Think PR is only for when crushing headlines loom and damage limitation becomes the name of the game? If so, you’re really missing a trick.
In reality, subtlety, storytelling and the steady, strategic pursuit of brand engagement are the tools of the PR trade, and they’re skills every business – and certainly every charity – needs to adopt.
Crisis communications and issues management of course have a part to play in protecting and nurturing those all-important reputations, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg for most professionals. Day to day, the name of the game is relationship-building; between the brand and its audience and, to that end, between the brand and media.
Show me the value
The key to doing it well is telling the right story, at the right time, to the right people. The sticking point comes with establishing value. Historically the PR profession has been riddled with eyebrow-raising metrics – Advertising Value Equivalent, estimated audience figures, even simply the number of ‘clips’ achieved by a campaign. Ultimately, the only measure of success is whether PR is engaging the right people with your brand and encouraging them to take the next step in their customer journey.
Advertising is what you pay for, publicity is what you pray for
So, given that PR is about connecting your audience with your offering and giving them the information they need to decide what they think and feel about you, where does that leave it amidst its marketing and advertising bedfellows? The difference between PR and advertising is the implied third party endorsement that comes with being included in an editorial piece. And in a world where reviews and bad PR can tumble the mightiest brands, that’s not to be sniffed at.
How now PR cow?
First and foremost PR requires you to recognise that you and your brand aren’t operating in a vacuum. Being responsive to the news environment – reacting to issues relevant to your sector, positioning your brand as a subject matter expert or outlining the relevance of your product’s USP – is crucial to building credibility with journalists and giving your story legs.
The ability and willingness to be responsive is critical, but so is planning. PR has to be strategic.
- What do you want your customers to think and feel about your brand, and what actions do you want them to take?
Carve out your key messages.
- Who are your customers and where are they hiding?
Don’t pitch to the Sydney Morning Herald if your customer base reads Gardener’s World.
- Why should anyone care what you have to say?
Find your story – the story that’s likely to appeal to your market and isn’t just a vehicle for beautiful brand messaging.
There’s also a lot more to the process than a few clever words tacked together into a press release. That bit is essentially the meat in the sandwich – layered between an instinct for what about you is ‘newsworthy’ and whether it’s the right vehicle for your brand, and ultimately a great pitch to the right journalist.
At its crux, PR is the means by which brands manage how people think and feel about them. It’s less Spin City than popular myth would have people believe and, while it’s not rocket science, it is worth investing your time and money into getting it right.
So what’s it going to be, are you going to take charge of your brand narrative, or wait for someone else to do it for you?
To find out more about how PR can support your brand and extend your reach, drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.