Public Relations, often known as PR is as old as the cart but PR as it was traditionally known and recognised is dead.
In days gone by, before the technology boom that has transformed the world of marketing and public relations as a whole, a company might carry out a spot of PR to get themselves on the map. It would be a good way to get yourself found and known by your market, established within your industry, and to build your authority.
PR would have been used to help define and communicate who you are. It has always been a very valuable tool. The only drawback is it would often cost a lot of money and you would need a more-than-half-way decent ‘little black book’ to get results.
Measuring the results of your PR efforts could also been rather hit and miss from time to time. There are numerous ways to quantify and place a value on the space that you manage to secure to tell your story but the lack of consistency on how this is measured can cause complications, particularly when evaluating what works best for your business.
The traditional PR domain has been superseded by a new beast. A big beast with sharp nails and claws, one that can pack a lot into its punch but one that also can be defeated with one fell swoop in the right area. This beast is better known as reputation management.
PR: The emergent beast
PR’s responsibility of ensuring that to the outside world your company is seen in a consistently positive light, and to limit damage when something threatens this rosy lustrous image has always been of prime importance to a company. However, the sphere of PR and the management of brand image has widened exponentially with the growth of social media. Companies need to be one step ahead, responding and managing anything that could potentially damage how they are viewed.
What can PR do for a small business?
PR is about perception and reputation and in the new technological world that we inhabit perception and reputation matter more than ever. People are becoming more heavily reliant and dependent on the opinions and experiences of friends and family. As consumers become more wary of advertising and its effects, and put more of their trust into reputation, ensuring the wellbeing of your outward reputation is now a more valuable investment than ever before.
PR and the other pillars of promotion
So in this convoluted world of social reputation where does PR end and marketing, social media, advertising, sales and customer service start?
PR: A question of trust
Maybe the better question is where does it end? Because that, the ending, is where the main difference lies. PR, as it is still seen as editorial, unlike advertorials (which are paid adverts disguised as editorial) don’t have to be highlighted as an advert. This means that readers put a higher level of trust into the content. Because it is not a ‘paid for’ channel, unlike traditional advertising, it is seen as being more independent and therefore more trustworthy. Consumers are not yet wise to the fact that PR is often placed by companies through an effective alchemy of long term relationship building, detailed strategy and clever copywriting. However, this extremely powerful way of boosting awareness and reputation also has its downsides; you can never be sure that something will be placed until you see the story in print. You also do not have complete control over what is published, but it is these elements that make PR trusted by consumers in a way that paid advertising isn’t.
Perceptions about your organisation are being formed all of the time. Your reputation is what makes you different, is what people come to value and why they buy from you.
PR is relationship building.
If PR is all about building good relationships then social media certainly should play centre-stage to that endeavour. The most effective ways to circulate the positive press attention that you receive through this powerful alchemy of a great story, great writing and strong connections is by harnessing the power of social media to share exciting news with your followers…and encourage them to share the news with their friends. The seemingly independent nature of PR also lends itself to being more altruistic and more share-able as communities and like minded individuals rally around, happy to share good stories.
Unfortunately the downside of socials media is that negative stories can travel just as fast.
Kick start your small business public relations strategy
10 ways to increase your PR opportunities
Delivering PR results for small businesses is a matter of getting the fundamentals in place first and having your customer service and delivery working well together.
1. Embrace social media to get your customer service and product or service delivery working effectively. Where customers may have had questions or problems, make sure they are being dealt with professionally and in a timely manner. Don’t sweep negative comments under the carpet and don’t get in a social media slanging match.
2. To harness the power of PR keep getting those testimonials and referrals and shout about them. Other people saying positive things about you are ten times more effective than you saying positive things about yourself. Don’t waste too much time planning these. Get the message out there and let everyone know how great you are.
3. Think of something you’re doing or have done that others might want to talk about. Create an interesting story to tell. If you can include other individuals or other companies invite them to share your news with you.
4. If you’re strapped for time and people, then get an agency to help especially if you’re launching a new product or service. Detailed planning and a professional approach can pay dividends when it comes to optimising a time bound opportunity!
5. Google Analytics now means that you can track your PR and see real time results. If you are lucky enough to be featured on the regional news watch what it does to your website visits, identify your conversion rate and establish whether it was worth the investment of time (and money).
6. Look for trusted bloggers in your industry to increase your editorial coverage. Google ” ‘your Industry’ blog”, i.e. “Commercial Boilers blog”. Introduce yourself to these bloggers with something new they might be interested in discussing on their blog.
7. Of course, contact your industry magazines with your story.
8. Use a captivating image in your PR. As attention spans diminish and we all get information overload you need to captivate your reader’s attention. Think wider than a smiling CEO. Scrap the photo of a ribbon across a door and go for something more visual like a ribbon around a building. With Photoshop your imagination is the limit. Team it with a snappy headline and you’ll boost your chances of securing that slot.
9. You’ll need to be engaged in social media. Use social media to measure your PR successes. Search in Twitter or create your own hash tags and boost that buzz.
10. Don’t lose time planning. Make sure that you focus on actually delivering your PR rather than getting lost in the planning stages. Think ahead about potential opportunities for PR. New team members, new products, charity events, product launches, sponsorship, a new contract, international success… the opportunities are endless.
We can help you make the most of every PR opportunity with our business communications service. Find out more.