A guide to PR

From images of contrived sham productions, which often includes stunts to ‘win’ over public interest, to images of big expensive agencies which more often than not don’t deliver their over-ambitious plans to make your business the next big enterprise. Some may even only have a vision of free samples, or just group public relations within the advertising market. Here Jade Griffin, PR Account Manager at Purple Sprout PR guides us through the PR basics

I say these images are surprising because these descriptions of public relations are not remotely accurate and usually come from those few who have had bad experiences or from an uncertainty in what the public relations profession is and how it develops, supports and communicates business services and products.

With this in mind let me introduce you to world of public relations and maybe, just maybe change your initial perception and invite you to use this vital communication avenue in your business.

How do we define PR?
PR is the backbone of effective communication to both; influence a variety of media types to take interest in a company profile and to give a voice to a company’s products and services with a view to reach its target audience. Although a relatively accurate description, what some may not realise is there is now much more to PR than just sending out press releases to media bodies and with fingers firmly crossed hoping someone takes an interest.

PR does focus heavily on publicity however also includes submitted and by-lined articles, media commentary, public speaking, building strong and solid relationships with local and national journalists and photographers, participation and communication with the general public and existing customers, retained consultancy and support, creation of vital client databases and even more-so in the current generation of public relations a huge focus on digital and visual marketing and social media interaction.

To put it simply PR is a collaborative approach to ensure your companies message, services and products are communicated in a timely, accurate and unique way with a view to reach the right audiences and sustain brand awareness and interest.

Is your business newsworthy?
Public relations strives on the success of its clients and that success usually comes from building a solid presence and brand which is in the mind of others, not frequently but constantly. If nobody is talking about your business or your products and services then how are you ever to expand, increase profits or even maintain existing custom?

The first question any good pr professional will ask is, is your business newsworthy? Ultimately you should already know the answer. Think back to when you first started your business. What made it stand out to you? Why did you choose this product or service and think it was going to be the next big thing? You may have invested a lot of money, time and effort in developing this product or service so ask yourself what was your initial motive?

These are all the questions the public and the press are going to want answered. They want to know why they should invest their money, time and effort in your services and products and why you are any different from the rest. What drives you to create new and innovative ideas should drive your customers to buy in to your dream. And the pr’s role? To communicate that ambition, that dream and that drive further than within the confines of your office space.

Often PR’s have built up strong relationships with journalists and media bodies in radio and also television and can identify niche areas in your business which will appeal to specific audiences. They can provide that hook, which will reel in the initial interest. This may be developed from a strong brand identity which sets the business apart from any other, it may be that the particular product is following the in-trends of the season, or that it is so far removed from the ordinary that no-one ever thought it possible until now.

Through the use of creative thinking, industry and current affair knowledge along with the ability to draw attention just from an opening sentence of a press release is where a pr professional becomes vital in making your business newsworthy.

Don’t forget the visuals
So your pr has managed to secure coverage in your local paper for your business. Great, the first steps to getting people talking about your business have begun. However this is only the first step, we not only want people talking about your business, we want them shouting about it from the rooftops. To be able to achieve this we need to push your brand in the face of the public, again and again and you guessed it again!

Start by adding visuals, these can be in the form of logo’s which have been cleverly designed to stand out from the crowd then follow that branding through to further promotional materials. From printed literature, point of sale materials, promotional banners and so on, create an identity.

Public relations also entails setting structured and strategic plans to ensure your branding is seen in the relevant places, at the right times and in ways which will generate the most exposure to targeted audiences.

This may even involve projecting your business onto a digital sphere of influence. From viral video’s on YouTube, to building an engaging and thought provoking website and blog to developing a well established and maintained social media presence; maintained being the key role.

All efforts of publicity and brand awareness are irrelevant if the responses are not monitored and the efforts maintained over a period of time. Again another positive attribute of the PR’s role is to track campaign responses and to adjust approaches if necessary.

Separating the good from the bad
So, you are finally convinced it might be time to invest in a PR professional to help you engage your audience and communicate your product. But how do you go about separating the rogue pr’s who charge large amounts with little turnover of publicity from the good pr’s who are so involved with their clients they live and breathe those products day in and day out?

It all depends on your ambitions and goals. Be true to yourself and realistic in what you would like to achieve as a business, look at the pr’s current client wins and what they have achieved for them. Meet them in person and discuss in detail your company profile, and be brutally honest! If you currently have a low or almost none existing company profile then say so, it is their responsibility to look at your current situation, evaluate and put in a place a strategy to help you to succeed.

Client recommendations are also a good indication as to whether the pr has been successful in developing a business’s communications needs along with examples of previous work, press coverage and established press connections.

In the end it will all depend on how well the pr engages and understands your business needs in their proposals, briefs or client presentation. In whatever format they aim to win you as their next client the pr must be focused, flexible, creative and have a clear vision which replicates that of your own aspirations.