An overview of Public Relations
Public Relations (PR) defined is the art or science of establishing and promoting a favorable relationship with the public. “Art” because it takes trained skills and finesse; “Science” because it requires a methodical, strategic and consistent plan of action that is proven to deliver success. Unlike advertising where publicity for a company or individual is paid for across select media, PR is unpaid publicity with an unmatched power to influence your target audience. Being a third-party endorsement of your business credentials, PR can have a huge impact on your brand reputation – but, it needs to be managed strategically.
Reputation is a result of perception
…hearing and seeing is believing
Image management or reputation management is really a case of managing perceptions. How your target audience (public) perceives your brand is what decides whether positive ties (relations) will emerge, grow and flourish. An airline may have a long-standing safety record with no major accidents in its history. And yet, bad food, discourteous service on board or even seemingly insignificant elements like poor sound quality of announcements can lead passengers to doubt the pilot’s skill or aircraft’s technical quality. Unreasonable perhaps, yet true; and not much anyone can do about it without good PR management!
Effective public relations, both offline, online and in combination with social media must follow a cyclical approach of:
- Research – Make an informed choice of which PR and social media channels are best suited to get your message across. Different stakeholders for your organization will frequent varied media based on their needs, interests and solution seeking efforts. Thorough research can help you decide on critical factors like timing, reach and forum / platform for interaction.
- Strategic Planning – This is the stage where you analyze your research to gauge audience motivations. Plan your PR messaging or work on an action plan of what to say, how to say it, when and where.
- Skilful Implementation – Any good PR exercise leverages a positive voice. This could be a leading news publication writing an article about your company, your CEO (or official spokesperson) being interviewed on TV or radio, a YouTube video of a happy customer offering a testimonial while demonstrating the use of your product, bloggers expressing their satisfaction (excitement?) about your service, and so on. No matter which one or combination of many voices it is, PR doesn’t just happen; it needs to be supervised. Of course, you can get lucky and a great PR piece may come out of nowhere; but if you let it go nowhere after that, you’ve lost an opportunity!
- Evaluation – You plan your PR strategy with specific goals and objectives in mind. So after each PR deliverable is complete, it makes sense to evaluate the effectiveness of your exercise in relationship building. Measurement – How far does your PR campaign take you towards achieving overall brand reputation enhancement? Even if you didn’t spend money to garner PR and social media publicity, account for your valuable time and resources. Measuring ROI with criteria like media touch points and outreach of positive messages helps determine what’s working and what’s not.
- Continuity – Sporadic or random PR exercises can only generate short-term and short lived publicity. Reputed brands are built on consistent and sustained PR initiatives.