What Are Public Relations

The unofficial definition of Public Relations (PR) is the public maintenance of the positive image of your company, and the steps you take to add value to your brand and continuously improve your client relations. These can include donations, sponsorship, alliances, events, volunteering and other acts that are considered to be more about the benefit to the public than the increase of your sales.

Public Relations are about creating and maintaining positive relationships.

Why are Public Relations hard to define? People often confuse Public Relations with marketing. While PR is a form of marketing, it generally consists of focused attention from third-party sources that create indirect advertising or promotion of you or your company. If a newspaper does a piece about your community practices, or your commitment to a cause, that is focused attention. Your audience will pay more attention to you because it is not a direct advertising campaign crafted my your sales department. An outside source has recommended you or your services as trustworthy and valuable. Through your public practices, you’ve created human interest by being recognized for your ethical practices or charitable efforts.

Public Relations are about creating a company people want to do business with.

The public loves a great story, and good PR is creating and telling a great story in the most compelling way. The better and more positive the story, the more likely you will be accepted and the more valuable your public relations will become. The best Public Relations coverage is spontaneous, but it’s also possible to create a well-structured PR plan and follow it.

When you start your Public Relations campaign, keep in mind the marketing side of your strategy. Your story has to be appealing to your potential clients otherwise all the PR in the world won’t help you sell your products. Keep the public informed, and don’t hide anything from them. Make them feel as though they are a part of your organization, and take them seriously. They are your investors. Don’t make them regret their choice to invest in your company.

Stick to one mission, and stand by one message.

Public relations are an attempt at improvement. Whether you have decided to improve your internal functioning, customer services, brand image, or public identity, ensure that your goals are clear and attainable. Take a stand on issues that affect your audience, and make sure that your efforts are recognized. Send Press Releases and contact journalists to see if they are interested in your story.

Good PR reinforces your reputation as a company that makes good decisions, protects their customers, and gives back to the community. To maintain positive PR, protect your reputation and evaluate all of your actions carefully. Don’t participate in anything that your public may consider questionable or controversial. Evaluate the possible outcomes of your PR decisions, and make sure they align with your mission and preferred public image.

Public Relations are a valuable investment. A commitment to invest your time and resources to create a positive experience for your customers will solidify your relationships, and provide unmeasured benefits for you both.

5 Public Relations Myths Debunked

Myth #1: You need “contacts” to garner publicity.

My Response: This is one of the most common fallacies about PR. Why? The reason is simple. I suspect it’s because many PR firms tout their media connections when offering their services to a potential client.

Media contacts do help sometimes. However, you can accomplish your goals without them. A lot depends on the story you have to offer, the angle of your story, the timing, and the relevancy of your information or area of expertise. If your idea or pitch lacks the essential ingredients for an article or broadcast segment, you are unlikely to get coverage. Each time you gain media exposure, add the editor’s name to your database. Don’t forget to send a short and sincere thank you note.

Myth #2: You can’t buy PR with Advertising.

My Response: I dare to disagree with the above statement. Sometimes you CAN buy publicity with advertising, but not with high-quality publications. Small magazines with little editorial integrity may give advertisers preferential treatment. However, the quality of responses might not be worth of your time and effort.

Myth #3: PR promotions do not work without follow up.

My Response: I am convinced that follow up is important. Some busy editors or reporters can easily overlook your materials. Therefore, your follow up call or email may get them to consider your story. That being said, a well-written and well-targeted press release will do the trick.

Myth #4: Editors want to be wined and dined.

My Response: It is totally unnecessary! Of course you may come across an editor who will gladly agree to have lunch with you at a posh restaurant or accept tickets to a basketball game. In most cases, though, editors prefer to keep PR sources at arm’s length. A simple thank you note or respectful attitude will suffice.

Myth #5: Publicity will bring you tons of new clients, customers, or patients.

My Response: Even if you get great press coverage, it doesn’t mean that people will rush out to buy your product or use your service. Here is what PR does. It creates a favorable image or perception about your business. It enhances your status and makes you look more professional and trustworthy. People might remember your name after reading about it in a newspaper. So when a need arises, they are more likely to reach out to you. One PR expert says: ” Everyone has an impression about your business. Without publicity, that impression might be a zero awareness.”

Final Thoughts: Publicity has to be managed carefully. Media research, follow up, writing, checking — it all takes time and supervision. The key to success is regular media coverage, so when your prospects think of what you offer, it’s your company and not your competitor that gets the call or email.

Angela Kambarian is a marketing strategist, public relations consultant and copywriter. If you have any questions or comments about the article or need help with your marketing, please visit http://www.kambarian.com or call (516) 889-8636

Public Relations & Your Small Business

The practice of public relations is often misunderstood, thus overlooked by small business owners. There is an assumption among small businesses that PR exists only to serve corporate giants who are looking to dodge impending negative fall out of their reputation, following a catastrophic blunder on the part of their company. While public relations is the key to maintaining a company’s image and reputation, the bulk of work in this industry is dedicated to facilitating success rather than evading disaster. And now more than ever, a growing number of small businesses are seeing the benefits of well-run PR in the success of their overall marketing plan.

Public relations is the means by which your company becomes known and stays known among your target audience. Consistent exposure to your company through press releases, by-lined articles and special events (to name a few) can have an enormous long-term impact on the success of your business. Small businesses that implement effective PR campaigns have the ability to become known as a leader in their industry, as well as their community. While there is no price that you can put on that type of exposure, PR is also typically more affordable and cost-effective than many other widely used methods of public exposure.

Creating a Brand with Public Relations
Public relations should be the first component of any small business’ marketing plan. It is the catalyst that will draw your audience’s attention to you and all of your other marketing efforts. PR is the seed that establishes your brand within the minds of your potential customers. Once they have an image to attach to your company, that image will resurface every time they come into contact with you. Successful implementation of PR should be the precursor to any ad campaign, web marketing or product promotion that your small business performs. By first creating a brand, you are producing a captive audience for future messages of all sorts.

PR establishes you as an innovator and expert in your field by exposing your audience to the information via a third party. Americans get their information from the media and there is simply no substitute for having your company appear among the top stories of the day that are of interest to your audience.

There are basically two types of information in the media: news and advertising. For a price, you can have your company appear in the paper or on TV and radio every single day if you desire, through advertisements. But at the end of the day, it is a message that you created and paid for, and your customer knows it. And who is going to believe a message that says “I’m the best. Just ask me!” Because ads come directly from the company and are so self-serving in nature, they lack the most important influencing factor on brand building: credibility. Advertising there is little credibility to an ad because the message comes directly from the company and is clearly self-serving in nature. The other way to gain exposure through the media is to be featured in the news. Unfortunately, reporters and writers aren’t just following you around town, waiting for you to do something great that they can write about. But they are constantly looking for new and interesting concepts to pique and hold the interest of their readers. That is where PR comes in.

Why Do You Stand Out in a Crowd?

Establishing yourself in your industry comes down to a single question. What makes you different? After all, if you are the same as everyone else, there is no motivation for the media to cover your story, or for your audience pay attention to it. If you are having a difficult time identifying your unique characteristics, then develop a component of your business that nobody else is offering.

Using your unique, industry-specific insight, educate the public on things that affect their daily life. Become the only accountant in your city who offers free monthly tax seminars to the public. Establish yourself as the first manufacturing company in your area to implement a new technology that increases efficiency or cuts down on pollution. Create an internal environment that interests the external world, and you will have developed the starting point of your PR process.

Implementing a Successful PR Plan

Public Relations, like any other facet of your business, is a very focused discipline that requires the skills of a professional for the best results. Small businesses often don’t have the financial means, or the need, to staff a full-time PR or Marketing professional. But that doesn’t mean that PR tasks should be delegated to people in-house with absolutely no experience in the field. There are many firms all over the country that specialize in managing the entire marketing mix for small business clients for considerably less cost than a full-time employee. Implementing your PR plan with one of these firms gives you a tremendous leg up on your competitors and provides a greater probability of success for your PR and marketing efforts.

Once you have established the distinguishing characteristics of your company, your marketing firm brings insight to the process of determining who the target audience is for your message. Who are your past, present and potential customers, and what would be of interest to them? Once they have helped you determine your audience, you are able to tailor your message and the presentation of it to suit their needs.

By nature, stories that appear in print and in radio and television are required to be newsworthy. Sometimes, from an insider’s prospective, the line between newsworthy and blatantly self-promotional is extremely difficult to detect and adjust for. There isn’t a newspaper in the country that will print a press release that simply states all that you have to offer to customers, even if you think it is important. But that’s not the goal of a press release anyway. That’s what ads are for. Press Releases should focus on news, and outline you as the primary credible source for the topic of the story. Establishing credibility is the primary goal of public relations efforts. That will pave the way for the placement of additional marketing pieces down the road.

Working with an outside firm also offers several other advantages to your small business. PR professionals are in constant contact with media outlets of all kinds. Once your press release, article or special event has been created, a Public Relations expert knows how to get it into the hands and on the pages and airwaves of the key publications and broadcast outlets that your audience is getting its news from. Working with a firm also brings the advantage of an outsider’s perspective of your company and your industry as a whole. They can help you identify and accentuate positive perceptions of your company in your audience’s mind. They also know how the message can be tailored to shed negative perceptions that may exist among your target audience.

Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of using an outside firm to establish your public relations is their understanding of PR as a crucial part of the entire marketing mix. Many firms that cater to small business promotion do so through a variety of methods. Most wear the hats of Public Relations Manager, Marketing Manager and Advertising Manager for their clients. PR is a vital aspect of your company’s promotion because of what it does for the other components of your marketing plan. Variety is the key to creating a lasting brand for your company. A well written, well distributed press release will get your name in the paper. But a few strong press releases, combined with advertisements, publicized special events, and a state of the art website will get customers in your door and build a lasting impression of your business in their minds.

The Keys to Small Business PR

Companies of all sizes have identified the benefits of public relations in their marketing system. Perhaps your company has tried implementing PR into your mix as well. There are a few things to keep in mind that will make a huge difference in the success of your PR activities. By differentiating yourself among your competitors and in your location, PR will help you to shape a brand and create a lasting image in the minds of your audience. However, the best way to yield success from your public relations efforts is to work with a professional that brings experience to the table and knows how to get results. Finally, Public Relations is component of the process of marketing. A single press release alone will get you little or no attention from your key audience. But through consistent implementation of a marketing plan, PR is able to establish you as a leader in your field and your community. Patience in the process is what separates the success stories from the failures in public relations implementation.