What is public relations?Public relations, or “PR”, is all about how an organisation is represented to the public. PR is used to influence the media, communicate a message and ensure an organisation or brand is reflected in a positive light. The preferred industry definition, as decided by the Public Relations Society of America, is: “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organisations and their publics.” Part of the reason why PR efforts are often half-hearted is because businesses aren’t entirely convinced that it works and, unlike many other business services, PR is seen as niche and a bit of a luxury, not to mention expensive. Far from being a luxury, we believe all businesses should be thinking about it, so here are five tips to take note of when producing your own PR strategy.
1. Connect with the mediaPR is all about reputation – what are others saying about you? A journalist writing a piece about you holds a very different value to the brochure you have produced to promote yourself. It’s far more credible when someone else speaks of you in high esteem. In many ways, this is driving at the very essence of PR and how you are able to manage or influence the information about your business in the public domain. In short, PR seeks to improve how people perceive and engage with your business. So what are others saying about your business? Are they talking about you at all? It doesn’t happen automatically; so when you’re starting off you will need to put in the groundwork to get coverage in the media, whether it’s through the local press, garnering attention across social media, or stories published about the success of your business. The results will pay dividends; potential clients are much more likely to be drawn to you when they see others (established media or other companies) speaking well of you than when it is through your own self-promotion alone.
2. Target your PR campaignUltimately, you work hard to build and protect the image of your brand so clients will be more inclined to take up your services or purchase your product. While it’s indirect, it’s important to remember that a strong PR campaign will draw a lot of attention to what you do, and bring in more business. It’s therefore essential that your efforts are targeted. Who are you trying reach? How do they consume media? What do they read? Answering these questions will help to focus your campaign starting from the stories you send to the media, the twitter discussions you’re involved in or the blogging content you produce. No aspect of your PR campaign should be random or isolated, it all serves to establish your voice in your industry and build credibility, with the eventual aim of allowing you to spread your company’s name further. If you find that some of your PR activities aren’t serving that purpose then it’s time to re-evaluate.
3. Make it relevantThis is especially important in an age of such fast turnover of information. With viral videos, hashtags and trending topics, one of the hardest challenges is to remain relevant. It seems that the agenda is always changing and trying to keep up can often be tiring. Even if the nature of what you do essentially remains the same, it’s often necessary to tweak and repackage it frequently to fit in with current conversations and topics of the moment. If not, your message may not ‘land’ as it could and, worse, might be ignored altogether. So rather than allow the current agenda to overshadow what you do, subtle manoeuvring of your PR campaign will allow you to capitalise and make the most of it.
4. Become a thought leaderBeing a thought leader is about being recognised as an authority in your field or industry, whereby people look to you for your expertise in a given area. In a world where we’re completely inundated with options, it can be very hard to stand out. Yet there are businesses which do. Pick any industry and we could all name brands or businesses that we, along with many others, would instinctively trust. They are our ‘go-to’ brands. Ultimately, it is these trusted names with whom we often do business. If somebody is in need of a product or service that you provide, you want them to think of your company. When there is news or an ongoing conversation on an area related to your industry, you want to be in a position where people come to you to for your opinion is or advice. Being a thought leader is an excellent platform to demonstrate the relevance of your business in the industry and why people should choose to come to you.
5. Make it a conversationYou don’t want to come across as speaking at your audience; all your communication should serve the purpose of opening up a dialogue between your business and the public. Social media outlets such as Twitter, facebook, your blog, etc. are not merely soapboxes on which to advertise, but are excellent platforms to interact and converse with your audience. Here you can gauge their interest and opinion towards your services or ideas and, correspondingly, allows you to show them that you’re interested in what they have to say. And when they do respond it’s absolutely essential that you engage – even someone retweeting something you say on twitter may be worth following up. This is also a great way to get ideas for articles you can send into the press. Geoffrey Gaisie is the marketing manager at SAG Media, a PR and communications company which helps business get their stories into the media. This article was originally published on 13 June 2014.
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