What is PR?

I have talked about this before, but “What is it that you actually do?” is one of the most common questions I get asked. Unfortunately, it isn’t all Ab Fab champagne-filled days… there’s a lot of hard work involved, but I genuinely think it is one of the most rewarding jobs out there. Working with a business owner on their dream, their passion, the thing that keeps them awake at night, and landing an epic piece of coverage that tells their story perfectly, is one of the best feelings in the world. Even now, after 12 years working in PR, I still love that ‘just landed the perfect coverage’ feeling. 

So, what actually is PR and why do you need it? 

If you’re a stickler for dictionary definitions, then the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) states that: 

“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 that 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.”

Perfect. Article done. Thanks for coming! 

No, but seriously, there are some key words in here that help explain it perfectly: 

Reputation – this is first and foremost the priority when it comes to PR. Anything you’re doing in the public eye can be classed as PR; whether that’s an interview in a local paper, appearing on TV, a speaking engagement at a conference, or even a networking event. PR is all about unpaid exposure, and using it to manage your reputation is the strongest marketing strategy there is. 

Understanding – I’m a comms professional so, of course, I’m going to say that good communication is important when it comes to PR, but it really is. Whatever you’re doing as part of your strategy (I’ll come on to what this might include later), make sure that you’re explaining what your business, brand, product or service is A media toolkit will help you do this – and lucky for you, that’s the next EV. Insight so watch this space – but ensure that you’re clear and concise with your messaging. 

Opinion – PR is unpaid activity so there are no guarantees. This isn’t an advert, where you can control what’s said about you and when, you are beholden to the opinions and tastes of the journalist or influencer. This is why it’s key to research them and what kind of stories they’ll pick up; a bad first impression can impact your whole PR strategy, so learn how to pitch to journalists (lucky for you, we have a great guide for this already!)   

Behaviour – in most cases, the exposure you get needs to result in an action (this is what’s often referred to as a ‘call to action’ or CTA). Through your messaging, try and explain what kind of behaviour you’re influencing; whether you’re an accountant for busy small business owners who need to relieve their ‘to do’ list, or a new skincare product that’s proven to beat acne, explain the “need” for what you offer and entice the end reader to take action. 

Sustained – unlike paid for activity, PR has no end date. This is great because it doesn’t have a shelf life, but also means that you need to remember to continue managing it. A reputation can be ruined as quickly as it’s built, so make sure that you have a plan (we’ve got great templates to help you plan both your campaigns and wider marketing strategy, so check them out). Alongside this, also ensure that you’re managing your reputation; whether you’re doing your PR yourself or working with an agency, getting to know your target journalists and influencers is so important. Follow them on social media, keep an eye on the stories they cover, and treat them like you would any other great business contact. You’ll reap the rewards! 

Keeping these five things in mind can really strengthen your PR efforts. When done right, PR is the best way to build your reputation, strengthen your market share and, most importantly, drive business your way… and it’s free (unless you’re paying someone to do it for you, of course). 

So, what actually falls under PR? It’s a pretty broad list but, as I’ve talked about, it’s anything that’s unpaid, so this could include press coverage for a business or brand, a review of a product or service, or a competition that engages your target customers. PR is also used to ‘create’ experts, so this might involve being interviewed about a topical issue or providing a comment piece on a specialist subject. Likewise, it could be a speaking engagement at an event or distributing an industry report or whitepaper.

Your own channels (often referred to as ‘owned media’), can also play a big part in your PR strategy. Writing blogsthat showcase your expertise can be a great way to build your reputation, and your social media – it goes without saying – is the best way to connect directly with your customers. There’s also the grey area of SEO, which is sometimes done by a PR agency but there are also SEO experts out there. Sometimes referred to as ‘digital PR’, this is how easily you and/or your brand can be found online, so make sure that this factors into your PR strategy. 

Over the years, the lines have blurred between PR > marketing > digital, so you’ll often see a crossover of activity. Like with SEO, some agencies specialise in social media and linked to this, is influencer marketing. You might provide PR gifts or event invites, which are free and still classed as PR, but other times it might be a paid for advert or piece of sponsored content. There are social media experts and influencer agencies that manage this activity too but, either way, ensure that you’re factoring influencer marketing into your strategy and head over to my guide to working with them effectively. 

I hope this gives you an overview of what PR is and what it can do for you. There’s even more to learn, so head on over to my A-Z of PR and get to grips with the elements that make up an effective PR strategy. If you’re still struggling with where to start with your PR, we’ve got tonnes of tips, tricks and templates over on Pocket Sized PR. You can always get in touch to see how Birmingham PR agency, EAST VILLAGE., might be able to help you too!  

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