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What is PR?

PR is too often misunderstood. For this reason, many businesses simply don't do PR at all. To avoid this situation you need to understand what PR is. Our guest blogger Emma Speirs explains it here.

The term ‘PR’ or ‘public relations’ is banded around by businesses but what exactly is meant by it?

According to the CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations), PR is defined as:

“Public Relations is the discipline which 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.”

This is a broad and somewhat vague statement. It still doesn’t explain what PR is and what it covers in terms of activity.

Yes, PR is about managing reputation and putting out clear and consistent messages. It is about what you say and do and what others say about you. But, how does this translate into physical, tangible work?

PR is the art of storytelling. This doesn’t mean creating and peddling untruths, it means taking a step out of your business and looking into it from the outside. Imagine your business as a newspaper or magazine and flick through it – what are the stand out news stories? What would interest a potential reader?

What makes a good news story?

Think about what is ‘new’ with you and your business. The following ideas are usually a good place to start:

·  Business growth or recognition – Collaborations or partnerships with another business, job creation, move to larger facilities, award wins etc.

·  Problem solving – Can you solve a problem for someone with a new product or service?

·  Quirkiness – Are you doing something different that will make people sit up and take notice? A recent example of this was a butcher that made the press for making Prosecco flavoured sausages!

·  Newsjack – Comment on something that has made the national news and get your views across. This can be a great way of getting your name associated with a topic or industry and being seen as an expert in a particular field.

·  Community engagement – Charitable donations or sponsorships, working with schools or putting on free events are all good ways of securing local press coverage.

·  Experience – People relate to other people, particularly those with an inspirational story. This can also link back to the idea of being viewed as an expert at something. What is your MD’s back story? How did he/she get to where they are now? Can they offer tips such as ’10 ways to double your profits’?

How is PR different to advertising?

Put simply, advertising is paid media and PR is earned media. Any PR story published about your business has gone through the filter of an editorial team or other trusted third party and is still deemed worthy of the space. This gives it more credibility than a paid for display advert or advertorial article and will be viewed with less cynicism. However, with advertising comes a guarantee of inclusion that you just don’t get with PR. Even if you have a great relationship with an Editor, if a bigger story breaks, there is a chance that your story will be dropped.

PR in the modern age

Some commentators believe that PR is being wiped out as printed press moves online but I believe the opposite is true. With the combination of digital editions, news websites and social media, a great story can last longer with searchable website archives, shares, posts and tweets. 

PR isn’t just about being printed in the press or appearing on TV and radio anymore. We no longer need to reply on publishers to publish our content. We can all be publishers. Whilst there is still an obvious need to get into the printed press and broadcast media and get that third party validation, self publication is on the rise and this is where things get a little ‘muddy’ and cross over into the realm of marketing.

The key brand values, messages and strategies that have been so carefully thought about for PR purposes need to be carried over and used across all corporate communications.

Other communication tools that can be incorporated into a PR plan nowadays include:

·  Social media

·  Blogs

·  Website and content marketing  

·  Video/vlogs

·  Events

So, in a nutshell, PR is about managing the reputation of your business and how it is presented to the public through a combination of media coverage and other communication tools your business has access to.


Written By: Emma Speirs, Director of Ballyhoo PR



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