As the owner of a RASA PR Firm, I constantly have to explain that we don’t buy advertisements, we don’t order journalists to write stories for our clients. Yes, we try to promote our clients, our products or ourselves. But unlike advertisers, we persuade our external or internal audiences via unpaid or earned methods. Whether it’s the traditional media, social media or speaking engagements, we communicate with our audiences through trusted, not paid, sources.
To help the general public understand public relations and how to use these skills, and for those in the industry who need to explain their jobs to their grandparents, the occasional stranger, and friends, here are the things Everyone Should Know about Public Relations.
PR is the Persuasion Business. You are trying to convince an audience, inside your building or town, and outside your usual sphere of influence, to promote your idea, purchase your product, support your position, or recognize your accomplishments.
“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
PR people are storytellers. They create narratives to advance their agenda. PR can be used to protect, enhance or build reputations through the media, social media, or self-produced communications. A good PR practitioner will analyze the organization, find the positive messages and translate those messages into positive stories. When the news is bad, they can formulate the best response and mitigate the damage.
Advertising is paid media, public relations is earned media. This means you convince reporters or editors to write a positive story about you or your client, your candidate, brand or issue. It appears in the editorial section of the magazine, newspaper, TV station or website, rather than the “paid media” section where advertising messages appear. So your story has more credibility because it was independently verified by a trusted third party, rather than purchased. PR people deal with crises, image enhancement and creation of long-term relationships where your story often must be accepted by others (the media) before you obtain recognition, PR people tell you what you NEED to hear.
Before hiring a PR firm or starting your own campaign, it’s important to understand the nature of news. There are only two ways to make news:
1) Create a story
2) Follow a story.
Create A Story. This is the most common form of public relations. It involves storytelling and. Most of the time, firms looking to make the news want to promote something fresh: a new car, a new app, a new market, a new CEO or other significant hire, a new business plan, merger, winning an award, something of this nature. Other methods of making news include bylined articles written for an independent publication, Opinion-Editorials (not about you, about a controversial topic), social media (blog posts, tweets, photos, videos, etc.), content marketing on your website, and more.
Some firms create their own events or speak in front of prestigious groups. This can be great, but it can be time consuming and expensive, with no guarantees of coverage. Many colleges and universities create news with surveys and original research. Entrepreneurs and small businesses usually can’t afford this expense. It may be easier to conduct simple phone and email surveys of peers, clients and suppliers. A brief series of questions that result in new information that shed light on a certain issue might be newsworthy to the trade media.
Follow a Story. Opportunity Knocks. You answer. This is when you notice a story in the news, and respond. It could be a plunge in the stock market; a political scandal; the economic effects of droughts or snowstorms; the popularity of a new crop and what it means for farmers and grain prices, etc. For breaking news, journalists often need an expert to comment in real time via a phone interview, video-conference, live video interview, Tweet, email or IM. Reporters often contact their usual list of suspects, experts whom they know or trust. With some quick thinking, reaching out can lead to great new connections and media attention.
When the story isn’t immediate, businesses can insert themselves into a trend. These are usually feature stories, in contrast to news happening today. If more law firms are cutting deals on hourly prices in return for guaranteed monthly retainers, and your attorneys signed a big deal like this with a major client, that’s one instance of a trend.
“Building relationships Digital PR makes use of social media platforms, networks and tools to interact with people online and build relationships. The social media part is the content and conversations on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and YouTube. The Digital PR part is the support functions needed to make those conversations relevant and effective – research, social audits, identifying influencers, developing and distributing the content.”
I don’t agree with their rejection of advertising equivalency for three reasons: 1.user experience
- free market
User experience: Ads and editorial are seen at the same time, you cannot divorce one from the other.
Buyer experience: businesses make the decision every day to spend their marketing funds on PR or advertising. It’s a choice grounded in reality.
Free market: tens of billions of dollars are spent on TV, internet and print advertising every year. It’s a huge business that tries to communicate many of the same messages of PR, albeit in a different way.