Public relations (or PR) is the field which handles the flow of information from an organisation to the public and manages the response of the public to the organisation. Public relations offers businesses a chance to communicate with their audience on topics of genuine public interest, and therefore they do not require direct payment. Advertising, on the other hand, allows businesses to communicate any message but for a fee. The purpose of public relations is to generate coverage using interesting or important information that news organisations want to share on its own merits, thereby gaining exposure for the business free of charge.
What is the goal of public relations?
Ultimately, public relations is about inducing the public, potential customers, employees, investors, business partners and any other stakeholders to hold a certain view about the organisation and its offering. This is distinct from advertising, in that there is typically no call to action or direct proposition being made - the benefit is more indirect. By establishing credibility and creating a valuable image for the organisation or product, the public decides on their own to seek more information and make a purchasing decision.
What do PR specialists do?
Whether a businesses uses a public relations professional or an entire PR firm, the goal of these individuals is to put forth the ‘face’ of the company to the media. This means crafting communications to share the official positions of the company on matters deemed important to the public. For this reason, PR is an essential part of branding and brand strategy, because it defines the way that the media presents a company to the public at large.
PR specialists are typically experts in communication and rhetoric, with strong writing and speaking skills. In a sense, public relations is about spinning news events in the company’s favour. To do this, PR firms work to fully understand the businesses they are contracted by, and work to a long-term branding and PR strategy.
Essentially, public relations is centred in building and managing relationships. The most successful firms have strong working relationships with the media, which they have built up over many years. This gives them a degree of influence in what stories the media runs and opens opportunities for editorial coverage.
What sort of activities fall under public relations?
- Organising publicity events
- Organising speaking events
- Creating and distributing press releases
- Sending out newsletters
- Making blog posts
- Making social media posts
- Creating press kits
How can small businesses utilise public relations techniques?
Small businesses should be sure to send any and all interesting news to local media outlets. Local papers and radio stations are often hungry for relevant local content, and if a business can offer something of genuine interest there is a strong possibility the story will be run.
Social media is another low cost PR option available to small businesses, though it is important to understand the basics of social media marketing before establishing a digital presence on those platforms.
An ongoing newsletter is one of the best ways for small businesses to keep in contact with their customer base and stay top of mind, while educating customers further about new products, special offers and added value propositions.