How you communicate with your audience matters. And knowing when to utilize certain tactics is critical to leaving the greatest impact on your target audience. Whether you’re a small business owner, or a marketing associate for a major corporation, it’s important to understand the various types of communication you can leverage.
If you work in marketing, or another related business field, you’ve probably heard the term public relations before. But what is public relations and how do professionals define the term? How is it different from what we call marketing? How can you incorporate good PR practices to generate buzz about your organization, or the agency you work for? We’re covering all the basics you need to know about public relations today.
Public Relations Defined
So what is public relations? Simply put, public relations, or PR, focuses on maintaining the way your brand is perceived. With public relations, the goal is to manage the conversations people or organizations have about your brand. The goal of public relations is not necessarily focused on generating leads, sales or revenue. So what’s the point in PR? Think of PR as a way to cultivate positive relationships within your industry space. When those relationships are strengthened, people will respect you and what you stand for—not just your already amazing product or service.
Gone are the days when a publicist is solely behind your brand’s image. In the digital age, you and your team have the power to shape the way the public sees you. Consumers are looking for brands to champion, and with the right public relations strategy, you can set yourself up to fill that role. Your reputation and brand should be a priority, and public relations encompasses anything that seeks to elevate your appearance.
What’s the difference between PR and marketing?
Experts commonly like to explain the differences between PR and marketing as different extensions of the same team working toward a common goal. Public relations and marketing strategies both work to strengthen a brand’s reach and impact, but with different tools and approaches. Marketing tactics are more geared toward creating calls-to-action that lead to increases in revenue or leads. On the other hand, like we’ve discussed, PR tactics don’t focus so much on hard numbers as creating a positive discussion around your brand.
In a way, you can think of public relations as the softer side of marketing. PR can help you cultivate a following in a more organic way than marketing, with softer pitches, and less immediate return. Instead, with public relations, you build directly off your brand values to create meaning to your consumer that goes beyond what you offer. Marketing pushes why consumers need you or your product, PR pushes why consumers simply like and respect you.
Why Does PR Matter?
Public relations helps build your image in a way traditional marketing tactics can’t. In recent history, media distribution and consumption has drastically changed. As a result, the public relations field has evolved. In order to maintain a positive image, threads of PR need to be woven throughout your messaging. Before, communication was more easily controlled by news outlets and the way companies leveraged their contacts. Now, anyone can become a thought leader by sending a Tweet, or by engaging with a tightly-knit blog community. That means it’s easier than ever to build a following of loyal fans if you actively seek to build relationships with your target audience.
In our modern communication climate, you can speak directly to consumers. And if you time your message right, and craft it well, consumers want to hear from you. The digital age has put companies under a microscope, where consumers make decisions based on quality of product, and company values. You want to make sure that your brand stands out from the crowd, and a PR strategy can help you create a community that eventually leads to conversions.
Younger generations in particular respond less and less to traditional advertisements. Studies have shown that Gen Z, and even young millenials, are tired of traditional sales pitches. But what they love to see is meaningful content, whether that content comes from a friend, an influencer or even a company. Most importantly, Gen Z cares about the purpose behind your brand. There’s no better way to communicate your values than through PR campaigns that are less focused on conversions, and more focused on relationship building.
Examples of Public Relations
PR can be broken down into a variety of categories, but in most cases, an effective PR strategy will focus on cultivating positive chatter about your brand. These are just a few examples of commonly utilized PR tactics.
Press releases are specially-written news articles that promote newsworthy events or circumstances surrounding a company or organization. Typically, an in-house or agency employee will write a press release, then distribute it to news outlets that might be interested in publishing the article. The main goal of a press release is to work with media personnel to 1) provide them interesting news while 2) gaining free publicity. Press releases are one of the most common and versatile public relations tactics, as they can be used to promote upcoming changes or events, or even to address potential concerns. They are a powerful tool, and as a bonus, cost you nothing except time and energy.
By hosting events, you can cultivate a sense of community in a specific space. At events, participants typically have a common goal or shared interest. In the digital age, media events don’t necessarily look like physical gatherings. Hosting a contest, webinar, or even an online social group focused on hot industry topics could count as an event. Of course, physical gatherings still have their place, but you can create a digital event at little cost with high reach potential. By making these kinds of events free, or highly affordable, you will leave attendees with a favorable impression of your company.
Sponsorships are a great way to collaborate with a significant individual’s fanbase. Before, athletes, actresses, performers and other celebrities typically filled the role of brand sponsors. With the current social media landscape, anyone could make a great sponsor if they’re a good fit for your brand and have a large following. Influencers are hugely popular with younger generations. By partnering with an influencer, you might be able to make some new connections you might not have otherwise been able to reach. But remember – make sure you choose a partner with similar values as you. If you’re going to be sponsoring content, it’s beneficial for both you and the influencer to be on the same page so your audiences engage organically.
Social media campaigns.
Social media campaigns bridge the gap between marketing and PR beautifully. In one social media post, you open yourself up to authentic conversations with your target audience, and might even be able to sell them on your product at the same time. Social media is the perfect place to show the more casual side of your brand and makes for a great platform to start a PR push.When you go to draft a social media calendar, consider sprinkling in some content that shows more of who you are, not just what you offer. Talk about exciting volunteer opportunities you’ve participated in as a team, or share a pro bono project and why it matters to you.
Reputation management tactics are typically ongoing and focus on preserving the image you have in place. Day-to-day challenges likely won’t warrant a full blown PR-campaign, but might need to be handled in some capacity. That’s where reputation management comes in. Addressing customer concerns and responding to reviews online are two great examples of reputation management.
Crisis communication strategies.
In a world where we have seemingly infinite access to information, crises might seem more prevalent than ever. The best way to handle a crisis is by planning ahead. Unlike other PR strategies we’ve discussed, crisis communications focuses on reacting to circumstances, rather than actively building brand reputation. Start thinking through how you want to handle bad press before it hits, and you’ll be better equipped to handle a crisis should it arrive. Your crisis communication plan should include how you plan to evaluate the crisis, how you plan to respond, and how you will tie your values in with any released statements.
Relationship building and outreach.
Part of a solid PR plan should involve building relationships. The goal of building relationships is to create lasting bonds that you can lean on later for collaboration. Having a positive professional relationship with the local media, or governmental bodies will benefit you in the long run. Relationship building can range from casual luncheons, to organizing monthly meetings, or even hosting a networking conference. When you perform outreach regularly, you will cultivate professional connections to leverage later on.
Public relations can take your strategy to the next level.
At 434 Marketing, we believe it’s important to take a holistic approach with how you communicate with your desired consumer. We also think it’s important to remember to focus less on what category your tactics fit within and more on how effective your tactics are. Small or local businesses may notice some overlap in tactics—and that’s totally fine.
Typically, we recommend a mixture of PR, marketing and advertising tactics to create strong connections and meaningful engagement. We’d love to chat about how we can help you better reach your current and potential target audiences!