What Are Public Relations

The unofficial definition of Public Relations (PR) is the public maintenance of the positive image of your company, and the steps you take to add value to your brand and continuously improve your client relations. These can include donations, sponsorship, alliances, events, volunteering and other acts that are considered to be more about the benefit to the public than the increase of your sales.

Public Relations are about creating and maintaining positive relationships.

Why are Public Relations hard to define? People often confuse Public Relations with marketing. While PR is a form of marketing, it generally consists of focused attention from third-party sources that create indirect advertising or promotion of you or your company. If a newspaper does a piece about your community practices, or your commitment to a cause, that is focused attention. Your audience will pay more attention to you because it is not a direct advertising campaign crafted my your sales department. An outside source has recommended you or your services as trustworthy and valuable. Through your public practices, you’ve created human interest by being recognized for your ethical practices or charitable efforts.

Public Relations are about creating a company people want to do business with.

The public loves a great story, and good PR is creating and telling a great story in the most compelling way. The better and more positive the story, the more likely you will be accepted and the more valuable your public relations will become. The best Public Relations coverage is spontaneous, but it’s also possible to create a well-structured PR plan and follow it.

When you start your Public Relations campaign, keep in mind the marketing side of your strategy. Your story has to be appealing to your potential clients otherwise all the PR in the world won’t help you sell your products. Keep the public informed, and don’t hide anything from them. Make them feel as though they are a part of your organization, and take them seriously. They are your investors. Don’t make them regret their choice to invest in your company.

Stick to one mission, and stand by one message.

Public relations are an attempt at improvement. Whether you have decided to improve your internal functioning, customer services, brand image, or public identity, ensure that your goals are clear and attainable. Take a stand on issues that affect your audience, and make sure that your efforts are recognized. Send Press Releases and contact journalists to see if they are interested in your story.

Good PR reinforces your reputation as a company that makes good decisions, protects their customers, and gives back to the community. To maintain positive PR, protect your reputation and evaluate all of your actions carefully. Don’t participate in anything that your public may consider questionable or controversial. Evaluate the possible outcomes of your PR decisions, and make sure they align with your mission and preferred public image.

Public Relations are a valuable investment. A commitment to invest your time and resources to create a positive experience for your customers will solidify your relationships, and provide unmeasured benefits for you both.

How to Make Money in a Recession With the Help of Public Relations

Tough economic times are precisely the times that you want to reach out to and stay in front of your target market. They are also challenging times marketing-wise because you also need to be frugal and savvy with your marketing budget. Studies have shown that companies that stop all marketing during a recession are those that fair the poorest not only during the recession, but in the long run. So, there is your dilemma, you need to promote your company, reach your market and not overly-strain your budget.

You have a number of choices to consider from advertising and direct marketing to public relations and online marketing. All forms of promotion have their upsides, but your job is to find the marketing avenue that is the most advantageous for you and your company. During rough times consumers and clients are particularly focused on companies that they can trust. Sure cost savings is a big deciding factor, but credibility becomes more important than ever.

That is where public relations becomes such an important marketing tool. Through it, you reach your target market and gain the validation and credibility of being featured in the news. Also cost-wise, PR can be much more cost effective than a concerted advertising campaign. Both require consistency. You can’t run one ad or send out one press release and expect to really benefit from either, but going the PR route offers you a number of different avenues. You can pitch the local, regional and national media. You can develop a number of different story ideas, from a product or service-based story, to a local human interest story, to a national trend story. You can present yourself as an expert in your field. You can tailor make pitches for radio, TV and print. You have the entire media world that you can pitch your story to. Then, as you garner media placement, you can feature your media hits on your website, on your blog and on various social media sites. Touch economic times are times that call for you to be both proactive and creative. So, take a deep breath, and move forward. Study the various media outlets; see what stories they run with. Now, come up with effective story ideas that meet both the media’s needs and yours. Even in the toughest of times, one well-placed story on you and your company can make all the difference.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2009

Union of the Trio – Public Relations Vs Publicity and Their Role in Marketing

There’s a fallacy that most public relations firms do PR. Essentially they do publicity. How’s that possible, you ask? Well, this according to marketing gurus and what’s stated in Wikipedia (as follows): “Public relations and publicity are not synonymous but many PR campaigns include provisions for publicity. Publicity is the spreading of information to gain public awareness for a product, person, service, cause or organization, and can be seen as a result of effective PR planning.” PR, then, is the creative strategy of a story. It’s focused on its intended audience and with the full utilization of the tools at its disposal, such as press releases, speeches and public service activities amongst others, can determine what and how people talk about a company, a brand, a product.

Steve Jobs and the new Mac successfully got placed on the cover of more than 30 magazines in the year the product launched. That’s referred to as “publicity”. However, the real challenge was crafting the storyline of the Mac – along the story of Steve Jobs. That’s PR work at its finest.

Press Releases in Tune with the Times

The words “Press Release” or “Press Statement” go back a long while when such written communication were printed and released to the press to spread their noteworthy news. These days the more common term used is “News Release” since it has a broader meaning. Materials are now posted online, either via newswire services, within a company and to other non-paid and to some extent, paid sources. As for the term “Media Release”, it’s like a brief newspaper article that is sent to media outlets to gain their interest and if they accept it, they will then publish a story about it.

Demystifying the Roles of PR and Marketing

In the same way that PR and Publicity are not equal, same goes for the former and marketing. Marketing is interested in the understanding of the consumer to meet his/her needs/desires, the goals of the company and to help the company find a way to profitably meet those needs. Public relations, on the other hand, works to build relationships with various sources, reduce conflict and improve cooperation between a company and its intended audience. Marketing focuses on selling and packaging products or services, whereas, public relations is more about reputation, crisis and image management as well as brand building. As the renowned marketing strategist Al Ries succinctly stated, “PR builds brands. Advertising maintains brands once they are built by PR.” Clever public relations will undoubtedly create a healthy environment for marketing. This requires a team with innovative minds.

Marketing and PR, therefore work best when they are treated as separate organizational functions. Nonetheless, they must coordinate in a team effort to make certain they are working to achieve the same objectives. Advertising is an effective marketing tool and frequently used in conjunction with PR, sales promotion and personal selling strategies in a marketing mix.

It’s the Image Silly

Any seasoned PR practitioner will tell you that a favorable corporate reputation and image are an essential part of their mission whether it’s to retain, recapture their clients’ credibility or to promote a favorable impression for a public company’s existing and potential investors. Companies, however, should too be proactive and focus on their behavior instead on words alone. As for brand building and awareness, a PR firm can implement a great brand story and distribute it through the appropriate target media which will be perceived as authentic and unbiased as opposed to a paid advertisement.

To retain the shine on one’s brand assets, companies are encouraged to frequent online chatter where people exchange gossip and views. Prevention is undoubtedly better than cure. By spotting problems early you could seize on an impasse before it spreads further and tarnishes your reputation.

Survey Says!

To offer a noteworthy rationale for media exposure, depending on the industry one’s in, companies should consider hiring a polling firm to conduct a survey about some worthwhile trend which is relevant to their product or service and which would be of interest to the general public or a niche market. The results from the credible poll can be used as an ideal story line for the media. A case in point is Berlitz Canada which carried-out a poll, through Harris/Decima during several days in March 2008, via an online panel, sampling 1,277 adult Canadians about the benefits of being bilingual or multilingual – especially with regards to career advancement opportunities. The results were exploited by being turned into a publicity feat which formed additional exposure Berlitz wouldn’t have otherwise received in the traditional sense.

Customer Care in an Ideal World

What is the meaning of paying a PR firm to glorify your reputation along with your product or service if you can’t deliver on your promises. Today’s consumer is not simply sophisticated but with the swift access to the Internet he/she can vent their frustration online through Twitter, blogs and plenty more social media sources. Much is touted by companies about customer service/relations but surprisingly only a few actually deliver on their promises. At the outset, it appears that many lack a vital customer relations policy including inadequate staff training and coaching. Picking up the telephone and calling certain companies can sometimes lead to an exasperating experience. People love to hate the phone tree encounter where you have to go through a maze of menus until you eventually get to speak to a human – assuming you’re lucky. It shouldn’t have to be that way. Dealing with a company’s customer service center should be an efficient and pleasant event. Companies should place toll-free numbers in visible and large type on their labels. Calls should be answered on the first or second ring and no phone tree. The trained person who handles the calls should be congenial, apologetic and non-argumentative. Amex and Apple are two such companies which seem to have achieved this. Hire mystery shoppers to gauge your service performance and report their experience/feedback.

What’s Next?

PR, the New Media and Talent for Hire Over the years, clients have become more demanding of their service providers. They have come to expect more personalized interaction, customized solutions, timely results and most certainly a “bang for their buck”. PR firms are expected to be more transparent, specialized in particular fields, rather than general practitioners, and embrace the de-facto new media sources – the online social media which is nowadays being integrated with PR. This includes blogging, Twittering, social networking and viral marketing amongst others. That is to say, be in the forefront of new fields of media and communication which will be fully utilized in the business of influencing perceptions.

In addition, one other notable trend is towards widespread audio and video production and communication. From podcasting to mobile video, audio and video will predominate in our world. PR has traditionally been all about effective written communications. While that will remain important, the new skills required to be part of a society driven by other media forms will be critical. With the plethora of multinational and boutique PR firms out there, differentiation in the delivery of services, personalized service and focus in niche markets/industries will be the determining core value equation.

Hiring the right practitioners should include candidates with a variety of business experience especially in marketing, negotiations including strong written communications. Additionally, prospective PR practitioners should possess soft skills, common sense, a flair to think laterally and be someone who gets excited by ideas. A communications or marketing degree should be considered an asset rather than a pre-requisite.

PR practitioners need more skills today than at any time in the past because there are more tasks, more media and more tools. Hence, a comprehensive in-house training program, as well as outside educational encouragement and support, should be part of a firm’s perquisites to their staff. The fact of the matter is, companies that invest in their employee’s education and training receive loyalty and better results from them.