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Public relations is a profession that is spoken about widely but not fully understood. Often when you hear someone works in public relations, you think of a hustling business person calling the media constantly or planning the next celebrity PR stunt.
While there are some truths to those stereotypes, working in public relations is much more complex than phone calls and emails to publications. That is why we created this guide to public relations, to pull back the curtain and show you the cogs in motion.
At OnePitch, we eat and breathe public relations. On our podcast, Coffee with a Journalist, we speak with journalists from top outlets including The New York Times, Business Insider, Wall Street Journal, and more! Our conversations are all about sharing tips and information to help PR pros conquer their roles.
In this guide, we will dive into what public relations is, the various types of PR, how it is changing in today’s landscape, and more. Additionally, we include tangible tactics and tips for stepping up your public relations efforts and bringing them to that next level.
Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
What is Public Relations and Why Does it Matter?
Public Relations is a far-reaching, extremely valuable industry that will never “go out of style.” Here’s how Robert Wynne of Wynne Communications explains the public relations industry:
PR is an industry that continues to adapt to new mediums and strategies to keep brands top-of-mind in a world filled with competition. While it’s sometimes debated, brands NEED public relations for a multitude of reasons.
Here are the top 5 reasons brands need PR:
1.) Building brand reputation
2.) Handling a crisis
3.) Boosting sales & profits
4.) Increasing brand awareness
5.) Building brand credibility
While all of these tactics have remained just as important as they were years ago, the execution of these objectives have changed dramatically as the digital age came to the forefront of every business. Word-of-mouth marketing & advertising has changed to placements in digital outlets and well-to-do television shows (think Ellen DeGeneres’ 12 days of Christmas special). The execution of the objectives may change, but the actual objectives themselves remain static.
While many in the PR industry have a hard time putting exactly what PR is into words, we’ve created our own definition:
Public Relations is the art of bringing stories to life, whether that’s for a brand, client, or individual. Their stories are given life by those willing to cover them and can span across several different sectors (publications, television, social media) so that people most important to these brands/clients/individuals can be told the story.
The 7 Types of Public Relations
Public relations aims to build strategies and relationships that work alongside marketing efforts to create and nurture a stronger brand reputation. This is crucial in not just the public eye, but at all levels of organizations across all industries.
Often, many business ecosystems have vast operations in different spaces. Additionally, each of the ranging audiences requires their own respective goals and efforts to align with their respective publics. Below is an illustration of the eight dimensions of business ecosystems:
To ensure that each part of the business’s ecosystem is communicating it’s efforts effectively, there are various specifc PR sectors that should be considered and attended to.
Here are the top 4 types of public relations that every organization should be mindful to maintain:
1.) Media Relations
2.) Investor Relations
3.) Government Relations
4.) Community Relations
To read about all 7 types of public relations, click here.
It is important to understand the roles each facet of public relations plays in executing the general goals that fall under your marketing communications umbrella. Whether you are building and maintaining favorable relationships with customers, employees, media outlets, or government bodies, it is key to understand the nuance across your public relations execution.
By being aware, mindful, and intentional in all of these respects, you are able to establish a brand reputation that is consistent and strong across the varying publics you are interacting with.
5 Tips for Creating your Public Relations Strategy
Once you are aware of and understand the publics that you are communicating with, public relations strategies around executing your objectives can begin. You may want to jump in and hit the ground running, but remember, spending time to establish a solid strategy will make every proceeding effort smoother and more effective.
1.) Reflect On Your Target Audience
Before you begin, you must first ensure your content, creatives, and storyline are geared toward your intended target audience.
2.) Pick The Top Publication & Build The Right Connections
Be intentional with where you choose to put your relationship-building efforts. Understand the publication you are contacting and ensure your efforts align with their publication.
3.) Make Sure Your PR Campaign is Newsworthy
Once you garner the media’s attention, be sure to craft your press release or event with newsworthy elements. To be newsworthy, offer something of value that can create buzz in the market. For example, Burger King UK created buzz around their PR efforts to spotlight local restaurants on their Instagram rather than pursuing traditional advertising during the closing of restaurants amid the pandemic.
4.) Prioritize Speed and Relevance For Your PR
Timing is of the essence when planning your campaign. Knowing when what campaigns are to be announced streamlines your planning and preparation.
5.) Use Backward Goal Setting For Your PR Plans
Your PR and media outreach should start on a particular set date, so it is important to ensure that you do all the needed preparation to make them a success.
In the end, an effective public relations strategy can yield tremendous results, but it all requires careful planning, relationship building, and a solid understanding of your audience.
5 Key Public Relations KPIs to Consider
Across any industry, KPIs are the building blocks to success. They help to create goals, monitor performance, and report on wins (hopefully). Within an industry that’s based on brand visibility, public relations KPIs are an extremely valuable tool to prove the value of PR to top brands and/or clients alike.
In case you need a refresher, KPIs are a value or figure businesses use to identify what’s working for them, what’s not, and where they want to go next. It helps to solidify strategies that have worked, in addition to what strategies businesses should move towards implementing next.
Although there are many different KPIs, here are our top 5 picks of the most valuable KPIs in public relations:
1.) Media mentions
This is any time your brand’s message, name, or campaign is discussed in the press. This can be on television, in newspapers/magazines, in online publications, or even on interviews.
2.) Share of Voice (SOV)
According to Sprout Social, “SOV is a measure of the market your brand owns compared to your competitors. It acts as a gauge for your brand visibility and how much you dominate the conversation in your industry.”
Impressions can be defined as the number of times your content is displayed to the public. It’s also important to note that impressions will be counted whether or not they have been clicked.
Reach is the number of times your content is viewed through social media, your brand’s website, or other platforms online. Reach can also be defined as paid reach or organic reach. Paid reach would occur through any paid ads your brand is displaying, organic reach is any unpaid content your brand is distributing.
Engagement is all about your audience taking some form of action during or after viewing your content. This could be attributed to things like sign ups, blog visits, eBook downloads, or even newsletter subscriptions.
Being that KPIs are very dependent on what you are tracking performance on, we took to Twitter to find out what other important KPIs PR professionals should consider. Here’s what Allison Braley of Playground Global said:
Different things for different companies, but a few that I’ve used in the past:
– Traffic / app downloads timed to big press hits and/or referrer URLs
– Share of voice vs. competitors
– Sentiment analysis
– Message pull-through
Impressions are yesterday’s news.
— Allison Braley (@allisonbraley) December 9, 2020
Whether you are new to PR or a seasoned vet, make sure that you are constantly creating and altering KPIs from the start. Secure a benchmark, create reasonable goals, establish your specific numbers, and stay consistent within your PR efforts.
Click here to read our full article on the 5 key public relations KPIs.
8 Benefits of Using Social Media for Public Relations
No space has seen such rapid innovation and evolution as social media. Social media has drastically changed the landscape of public relations management. As a PR professional, understanding and utilizing the evolving social tools can help take your PR efforts to the next level. There are many areas where social media has shifted PR efforts.
Here are the four key changes to public relations induced by social media:
Additionally, it is clear that social media is affecting how PR pros communicate in today’s landscape. The top 4 ways of using social media for your public relations efforts include: utilizing influencer marketing, implementing ambassador programs, incorporating in press release strategies, and building relationships.
Although we only highlighted 4 ways of using social for PR, we’ve created a more extensive list that discusses 8 ways social media has changed PR and how to best implement it into your current strategy.
As you read this, the social media landscape continues to shift, change, and grow. As you understand and adapt to your audience, take a moment to see where you can implement these PR efforts on social media.
10 Ways Digital Media has Changed Public Relations
Dating back to the 1900s, public relations has been at the forefront of change. As a public relations professional today, it is important to understand the changes and innovations in the media and communications spaces. That said, knowing how public relations has evolved in the past is a valuable tool to sharpen your perspective to see where public relations is heading.
Before the digital media takeover, traditional print media dominated the avenues that public relations management teams could use to their advantage. This expansion of media channels brought the catch twenty-two of having numerous formats to reach audiences but also having to work against a more expressive and noisy landscape.
The top 5 ways digital media has changed public relations:
1.) More ways to reach out to audiences
2.) Analytics & statistics leading PR efforts
3.) More effective communication using print AND digital media together
4.) Around the clock engagement with your audience
5.) Everyone has a voice online
The public relations space has drastically changed with the rise of digital media and only continues to evolve. As social media and other digital avenues rise in popularity, PR professionals are tasked with the important job of understanding these changes and how to shift and adapt to the times.
How to Align Marketing and Public Relations to Boost Sales
Marketing and Public Relations, although vastly different, have quite the relationship. As more marketers are being tasked with building brand visibility through PR-like means, PR professionals are also being asked to turn to marketing tactics and practices to execute their jobs.
Since both have similar goals, it’s important to understand how both of these terms are defined.
According to the American Marketing Association:
“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”
On the other hand, PRSA defined public relations as this:
“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
While both are important on their own, they become their strongest when they are working as a seamless, effective unit. In order to do this, you need to define an overall strategy.
Here are 4 ways to align PR and Marketing to boost sales:
1.) Define your organizational goals
What is your organization currently focusing on and what do you have coming up?
2.) Know your target audience
Who would benefit most from your message and where will they be present?
3.) Align your brand messaging
What type of messaging will best resonate with what audience?
4.) Have a system in place for internal information exchanges
Who is responsible for what and what do you need to make processes function smoothly?
In order to find success, all teams need to be aligned. This proves to be especially true for marketing and public relations professionals. When these teams work together and align strategies and goals, there is a proven record of success.
You’ve made it to the end of our guide to public relations!
After making it all this way, pat yourself on the back for putting in the effort to have a greater understanding of public relations. We hope you use these tips to conquer your next press release, social media campaign, or whatever else the PR world throws your way.
Still, the world of PR is constantly changing. If you found this guide helpful, be sure to subscribe to our monthly newsletter to receive the latest news, updates, and content drops, from our latest episodes of the “Coffee with a Journalist” podcast to our PR guides and free pitch templates.