who have done food drives around the holiday season and businesses who have fundraised for other important causes. They do this because it matters to them, but more importantly, it matters to their customers. If a customer knows that a meal will be donated to a hungry child in the Tampa Bay area for every purchase made, they are more likely to spend money. PR is about communicating such promotions effectively so that when customers leave your store, they are so happy that they tell others about the good you are doing.
How Do I Get Started?
As small business owners, we try to do our best managing everything within our business. Reading this, you may be wondering whether it’s more effective to run your PR in-house or to outsource your PR to professionals. The answer to this question will depend on a variety of factors, like your company’s marketing budget, what your goals are and how complex your messaging is. Although you may be capable of managing your PR, hiring professionals who specialize in PR may be more time effective. You will most likely see greater results.
Have you incorporating PR into your business strategy? Share your experience with us by leaving a comment below! You may help another business owner in the process.