You may hear other people in business talking about PR (public relations) but what does it actually mean?
PR (public relations) is the way organisations use the power of the media to manage their public image and promote themselves to their target audiences.
The way that businesses, organisations and individuals are portrayed in the media is hugely powerful, it influences people’s perceptions and where appropriate, can have a bearing on purchasing decisions. PR professionals work to influence how the media represent an organisation or individual by placing stories which communicate key messages and values.
Most large organisations will either use an external public relations professional or bring the service ‘in-house’ and have specialist employees within the business who manage public relations, marketing and sometimes internal communications as well.
Smaller businesses may use a freelance PR consultant or bring in a member of staff to handle the process ‘in-house’.
What is important is to understand and appreciate the value of PR, whether your business is at the start-up stage or more well established. A strategic, well-executed PR campaign can help your business grow, communicate your values, services and/or products to potential customers, strengthen backlinks to your website, help secure investment and make a valuable contribution to the ‘bottom line’.
There is an old saying: “Advertising is what you pay for; publicity is what you pray for.”
Public relations is not the same as advertising. Public relations involves reaching target audiences through editorial content on blogs, websites, in print media (newspapers and magazines) and broadcast media (television and radio). When you add in social media channels and streaming services, it’s clear that the PR professional’s role can be very complex and time consuming. PR is entirely different from advertising, where the space is paid for and can range from broadcasting advertising on TV and radio, to advertising online (websites, social media channels) and outdoor advertising such as billboards, bus ads and events stadium branding.
In essence, PR is ‘free, editorial’ space whilst advertising is paid for space. With the latter, you have far more control over the content as typically you will pay for the space then supply advertising ‘artwork’. In contrast, ‘free, editorial content’ relies on the PR professional ‘pitching’ the story in such a way that the key messages about that organisation or individual are picked up by the journalist who is writing the piece and deciding the final content. Well planned, strategic communications campaigns will ensure that the key messages you want to communicate about your business are consistent and reach your target audiences.
What is PR used for?
The purpose of PR is to raise awareness about a brand, an individual or an organisation. Public relations will help you:
- Promote the values of your business
- Build credibility and understanding of what your business has to offer
- Strengthen relationships with existing and potential customers
- Support sales and marketing by sharing consistent messages and increasing visibility for your products and/or services.
- Attract investment
Gaynor Simpson is PR Manager for Women’s Business Centre and Women’s Enterprise Scotland, and is a successful self-employed PR consultant.