PR is one of those many marketing techniques that’s been around for decades, and despite this, not everyone understands what it actually is… other than those who make a living out of ‘PR-ing’ things.
According to its professional body the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, PR is a “… planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.” In a nutshell, it’s about spreading a positive message about a brand or person in a way that’s interesting to wider audiences.
This can include anything from partnering with a charitable organisation to support a specific cause, to a journalist writing a positive review about a product or service, or securing a TV spot to tell people about innovations in your business.
As well as the good, PR also embodies crisis communication, meaning that PR is often used to tackle and control reputation damage. For example, it is safe to assume that David Beckham’s PR team worked in overdrive as a respond to the recent leaked email scandal.
Forget about it!
In days gone by, the life of a ‘PR’ shared more than a few similarities with Absolutely Fabulous’ Edina and Patsy with endless lunches, wine, product launches, wine and parties (featuring wine).
In the UK, the London-centric ‘PR scene’ was largely understood to involve schmoozing with editorial power-brokers to build and maintain a web-like network of journalists (from the biggest publishing houses), who could be relied upon to regularly publish your client’s latest news in their title’s pages.
PR was a phenomenon in its early days as it offered a way for brands to essentially get free promotion from a wealth of trusted, relied upon sources in a way completely separate to advertising.
However, over time, increased brand and media proliferation, new audience tastes and the arrival of the Internet and explosion of social media completely transformed the landscape. Being recognised in half a page in the print edition of a tabloid or trade publication doesn’t have half of the audience clout it used to. Everything is immediate and opinion, or fact, can and does spreads like wildfire.
PR is now a constantly evolving art form and the key lies in its appeal, relevance, measurement and effectiveness.
PR-ing like a pro today
Though many traditional approaches are still practised by a large number of PR pros, many have transcended to accommodate new media models too.
Bloggers, Vloggers, Instagrammers and other online influencers are well regarded and widely acknowledged across audiences of different demographics, meaning PRs are more aware of, and tapping into an increasing breadth of influencers.
It’s this shift to working online PR – or ‘earned media’ as it is increasingly known as in the digital realm – which is one of the most revolutionary elements of the industry.
Traditionally, ROI would have been calculated through a means of ‘advertising equivalent value’, or AVE, which estimated what the comparative cost of a single PR piece would have been if it had been purchased as advertising space.
In addition to being extremely variable, often inflated and generally unreliable, AVE is almost impossible to calculate outside of mainstream media titles.
PR is now more closely fused with technology and shows the importance of digital analytics software – for example, how to measure success online.
Platforms such as Buzzsumo enable PR professionals to, not only source a wave of influencers, but also to assess their assets – such as the number of follows across social media platforms, the frequency which they post and their engagement rate. Combined with more sophisticated search tools and MOZ rankings (which determine the dominance of a website or single page), it is clearer to evaluate different titles and influencers to plan priority titles.
Can PR help my online reputation?
Yes. We recommend an objective evaluation of you or your company to establish what’s working well for you – and what you could be doing differently or more of to boost your online reputation.
Producing quality content, and enough of it, that also interests influencers and their audiences are all factors. If you aren’t it can hamper PRs effectiveness and could adversely affect your ROI. PR-ing your brand or business takes a lot of time and effort and so you’ll also need to assess your team’s time and resources to ensure its viable.
With a clear and thorough PR strategy in place, PR can be in an invaluable way for storytelling, selling, and sharing positive news and reviews to improve your reputation, in addition to boosting your company’s profile in Google search.
Combined with this, technology tools and a formal measurement process, PR will help communicate your brand’s relevance to a range of writers (both from traditional media and beyond), and the beauty of it all is that it can all impact your brand positively in an instant.
Online reputation management alone looks to boost your company’s profile across search engines and social media through a range of elements, such as SEO, content creation and managing conversations on social media. PR adds to this further by establishing links with wider influencers and by promoting you on websites which you don’t own, increasing your brand’s authority.
In addition to having a wealth of tools and established influencer relationships at their disposal, the benefit of working with PRs is their objective insight, not only to your business, but to understanding and tapping into wider media trends that help get you noticed at the right time by the right people. It’s these skills which are essential to getting yourself heard above a billion other voices pitching across the internet.