What the heck is PR?
I bet if you asked 20 people in the street what PR is, you’ll get 20 different answers. Actually, no, scratch that. You’d probably get variations of the one answer that goes something like this:
“PR is about getting your name in the press.”
Not true, and it’s why so few marketers, business leaders and entrepreneurs really get true value from their public relations efforts.
How can you get full value from something if you devalue it?
Yes folks. PR people spend most of their time trying to get the name of their client (or employer if they operate in-house for an organisation) into newspapers or magazines, or on radio or television.
Only … they don’t.
In 2011-12, the Public Relations Society of America set out to modernise the definition of public relations, so they initiated and led a crowdsourcing campaign and accompanying public vote that produced the following:
“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
Truth be told, it wasn’t all that different from previous theoretical PR definitions. While it’s accurate – that is what PR is all about – it’s still very academic sounding.
If asked to provide a succinct definition of PR, I tend to run with this:
Public relations is about deepening the level of connection an entity (company, individual or organisation) has with the people who matter most to the success of their business, cause or issue.
These people could be your clients or customers, industry influencers such as analysts, bloggers, power tweeters, thought leaders and subject matter experts, or journalists and broadcast media producers.
Or, they may be local councillors, government or business leaders, or members of a community group or industry body if they’re somehow integral to the successful running of your business or organisation.
But perhaps a more accurate and encompassing overview of the discipline is this –
- build RECOGNITION for your brand
- increase RELEVANCE & RESONANCE with your audience
- establish and enhance your REPUTATION, and
- develop and grow positive RELATIONSHIPS with the people who matter most to the success of your business, cause or issue.
Tactics used to achieve these outcomes are many and varied, and cover the full gamut of online and offline channels, including:
- owned media (those channels you own and control),
- social media (channels you don’t own, but you have control over the content you publish on them i.e. Twitter)
- earned media (which is where media relations sits),
- collaborations (e.g. community partnerships), and
- good old face-to-face activity such as roundtables, coffee catch-ups with key influencers (you could lump this under earned media if you like)
- paid media (yep, PR people are more and more leveraging paid channels to extend the reach of their brand message, but I contend that once any ads get into ‘sales territory’, this is not PR’s strength and should be undertaken by marketers).
So next time someone tells you PR is all about getting your name in the press, or spinning the message and distorting the truth, please feel free to set the record straight 🙂