Working in public relations has shown me that there is a cloud of confusion surrounding the field. Not only is there uncertainty of what public relations IS, but also how it works and benefits your company. Let’s see if we can’t bring some light to the subject.
What is Public Relations?
Part of the confusion lies in the fact that there are so many existing definitions of public relations, but a very basic explanation of public relations is that it helps organizations communicate with their publics. Put another way, a public relations firm helps a business grow by facilitating communication to a target audience. There are many other aspects that go into this process such as constructing a message, identifying a target audience, identifying the appropriate avenues (usually media) to communicate with this audience and providing general advice on how to protect a company’s image in the eyes of the public.
How Does PR Work?
Now that we know what public relations is … how does it work? Public relations works toward the long-term goal of building up a company’s reputation within its industry and among its target audiences. There are a myriad of ways this is done, but one of the most common practices is to secure media coverage for a client. The benefit to having a reporter write a story about a company versus running an advertisement is two-fold. The first reason is credibility. Since reporters are an un-biased source, an article written about how wonderful a company is will be much more meaningful to the audience than an advertisement that says the same thing. Audiences know that advertisements are paid for and will communicate whatever messages the company wants to promote. An audience is less likely to think that a company crafted the messages that are in an article written by a reporter. The second reason is cost. Depending on the outlet, an advertisement can be quite costly. For a fraction of that cost a company can secure the same amount of space with an article written about them in a respected trade publication.
The key to public relations is patience. A successful campaign does not happen over night and, unlike advertisements, this kind of media coverage cannot be bought. Public relations is about relationships and relationships take time to foster and mature. One cannot build a successful PR campaign with just one media outreach, it is important to be consistent in messaging and frequency, sending out new developments about your company to reporters. This allows reporters to become familiar with your company, which, in turn, will build a relationship with your target audience and position your company as an industry leader.