Public Relations may have been through many changes over time but the essence has remained. PR is designed to manage your reputation and in this section you’ll find tips on how to add PR value to your business.
Introduction to Public Relations: The Essentials
What is Public Relations?
“Public Relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. Public Relations is 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.” CIPR
Public Relations may have been through many changes over time but the essence has remained. For example, fifteen years ago, we didn’t have Facebook or Instagram, but essentially PR is designed to manage your reputation without the paying for it (in the traditional sense at least).
Think of PR as an umbrella under which you can count a whole range of activities; from PR stunts (think of really famous people sitting down to play the piano at St Pancras Station) to handling of social media and even working with celebrities. PR encompasses all of this and also the basics, creating the story of a brand or a person which includes the PR strategy, press releases and even brunching with journalists to get those stories into print.
Ready to get started? OK!
What PR isn’t
It may seem strange to start off with a negative, as in PR, we HATE starting with negatives, BUT let’s have a look at crucial differences between PR and Advertising.
Advertising means that you, as a brand, have full control over the content because you are paying.
Advertising – you book your advert with a newspaper, you put together the creative yourself, it is all signed off and you pay £20,000. it appears exactly as you wish.
Advertising – you pay an influencer for a post, you put together a contract or written agreement on how you wish it to appear, they approve the images and caption before they post. You pay £5,000 for it to appear as you wish.
PR is different. Money is not exchanged in this sense. There will never be a contract. For example, it is against the PR code of conduct to say, “hey I will send you these free tickets if you put this on the front page.”
What PR is
IRL PR examples of the above might be:
PR – you speak to a journalist at a newspaper because they frequently write about your kind of product. They love your product and you send one for them to try – journalists will write the truth so you’d better be sure it is good! A month later, if you are lucky, the journalist might add it to their page. It has cost you the product to send this and PR time liaising, but money has not changed hands.
PR – there’s an influencer who you think would just LOVE your product. You know this because you’ve been following and commenting for months on their posts. One day you send them a direct message saying you would love to send them one of the products to see what they think. At this point the influencer messages to say they are happy for you to send it, BUT they can’t guarantee they will wear it. Lucky for you, you did your research and so the influencer loves the product and tags it to the brand. This should clearly be labelled ‘gift’ by the influencer as it was a present from the brand however, once again money has not changed hands.
You can see from the above examples – even writing these that it has taken me far longer to explain the PR route than simple advertising route. Advertising is precise, you know exactly what bang you are getting for your book.
The Drawbacks of PR
PR is less precise. The examples above have great outcomes, but it is also easy to go the other way. Journalists who receive your items and write a bad review, influencers who pass your products to their friends or sell it on Ebay. These would be very bad outcomes, but I am trying to prepare you for the life of a PR where knock backs are frequent.
If I had £1 for every person that has asked me to ‘just get the journalist to write about it’ or complained about a write-up and ask me to change it, I would be a millionaire. So let me be clear on the downsides: (strap in kids)
IRL it is NEVER guaranteed to appear
Yep you heard it. I try not to talk about ‘confirmed coverage’ because you only need a birth, death or engagement of the Royal Family to ‘spike’ the story. It can easily get delayed or dropped. Sorry, I know.
IRL PR’s can’t control the timing
Journalists will always care about relevancy and timing (they will want to know about something before it happens) BUT you can’t guarantee it will fall exactly when you would like it. Unless it is a hugeeeeeee story and you are like, PR to the Queen perhaps. Other than that, the journalist has the power. And even then, the journalist’s editor can pull the story. Sorry, I know.
IRL PR’s can’t control what is reported
If you are the PR for a kettle for example, and you say it is the best kettle. Journalists will put your claims to the test. If they fall short, they will report it accurately and might even mention your competitors. Also while I am at it, you can’t guarantee which image they will use. Hopefully it will be one of yours, but if you have any horrors filed away on Getty Images, prepare, cos it does happen.
How you feeling?
As Eleanor Roosevelt said: “Develop a skin as thick as a rhinoceros hide!”
PR is hard so why do we do it?
PR is sooooo very desired because if an independent journalist at Vogue was to find your fledgling clothing brand and give it a good write-up, these words would be much more powerful than an advert.
It is no surprise that we often flick our way through a magazine paying no attention to repetitive ads. People are more likely to read endorsements which are not paid for, be it on forums, on social media or in the press. So now you know the why, it is time to delve into the detail