What is Public Relations

Public Relations includes a variety of tactics that strengthen your credibility, enhance your image, develop goodwill or influence public opinion. As The Public Relations Institute of Australia defines it – PR is a two-way communication between an organisation and its publics.

Put simply PR involves communicating who you are, what you do, why you do it and how you make a difference. Forward-thinking organisations know that communicating – and doing so frequently and effectively – is a very important aspect to the success of their business.

Public relations tactics used can include investor relations, crisis communications, community relations, special events, newsletters, annual reports, sponsorships, speaking opportunities, news conferences, media relations, publicity and other activities designed to mould opinion. Marketing and Public Relations are often confused – what is the difference?

Marketing covers all aspects of producing, promoting and distributing goods and services to the consumer. The main elements of marketing are the product, its price, distribution and promotion – which includes advertising as well as publicity. Selling is one of the most vital functions of marketing and of course advertising is a very important part of this function. Sales promotions would also be part of a marketing campaign. An example would be a competition giveaway on the back of a cereal pack.

Marcomms is also a widely used term these days and stands for Marketing Communications. This role or department in a large organisation generally covers both marketing and public relations. There are also advertising agencies, marketing agencies and public relations consultancies that provide an integrated mix of these services.

Often marketing, advertising and sales will work together in a major corporation while corporate and internal communications, media relations and public relations will be part of a separate department.

For the small to medium business owner as well as the larger organisations, all of these elements must work together to ensure a coordinated approach to getting your name, reputation or brand “out there”. Advertising, marketing and PR must work together to ensure the successful roll out of your message, product, or service into the market place.

What is Publicity? Publicity is designed to generate media coverage – it is not public relations. Publicity is part of media relations which is one of several major public relations functions. Publicity is a very important tactic of an overall PR campaign. Media coverage on a product, service, company or cause is vital for helping the organisation attain its objectives. Print and broadcast coverage far surpasses advertising in terms of credibility and delivering value for money. They say publicity is seven times more effective than advertising. Skilled publicists are invaluable and there are many public relations companies that specialise in this skill only.

To “get good PR” is a common view of public relations as only being publicity. Put simply publicity is making a suggestion to a journalist that leads to the inclusion of a company, person or product in a story. Newspapers, magazines, TV programs and radio shows have large amounts of space to fill and depend upon publicists to help provide story ideas, interview subjects, background information and other material. But that doesn’t mean to say you approach every journalist there is and suggest yourself or your business as a possible story idea.

You need to know the stories they want to cover whether it’s a business news story or a “feel good” piece for a weekend magazine. Do your research; find out the most appropriate publications or TV or radio programs for your information. Put yourself in the position of the editor and ask yourself, “Is this something my readers are interested in?” People who read Financial Review are not the same people who read That’s Life. You need to give the journalist a story idea. Think of yourself as an editor coming up with ideas to fill space. Help the journalist do their work.

Publicists, PR agencies and journalists need to work together and develop good working relationships so that everybody achieves the desired result.

What’s a Media Release? A media release is a release of a story to the media. The most important tool for making a suggestion to a journalist is the press or media release.

A media release is a like a mini news story that presents the most newsworthy aspect of your product, company or service in a format and language familiar to the journalist. A good media release answers the who, what, where, when, and why of a story. Start with an attention grabbing headline followed by an exciting lead paragraph. Usually media people don’t read beyond the first paragraph, so if you don’t capture them quickly, it will be hard to get their attention after that. If it is well written, concise, and contains good information – your chances of getting published are increased. Paragraphs subsequent to the lead may include background information, spokesperson quotations and other information that can help put the newsworthiness of the story in perspective.

I hope this has given you a clearer understanding of the many different yet essential strategies that a business needs to implement to successfully tell people about their product or service. Fundamentally public relations is about communication and making an impression.