So, what is PR?
Public relations is a term most of us are familiar with. However, lots of people (and this includes PR people!) find it very difficult to define. This is probably because PR involves a lot of different activities. And, if you are going to do a really good job of PR, then you need to accept how it can influence many different aspects of your business.
However, the clue is in the name; public relations. Public relations is the art of making sure your business relates with the public in a way that makes it successful.
Let’s imagine you have a dedicated PR professional working for your business. If this person is just putting out press releases to the media that’s great, if they’re posting to social media as well then even better. However, this is not even half the job.
Their job is to advise and develop a strategy for how you relate to the public. Yes, this involves getting stories out to the media, but it should also involve everything from consulting on your branding, advising on tone of voice in your blogs and discussing what type of marquee you use at events, what kind of events you attend and how your staff answer the phone. A good PR person cares about everything, from where your business wants to be in 10 years to making sure you don’t have anything in your teeth during a TV interview.
Ask the big questions
Now, if you’re trying to do all of this yourself as a small business it might sound daunting. However, what you’ll soon realise is that many of the things a good PR person thinks about are not ‘extra’ to what you normally do. In fact, they are just part of running your business in an effective way. Even better, thinking about how your business relates to the public and how you communicate this is a great way of analysing the fine details and practicalities of how it will run.
Much of this comes down to the question of what you want your business to be and do. However, an even more important question is ‘Why?’.
Why are you running this business? Why do you care? If you can’t explain why you care about your business then it’s going to be tough to inspire your customers. Answering these questions is a vital starting point for PR.
Once you have the answers it will help you in myriad ways that go beyond just public relations. It will influence how you hire staff, how you treat them, how you treat your customers, who you think your customers are, how your branding looks and what kind of products you make.
Make a plan ...
Once you understand what your business wants to achieve you can begin to plan how public relations activities can help.
You’ll probably be able to come up with a detailed plan for the more immediate future (perhaps the next three months) and an increasingly broad plan for more distant events. It is good to think about everything from seasonal events, product launches, key appointments, big deals and anything else that might be on the horizon. The more structured your plan is the more effective it will be.
Put everything into a calendar and think about how you can promote it and when certain activities need to happen. Of course, you should constantly revisit your PR calendar to update it and keep on planning further and further into the future.
… but be ready to throw the plan out of the window!
Of course, if coronavirus has taught us anything, it’s that plans can and will change.
Global pandemics aside, we all know things are bound to happen in business which you didn’t expect. The trick is to be able to react quickly to them at the same time as achieving the aims of your PR plan. This applies to good things as well as bad things.
Your office is hit by a flash flood? Let your customers and the public know how you are going to keep on serving them, completing orders and being a great business. You suddenly land a massive contract? Be ready to shout about news and tell everyone how well you did.
PR doesn’t stand for press releases
So, we’ve already said that PR is about much more than just press releases. That’s not to say that press releases are unimportant - they are anything but! - but they are only one of many ways that you can relate to the public and your customers.
There are more ways than ever to communicate with people these days, from social media, to webinars, to podcasts, to live video chats on social media, newsletters, ‘traditional’ online and print media and (hopefully some time in the not too distant future) actual events and tradeshows.
Before deciding how you’re going to deliver your message you need to look at what it is you’re trying to say and how this fits in with your wider business strategy. If you want to attract people to your website to try to increase your newsletter subscribers then local press coverage might help build a bit of traffic, but you should also consider social media campaigns backed up with some really fantastic content. If you want to show what a fun brand you are by sharing a video of a staff member juggling and riding a unicycle then social media is probably your best bet. If you think you’ve got some really valuable advice to share with the local business community then consider running a webinar (backed up with a content, social media and traditional press campaign of course!).
It all comes back to being clear on what you want each activity to achieve and taking time to plan how it can have the greatest effect. In most cases you’ll most likely end up using a combination of lots of different methods.
Need help? Then get in touch
We know it’s a big ask to run your own business and manage your own PR at the same time. We can plan and implement a strategy to make sure you get your story straight and get your story heard. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how we can help.