Ashley Kingsey
Ashley Kingsey
Public Relations: A Beginner’s Guide for 2019
5 (100%) 1 vote

Of course, you know what PR is! But why do you need it in the era of the Internet? It’s simple: the same laws that work in everyday life apply to the vast online universe. Just like you care about how people perceive you on the individual level, you need to create a positive image of your brand in the eyes of your partners and the target audience. You need to work with the opinions and beliefs of people who interact with the company, its products, and services. And you also have to respond promptly to criticism and act appropriately in times of crisis. 

To cultivate positive public perception and awareness, your brand needs to connect with its clients and other interested parties through various media channels, using diverse promotion strategies. This is precisely what PR (public relations) is all about.

What is PR?

Public relations is all about reputation, which forms as a result of what you do, what you say, and, most importantly, what people say and think about you.

Public relations in practice is a scope of actions upon which your brand relies  to gain public support and understanding. It is also a strategy aimed at creating a point of view that would influence people’s attitudes and behaviors toward the brand. It is a planned and ongoing effort to establish and maintain positive relations between your brand and its customers, employees, investors, and other stakeholders.

Also, PR is the art of presenting the right information in the right way and helping it find the right audience.

  • The purpose of PR is to establish, promote, and protect the image of a company, brand, or individual through various media channels.
  • The task of PR is to maintain contact with the target audience, public institutions, and key journalists in relevant fields (press, magazines, radio, and TV). In this sense, PR is essentially a process of “investing” in an image.

Types of PR

We distinguish two types of public relations: internal PR and external PR

  • Internal PR is also called corporate PR. Its main objective is to create a favorable and trusting relationship between the company’s management and staff at all corporate levels. Internal PR is used to cultivate a sense of involvement and pride in employees. It is believed that an employee who is committed to an organization is capable of achieving better results at work. 
  • External PR is working with the external environment of the company, that is,  with competitors, partners, investors, customers, etc. The main objective of external PR is the formation of a positive public image and promotion.

As you can see, PR is not just about building a brand reputation. It is also about shaping your organization from within and determining its internal operations. 

When it comes to external PR, there are multiple PR directions, including:

  • Relations with mass media: Establishing good relations with the press and providing publishers and journalists with interesting content to be delivered to the audience.
  • Relations with investors: Organizing events for investors, publishing financial reports and regulatory documents, and processing requests and complaints from investors and analysts.
  • Relations with the government: Introducing the brand to the government in the context of corporate social responsibility, fair competition, consumer protection, and labor protection.
  • Relations with the community: Managing the brand’s social status and establishing a positive reputation in such fields as environmental protection, education, social security, etc.
  • Relations with customers: Cultivating good relationships with the target audience; conducting marketing research to learn more about their interests, needs, and goals; and developing strategies for influencing public opinion while using various media outlets.
  • Marketing communications: Running marketing campaigns related to product launch, brand recognition, image, and positioning.

What’s more, there is a color classification of PR practices depending on their goals and means:

  • White PR: Practices aimed at improving a brand’s reputation through positive news, reviews, events, etc. For example, corporate social responsibility is a great way for a company to declare itself as a team of responsible and respectable citizens who care about the welfare and prosperity of others.
  • Black PR: The goal of black PR is to undermine the reputation of competitors. Paid negative reviews, yellow press, and provocations in the media are all examples of black PR. 
  • Grey PR: By analogy with the mentioned types, grey PR combines elements of white and black PR. However, it differs from the latter in that it is more indirect.

PR channels

PR Channels

Public relations is a way for brands to create a story that represents their ideas, values, philosophy, and achievements. So, in that sense, PR is storytelling.

Its promotion channels include traditional media, digital media, and events leveraged to reach a broader audience. Keep in mind, however, that PR is not targeting a paying customer per se. It tells the story of a brand to the entire world through:

  • Mass media: press releases, press conferences, articles in periodicals, online publications, blogs, social media posts, appearances on TV shows and news, interviews, etc.;
  • Printed materials: company catalogs, printed press releases, books, articles in newspapers and magazines;
  • Advertising: PPC, printed, or TV ads;
  • Influencer marketing: leveraging the authority of popular internet figures in order to create a positive image and increase brand awareness;
  • Oral speech: public speeches of company employees at conferences, exhibitions, and interviews, including, word of mouth, etc.;
  • Events: corporate or branded;
  • Sponsorship: support for non-profit or charitable organizations; participation in sponsorship projects to build awareness and create a positive attitude toward the brand.

Some PR channels are free, some are paid, and others are earned. For example, your business blog is a free channel because you own it. Your newsletter, social media posts, and website content are also free. Meanwhile, advertising and influencer marketing require you to pay for the promotion. However, if your product is really good, and your company is well-known, you can also count on earned media to promote your brand. These include mentions in industry news, positive customer reviews on social media, higher search engine rankings, etc. 

Depending on your industry, using free and earned PR channels for promotion can be more effective as this is not perceived by the public with such skepticism as paid advertising. 

How is PR different from marketing?

PR agencies do not specialize in paid promotion as such, although they do utilize paid media. Instead, they promote a brand using non-advertising, informative content that is eventually delivered to magazines, newspapers, news channels, websites, blogs, and television shows.

Marketing is aimed at increasing brand and product recognition. It’s ultimate goal is boosting sales and profits. This is achieved mostly through direct, paid promotion.

PR works more subtly. It doesn’t intend to generate demand but rather a positive image of the company, on the basis of which the interest of both consumers, partners, and even the government is subsequently built.

PR tools

If the term “public relations” still sounds cryptic to you, let’s analyze the tools it uses to achieve its goals.

Press Releases

Press releases are among the essential PR tools. When something noteworthy

happens in the company – for instance, the release of a new product or management reorganization – a press release is issued to cover the news.

Thus, the press secretary or PR department of the company sends a message to various media outlets, informing them that something has happened or will happen that might be of interest to the public.

Depending on the goals, the source content may either contain only dry facts or an implied message that the company wants to convey to the target audience. If journalists decide to share the proposed news, they discuss further details with company representatives.

Media pitches

A media pitch is a short (and mostly informal) meeting with journalists and media reporters, in which company representatives attempt to inspire interest with short and intriguing messages that could attract the public attention.

Special events

PR agents utilize a variety of resources to attract the media, the public, and business circles. The organization of events is one of the most common activities in the world of public relations. After all, interaction with the audience is often the best way to engage people. Exhibitions, conferences, trade fairs, and business meetings can bring you lots of positive publicity and establish you as an authority within your industry. 

Research

Conducting market research allows you to better understand the current public attitude toward the brand. It shows both your competitive advantages and the flaws that should be eliminated on the way to improving the brand’s image.

PR specialists may also suggest conducting unique industry research that no one else has done before. Both industry representatives and the general public may find these materials useful. This is one way to create share-worthy content to increase the brand’s authority.

Networking

PR is based on communication. Attending business, corporate, and industry events is an integral part of PR success.

Blogging

Useful and engaging content is the cornerstone of digital PR. Many business owners think that site visitors never pay attention to their blog. But in reality, a blog can not only become a reliable source of traffic but also an important part of a PR strategy. Potential customers are always looking for information on search engines by entering specific queries. The more relevant keywords are found in your blog articles, the more visitors will come to your site in search of useful content.

The effectiveness of your blog articles can be measured by the number of views, likes, comments, and social shares. These metrics will help you understand what your customers want to know, and they will help you create interesting articles that resonate with your audience. The more visitors your blog attracts, the more credibility and authority your brand will acquire in the eyes of the public.

Strategy

Developing an effective PR strategy is a vital ongoing task. The goal of a PR manager is not only to imbue the information space with interesting brand-related news. They must also be prepared for any potential crisis. By developing a crisis communication strategy in advance, you will ensure that sudden troubles will not take your company by surprise.

Social media presence

Social media is a perfect tool for conveying brand values and mission directly to the public. This can be done in the form of exchanging news and updates with followers on social networks or replying to customers’ comments. Both ways ensure a perceivable social media presence that will boost your brand recognition and reputation.

Conclusion

PR is not about how to sell more. It’s about making others want to do business with you, whether they are your customers, partners, investors, etc. Also, PR is not limited to a single campaign. It is a continuous process of making connections, building a brand image, managing various media channels, and preventing crisis situations. With that in mind, make sure your brand cultivates positive engagement and a favorable attitude of the public from its very first steps.


Ashley Kingsey

Ashley is a SEO specialist at Ning.