Marketing

What Is Public Relations?

What Is Public Relations?
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What is public relations? Public relations (PR) is the practice of creating a positive public image for a company or person through conventional and digital media. Unlike marketing, it is called unpaid media, although companies and professionals sometimes hire professionals to help them secure media exposure.

Public relations differs from media relations in that the ultimate target for messaging is the public (i.e., consumers and business decision-makers).

Public relations builds awareness and positive impressions.

Public relations can influence consumers, shift opinions, inspire action, and even change policies. It is an essential part of a fully-integrated marketing plan and includes:

  • Laying out brand positioning and USP, and identifying a target audience and what media they consume
  • Honing in on relevant stories that generate interest and elicit action
  • Maintaining a comprehensive and up-to-date list of key media outlets, industry influencers, and editors/journalists/reporters
  • Crafting pitches and press releases. Pitches are short, compelling messages (usually via e-mail) to specific journalists. Press releases are longer-form communications that follow a set format and can be posted online
  • Confidently pitching media and sharing high-quality content across multiple platforms
  • Being prepared to respond to crises: product fails, ethics issues, unfortunate events, and employee controversies

Journalists are deluged with pitches every day, so reaching them at the right time with the right story angles is essential.

4 ways PR benefits an organization or person

Unpaid communication is often perceived as more authentic and trustworthy than paid advertising campaigns. Press mentions are viewed as news and not self-promotion. They can also build public trust that you are knowledgeable leaders in your field. The right publicity can:

1. Build (and maintain) your brand image

For example, when brands take a stand on social issues, they are perceived as thinking about broader issues than product sales. The Dove campaign, encouraging body positivity, is a solid example of this.

2. Establish you and/or your company as experts

When key media outlets quote or interview you, you establish yourself as an expert or subject authority in a field. PR companies can also help you source and secure industry-specific awards. Announcing these achievements gives you an edge on the competition, helping you stand out to potential customers.

3. Generate awareness of products or services

The right article about a new product, service, or company can catapult a brand from the unknown to an industry leader, and at a minimum, is the first step in generating traction for sales.  After all, if consumers do not know your product or service exists, they may take their business elsewhere — or not even know they need what you are selling. New products are often launched at industry events, attended by members of the media.

4. Facilitate talent acquisition and retention

Being mentioned in the news builds pride among employees, prospective hires, and partners.

Public relations combines creative storytelling and analytics.

PR pros may be generalists or specialize in areas like crisis response and resolution, reputation management, community relations, social media, events, internal/external communication, and many forms of writing, including press releases, speeches, and feature articles.  They ensure all messaging is credible, relevant, and unique.

Cultivating, building, and maintaining relationships are also crucial. Very often, PR pros have seasoned relationships with specific editors/writers that serve as their “go-to’s” for specific coverage. PR firms often subscribe to databases of media contacts to continually grow their network.

PR is typically measured through the number and quality of media mentions generated. Not an exact science, it provides “air cover” for other marketing efforts. Its role is to build awareness and credibility, setting the stage for marketing and sales to close deals.

As media becomes more diverse, new channels for reaching the reader/viewer emerge. Matching the media to your target audience ensures that your story ends up in the right places.

4 ways professional PR can build reputation and business. #PR #marketing Click To Tweet

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About the author

Nancy Shenker

Nancy A. Shenker has been an independent consultant, writer, and speaker for more than 15 years, following a career as a C-level marketing executive. Her company theONswitch provides virtual CMO services. A content strategist and writer, she is the author of four books and publisher of five business and lifestyle websites. Her passions are humanistic tech, food, gadgets, and travel.