Want to add impact and stretch your marketing dollars further? Perhaps it’s time to revisit the role that public relations plays for you.
What exactly is PR?
Public relations is, to put it simply, relations between your business and groups such as customers, prospective customers, employees, shareholders, investors, suppliers, dealers, agents, governments and the community. PR is about building these relationships through the media and through ongoing interaction, the objective being to proactively manage your company’s corporate and product images.
Small businesses are starting to see that it’s not only large organisations that can benefit from public relations. PR is not always crisis management – in fact, the most effective use of PR is when you use it to deliver the good news.
Many companies employ external PR firms to help them attract favourable publicity, including coverage on television and radio and in newspapers and magazines. However, many companies perform this role themselves. Whichever way you choose to operate, don’t use PR as an afterthought. Involve your PR agency or department in the development of your overall marketing communications plan from the outset.
Why use PR?
One of the most powerful tools in the PR suite is media relations. Effective communication with people in the media can help you obtain editorial coverage for your business or product. Audiences are meant to perceive editorial comment as an independent and objective evalua-tion, and so it appears more credible than advertising or other paid forms of communication. Ultimately, it is not what you say about your business that matters. It is what others are saying about you!
Public relations can be less expensive than other forms of paid communication, even if you hire an external public relations agency rather than performing this task in-house. Although you are paying for the services of a PR specialist, what you achieve in the way of media coverage and changes in public perception is worth much more.
Your PR dollar is likely to achieve much more extensive coverage than your advertising dollar ever could. Specialist PR people know which media to target with your message (and often have incredible contacts), what content the media want, when to pitch them which story and what is the best way to deliver your message.
Public relations has the benefits of being flexible in message content and being responsive to news. A skilled PR professional can turn around media releases in reaction to news or crisis situations within hours.
When to use PR
New and small businesses
Public relations is excellent for establishing credibility, especially if you are a small business or new venture. By coupling PR with advertising, you can achieve very high levels of brand awareness and recognition without having to spend a fortune. Whether you are a start-up company, or simply expanding into a new country or geographical area, PR is an important tool for you.
Public relations is useful for launching new products, repositioning older products, or announcing a special event, opening or company expansion. This is news, and is therefore more likely to get coverage in the media. In addition, your sales force or sales channels may be inspired to greater action by the boost of seeing your product covered in the media.
When something goes wrong, it is useful to have a good relationship with the public and the media. You should strive to be available to speak with them to pre-empt problems or at least to have the opportunity to be heard when negative issues are being discussed.
Managing the announcement of financial results and forecasts is a key role for the public relations department of any publicly listed company. Such announcements can affect share prices, so you should always ensure that the company’s voice is heard.
Involvement in community activities helps you to position you company in the minds of the public. Likewise the announcement of your company winning an award or reaching a mile-stone, or of someone in your company publishing an article or book or delivering a presentation, can help position you effectively.