For most people, public relations and publicity tend to be associated exclusively with the entertainment industries.
While public relations certainly plays a big role in generating buzz about hot new stars in Hollywood or on the music scene, it can also help boost both new and established businesses in just about every industry.
The foundation of public relations – surprise! – creating relationships with the public.
Publicist wear many hats, but our main ones are relationship-builder, storyteller, and reputation protector.
So what the heck does PR actually do and how is it different from marketing?
While marketing and public relations can be confused as being the same, they are inherently different, but we do work together.
PR and marketing share the same goals (i.e., to drive awareness and sales back to your business), but marketing deals primarily with paid media, while PR deals primarily with earned media.
For example, marketing may put money behind things like SEO, social media ads or magazine advertisements, while public relations works where advertising tends to have no effect on coverage or inclusion.
If you’re wondering about the ways that PR can actually help increase the success of your business, the first step is answering this question: What are my business goals?
PR can help you find creative ways to drive customers to your products or show your brand’s value, but you should be clear on what you’re hoping to get out of it first.
Let’s talk about some of the tangible ways you can use PR in your business.
Media coverage is to PR = peanut butter is to jelly.
- Landing Media Coverage
Media coverage is to PR = peanut butter is to jelly.
A little stereotypical, perhaps, but it’s the cornerstone of what public relations pros do.
We typically work with journalists to figure out their beats and pitch a business or the business owner in creative and out-of-the-box ways.
How does this help? Landing coverage in a national or hyper-local publication, especially one that has linked back to your website, can generate fantastic brand awareness and potentially drive more sales for your business.
- Finding Relevant Awards
Awards showcase your business accomplishments.
When you see an award on a business’ website, does your opinion of that business tend to get better or worse?
Nine times out of ten, when a business has won an award, their credibility seriously increases with a consumer.
When you’re running a business full-time, it can be challenging to remember to work on the public perception of your business outside of just social media.
How does this help? Finding local business awards can help connect you to the larger business community in your city. On top of that, when the awards are given by a publication like a business journal, you’ll likely get some free press and a logo to tout on your website. Just remember to keep a close eye on all deadlines and start writing applications early! Some can be lengthy.
- Speaking at Industry/Influencer Events or Contributing Content to Other Sites
If any of your business or personal goals have to do with being seen as a leader in your industry in the long-run, it’s a good idea to start thinking about whether speaking or contributing content is right for you.
Most speaking opportunities are not pay-to-play, so you’ll need to get your credentials up to snuff and have a killer idea to present.
Similar to submitting for business awards, be prepared to fill out an application detailing your presentation topic.
And speaking is competitive. Some events open their call for speakers as early as nine months before the event – For example~ SXSW
If the thought of speaking in front of a crowd makes you want to run out of the room, writing your ideas down in the form of a contributed article or op-ed might be a better option.
In most cases, you’ll need to pen your article first and shop it around to one publication at a time.
Double-dipping (sending to multiple outlets at once) is a huge no-no for most publications, and you can ruin a relationship with an editor before it’s even started by doing so, so just don’t do it!
How does this help? Showing ‘thought leadership’ in the form of speaking or contributing content helps to distinguish yourself as a leader in your field and can raise both your personal and business profile.
- Connecting You with Influencers
Influencer marketing is one of the few instances in which PR delves into paid media.
One of the keys to a successful influencer campaign is choosing bloggers and social influencers that make the most sense for whatever product or service where you’re trying to gain broader awareness.
That can mean a lot of time spent on research into social posts, engagement rates, and followers.
Because the veil has been lifted so many times with celebrities, it’s fairly obvious now when an influencer has been paid for a product or just took it on for the sake of receiving free products/services.
While many businesses focus on influencers with large followings, you shouldn’t leave micro-influencers out of your strategy.
Micro-influencers (those who have 5,000 or fewer followers) are still able to reach a following more organically than an advertisement or paid social promotion post would.
Keep in mind, any time an influencer receives something for free, even if they didn’t get an extra fee to post about it, they still must follow the FTC guidelines or you could run into a whole mess of trouble.
So always, always, always have a contract with your influencers detailing the above:
- exactly what they are supposed to do in exchange for your product or service,
- in what length of time they need to have it completed by and,
- what happens if they don’t follow through.
It’ll save you a ton of headaches down the line.
How does this help? Influencers can bring your brand to new audiences through digital word-of-mouth, which is one of the most effective forms of advertising. Make sure to focus on integrations that make sense, and be smart in following FTC guidelines.
- Preparing You for a Crisis
These days, all it takes to get a crisis started is a trending hashtag.
Social media has made it incredibly easy for people to voice their opinions – both negative and positive – to the entire world.
For a small or mid-sized business, a crisis can be absolutely detrimental.
From an employee posting something inappropriate on social media to finding out a supplier is using a chemical that can cause harm, anything and everything could start a fire that causes your business to lose money.
The best defense really is a good offense.
PR professionals are skilled in the way of analyzing “what if” situations and developing plans around the potential outcomes – we call it crisis communications.
Creating a plan of this nature takes a lot of work, but at least beginning the process of looking at what could go wrong and preparing for it will start you on the path to a crisis strategy.
How does this help? Don’t bury your head in the sand. Thinking about what could go wrong is smart, and it can help protect your business in the long-run. Look at every aspect of your business and think about the worst-case scenario and what you may be able to do to handle it.
There you have it! Integrating PR with your current marketing efforts is super easy and can help generate additional brand awareness. The key is to decide on your goals, identify your audience and create short- and long-term plans that show the tactics you’ll use to achieve your goals.