A couple of weeks ago, I was asked if ‘PR’ stood for ‘press release’. It made me realise something — that not everybody knows what PR is or what it can achieve.
To us who work in it, it seems like a given. But for many, it’s an area of marketing that is both misunderstood and underestimated.
I’ve therefore put this blog together to demystify what PR is, how it works and how it can help a business to achieve its objectives.
What does PR stand for?
First things first, let me set the record straight — PR doesn’t stand for ‘press release’. It’s an acronym for ‘public relations’ (whilst a press release is a tool of PR!).
So what does that actually mean?
Its official Oxford Dictionary definition is ‘the professional maintenance of a favourable public image by a company or other organisation’.
In reality, public relations is much more than that — it’s all about raising awareness and creating engagement among a business’ target audience. This could be to achieve a whole host of objectives — drive sales, attract new employees or funding, educate the public, find a buyer, communicate in a crisis, and so on.
How do we do this?
As a PR professional, our job is to liaise with the outside world and tell them all about what it is that makes a business tick.
B2B public relations specifically deals with newspapers, magazines, online publications, TV and radio. So by connecting with the people who publish this media — journalists — we can tell a business’ story, for free.
Most people are shocked when they find out that there’s typically no charge for appearing in editorial print/TV/radio. They usually wonder why they ever spent money on advertising (although there’s a place for that in the marketing mix, too!).
In truth, journalists are always on the hunt for interesting stories or noteworthy events to report on, and they will look to the business environment to help them.
‘Is there a catch?’ is a question I’ve heard in the past. No, there isn’t — if you have a story that is interesting, recent and not overly-promotional, then the chances are that a journalist would be eager to find out more.
‘Nothing newsworthy happens here’, is another. I often see business people who don’t think that anything PR-worthy happens within their company. My advice is to not take things for granted — if it’s a big thing for you, then the likelihood is that other people want to know about it too.
For example, this could include recent employee appointments; business growth; industry accreditation; opinion pieces/trends; key anniversary milestones; award wins; charity fundraising; product launches; investment (you get the picture!).
Another question I’ve been asked is ‘does PR actually work?’. In other words, ‘am I going to see a return on my investment?’. The answer is yes.
PR has a much ‘softer’ approach than advertising. Think about it — do you flick over the majority of adverts in a newspaper? I know I do. But if there was a positive news story about a company, I would take the time to read it.
I might then check out their website and browse their social media channels. And while I might not be ‘in the market’ at that moment for whatever they are offering, I would probably remember them when I was.
I had a great example of this recently with a client. I issued a press release, and on the same day they achieved a 2,000% increase in website traffic. They also received a number of enquiries — proof that it does work!