Public relations is basically a bunch of promotional activities that create a positive public image of a company. It’s often referred to as media which is earned. It is vastly different from marketing even if you can’t see it. Not to worry, we’ll explain. Effective public relations helps the public understand exactly what wonderful things a company has to offer.
Whether you’re the president of your local Chamber of Commerce or the President of the United States, you use the same methods to communicate your message to the public.
The essence of public relations is to inform and persuade the public. However the goal is not to do this one person at a time. How, then? You do it by the thousands or millions through newspapers, radio, television, and the internet. And nowadays, with print going “away”, T.V. ads being surfed through, and radio ads having less and less impact, the internet is truly your best place to reach the masses.
Certain people such as professional athletes, elected leaders, rock stars and actors, need public relations firms to handle the daily deluge of media requests. But any organization, however, big or small, can use the same tools to get out their message.
Earned Media versus Paid Media
There is a difference between marketing and public relations. Marketing is about convincing people to buy something, typically via advertising campaigns. Advertising campaigns cost you money while public relations is earned.
You should always add to advertising campaigns with good public relations even if it’s just free information via blogs or Facebook posts. That’s why public relations professionals talk about “earned media.” You don’t put up banners on websites-instead you earn media coverage.
But earned media goes both ways. Just as you can earn positive press coverage for good things, you earn negative coverage for bad things. How you handle bad things really matters. Remember Bill And Monica? It wasn’t the “act” that impacted Clinton-it was the lying and the cover-up. It was classic “bad P.R.”
How You Earn Coverage:
Here are some of the tools in your P.R. toolbox:
- To persuade and inspire: letters to the editor, speeches, guest columns, radio talk show appearances, TV appearances.
- To inform: press releases press conferences, fact sheets, or town hall meetings.
- Multimedia: websites / blogs, photos, charts, film clips, radio public service announcements and social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Google-plus and more.
Informing versus Persuading in Public Relations
When your goal is to inform people about an issue, public relations is really quite a bit like journalism.
When you’re trying to persuade, public relations depends on both persuasion along with a hefty dose of rhetoric.
Anyone Can Do P.R, really!
If you’ve never done this kind of thing, it might seem a little scary to pick up the phone and call a newspaper editor, or to give a speech in front of a live audience.
However, anyone can learn how to “good P.R.” You just need some time, effort and desire to succeed.
Good public relations can turn a new business into a whopping success, or take a dying business and breathe new life into it. It can take a small group of concerned people and turn them into a force to end discrimination against the LBGT community.
Myths about Public Relations
You’re exposed to the success of public relations every day, in every medium you can think of. You have TV cable news, TV in general, newspapers (albeit mostly online), radio, magazine and social media. Never have so many public figures been in the public eye in so many different ways at the same time!
Yet public relations is still more art than science. There are many misconceptions about PR that are seriously wrong.
The most common myths about public relations:
- PR is All about Press Releases and Press Conferences
“Press release” and “press conference” are the two phrases that P.R. clients and bosses know.
This is bad if you’re the client. Why? Because press releases are over-used and quite often the wrong advertising tool for the job.
And to continue in this vein, a press conference reserved for the biggest possible event. If you hold press conferences all the time, reporters will stop showing up. Public relations today is an always-changing field, with more and more happening in the social media sphere such as blogs, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, Tweets.
- Any Press is Good Press
The idea being that any publicity is good and that just getting your name out there for no particular reason is positive is just plain wrong. and breaking through, is a benefit that outweighs any negative content in a story. This is not only a prevalent myth, it’s a loser for a business strategy.
- Publicity is Free and Easy
We all eat meals. That doesn’t mean you should hire your neighbor to cater your next clients-only dinner party. Not when your competition is using a trained chef and catering service. The competition for good public relations is rather stiff.
Most organizations are trying to get free media coverage. Most public relations professionals are experienced people who used to work at newspapers, TV or radio stations. So have the best possible person doing the job – or if you do it yourself, study up and talk to the pros before you dive right in.
- You Need to Hire a Pricey PR Firm
For many individuals, hiring an expensive PR firm is just plain not an option. The budget isn’t there. But there are other options and learning and studying and doing is a good one.
Once You Break Through with Publicity, You’ve Got it MADE!
Think of how many tunes other than “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head”/”that guy” did. One-hit wonders are common. Musicians can skyrocket to the top then crash back to earth. The tough part for musicians, or any public figure or organization, is steady success.
So let’s say for example you did a hilarious viral video and got a million hits, or wrote the most amazing press release and newspapers all over the world picked it up. Bummer alert-one big media hit is just not enough.
- Only Bad Products Need Publicity-Good ones do Just Fine without it!
Even if what you’re doing is innocent — puffing up a bad product while ignoring your good products — that’s an odd and unproductive strategy. You want people to know about your very best product. It should be the centerpiece of any publicity or marketing campaign. Never, ever puff up a bad product while ignoring good ones.
Saving PR only for bad products means will consumers will think that your good product must be as crappy as your pumped up bad product..
- Only Ex-Reporters Can Do It
In public relations, there’s no professional license exams to be passed. The profession is growing, as the demand for more and more information grows. There are more public relations jobs in entertainment, business, politics and more.
Organizations all benefit from communicating with the press and public, and they’re doing it in tons of different ways. Now they have Social Media, TV, radio, and everything associated with Websites.
- PR Means Controlling the Press
If you want coverage, just tell a reporter to NOT cover a story. You can’t control the press. Public relations is about communicating with the public and the press in a smart and effective way.
- Public Relations is Spin, Slogans and Propaganda
No, think about it- propaganda is when you use information to manipulate people to do something that’s not in their best interests. It’s usually the tool of a demagogue state, used along with fear and censorship. Public relations pros avoid spin and propaganda techniques.
Today’s audience is quite sophisticated, and there have never been this many sources for information. A lot of public relations is just plain making life easier for busy clients and journalists.