Public Relations and big brands seem to go together. They might be resourced through an in-house team or outsourced to an agency. However public relations is delivered there are very good reasons for investing in your PR.
But the biggest question to answer is: what is public relations?
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations describes public relations as;
“the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour.
It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”
So what it isn’t about is selling something. or marketing something. Unlike sales and marketing, it’s about building and maintaining brand reputation and protecting it when necessary. Thereby protecting and promoting your ethos, your vision, and your behaviours. Why would people want to buy into your brand?
The “why” of what you’re doing rather than the “what” or “how”. It’s the bit that builds trust, credibility, and (you’ve guessed it) reputation.
Public relations should be related directly back to the highest level of your communications strategy.
- Mission Statement
- Tone of Voice
- Key Messages
All of your strategic info will help you to formulate a PR strategy that properly represents your brand. Of course, that’s the same as formulating your marketing messaging, but the application is different. Remember reputation?
Imagine getting an interview slot on TV and you’ve not been briefed properly, you’re not sure of your messaging.
And it might be a hot topic where your business needs to establish itself as a thought leader? You’re not going to perform well especially if you’ve got a hostile or even worse, ambitious interviewer.
There are some good tips in this video to help you avoid some of the pitfalls of live interviews
What should your Public Relations team be doing?
This might seem pretty obvious, but your PR team should be working in the background to maintain your reputation
- creating and governing your PR strategy
- building and maintaining media relationships
- identifying current stories where you can contribute
- drafting and distributing media releases
- briefing you and your agreed spokespeople
- reporting on activity
- defending your brand during a crisis
Finally, dovetailing your public relations activity with your marketing and sales activity.
So here’s the thing and what I believe. Public relations is part of your overall communications activity. It is another channel in your marketing mix, not a stand-alone activity. Or to put it another way, it is part of your content marketing.
So earlier I talked about aligning your public relations messaging with your high level strategic messaging, and how it’s similar to developing your marketing messaging? In fact, it’s the same task.
There is no need for your PR team and your marketing team to do that twice.
Sure, there may be the odd tweak, but you can get your messaging done once and only once. That means that what you say is consistent across all of your channels, and you save a load of money to boot not duplicating work.
Why not get a strategist in to look at that part of the job, and then hand off to your comms team. Does your PR and marketing team share the same office? Thought not…..
Is Public Relations only for big business then?
No. Definitely not. Some of the smallest businesses have the most fascinating stories. You could have succeeded in the face of adversity, created something innovative, your people could be trailblazers in their own right and have their own stories to tell.
Remember, establishing a reputation isn’t just about talking about business. It’s the story behind it. The “why”. Similarly, media outlets, whether broadcast, print, or digital are businesses too.
And they need to publish stories that their audience wants to buy. And if they can buy into your story, the publisher has a better chance of selling a newspaper, or magazine, or tv channel subscription.
What are the benefits of public relations?
I’ve already talked about reputation. Coupled with trust and credibility. If you can establish this with your key audience you will be the go-to brand when they need your product or service. And that means more sales.
Coupled with effective marketing its a winning combination. But remember public relations isn’t about sales or marketing. It’s as simple as that.
Here’s a scenario to read through and have a think about where there is an opportunity for some public relations activity hidden amongst the threats:
“Politics and small business are rather like oil and water. They don’t mix well. But there are times when businesses can take advantage of a political situation to raise their profile and get some exposure through the media.
That may be when something is in the news that’s relevant to that business, an event that has taken place like the general election in 2019.
The media is looking for people to speak to them- and business is perfectly placed to give an opinion. And PR professionals are looking for opportunities for their clients to speak on the radio, comment for newspapers and generally contribute to the latest news.
Everyone has an opinion, and everyone should cast a vote whatever that might be. You may favour one particular candidate. IS Boris Johnson your favourite, or Jeremy Corbyn.
Does the idea of Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party fill you with enthusiasm? Or the Liberal Democrats?
As a business owner have you sent a press release to the local press or out through your social media channels?
Your clients will have their own opinions and voting preferences. Some will be aligned with yours, and some won’t. And the main political parties this time have very different policies.
Are you sure that your clients will appreciate seeing your commentary on one party when they support another? What about your opinions on Brexit? Its split families in two never mind business relationships.
Similarly to the conspiracy theories all over social media during the Coronavirus pandemic, political opinion can polarise opinion and damage relationships. It’s all about reputation, trust, and credibility.
My top tips to successful public relations
1. Stick to the facts. Simple.
As a business you are an expert in your field, you know what impacts your business, what sort of support you need, and you can share expert knowledge and opinion.
2. Consider your brand.
What is it that you want your brand, your business and you to be associated with? Remember your reputation, trust and credibility. Do you want to build a reputation as a professional or something else? Your associations and opinions will define you and how people perceive you.
3. Stay non-partisan and neutral.
As tempting as it is to give a political opinion don’t. This isn’t about censorship or not taking part in the debate.
It’s about maintaining and protecting your reputation. In addition, if you voice a political opinion around 50% of your audience will disagree, and often there’s an emotional response that could cost you sales.
4. “Think before you like” on social media.
There’s content everywhere saying vote for me or him or like this conspiracy theory or that. Does it help your business to engage? Nonsense is best avoided.
5. Have a plan.
Journalists want the story so make sure you know what you want to say before an interview and stick to it. There was a great sketch in Yes Prime Minister where Hacker was interviewed by Ludovic Kennedy.
He answered every question with “the question isn’t (X) its (Y) and went on to ask himself the question he actually wanted to answer. Probably best not to go that far but you get the point!
6. Seek professional advice.
Public Relations Professionals can create media releases for you, brief you in on the opportunities and how to conduct an interview successfully, and tease out the real story and key messages from you that you should be getting across.
We’ve published a free resource here to help you see your story to the media.
7. My final tip.
Remember that people want to read about things that interest them, especially other people.
Journalists are on the lookout for stories that meet the same need for their media outlet so identify your stories and your audience, and approach the media outlets that match your audience and you’ll stand a far better chance of getting published.
To find out more about where public relations fits in your marketing mix and how you can supercharge your content visit our Guide to inbound Marketing