The concept of public relations (PR) confuses most people in business.
Heck, even some PR pros struggle to articulate what it is they do and the value they bring to a company or organisation!
Many marketers too fail to grasp the full breadth of today’s public relations; as a result, they are missing out on many of the benefits PR brings to the marketing table.
Therefore, what hope do entrepreneurs and business leaders have in fully understanding the PR function, its nuances and where it differs from marketing, and critically, the immense value it can provide an organisation if executed with passion, purpose and strategic intent over the long term?
In my experience, business people tend to confine their view of PR to a couple of functions:
(a) generating media coverage for a brand (“getting ink”), and
(b) spinning the message to limit damage done to a company or organisation when an issue blows up and for whatever reason they’re the subject of public outcry.
Of course, PR practitioners do specialise in generating media publicity for their company, or their clients’ brands – and yes, PR people are generally front and centre when the shit hits the fan and an issue blows up, potentially threatening the reputation of a business or organisation.
But this is just the tip of the PR ‘iceberg’!
You can largely thank the media for these misconceptions
Add into the mix the media, and how it consistently fuels misconceptions of PR.
Generally the only PR people journalists and producers come into contact with tend to either be pitching story ideas or interview opportunities, or running interference when an organisation is trying to dampen some negative news.
So naturally, this shapes their perception of the public relations industry and how they portray the role of PR in their editorial content.
And let’s not get started on Hollywood’s depiction of PR people!
So, it’s not too difficult to see how PR has been grossly misrepresented in business and media circles, and this misconception continues to feed upon itself.
Now, the good news!
This wide misunderstanding of public relations spells OPPORTUNITY for savvy business owners who take the time to understand the PR function and how it can help their brand dominate the marketplace.
If they take action on an ongoing basis, their business is going to be all the better for it!
Let’s strip things back: What is PR?
If you put a gun to my head (metaphorically speaking) … I’d define PR thus:
“PR is all about deepening the level of connection an entity has with the people who matter most to the success of their business (or cause or issue, if that’s your end game).”
Which, of course, begs the question: Who are the people who are important to the success of your business, and how are you building relevance and connection with them?
BUT LET’S GO A CUT DEEPER …
Sitting at the heart of what PR sets out to achieve are (strategic) RELATIONSHIPS – remember, PR stands for public relations – this ticks off the critically important ‘deepening the level of connection’ aspect of PR.
But, snuggled alongside ‘relationships’ is REPUTATION. Whether it’s your personal brand reputation, or the reputation of your business, social venture or nonprofit organisation – if you do not have a strong and trusted reputation today, then you are seriously playing ’catch-up footy’.
Having a trusted reputation is mission-critical in today’s noisy, digital-first commercial environment, and this is where a strategic PR comes into its own.
Relationships + Reputation = Results
Developing relationships with desired audiences, along with carving out a rock-solid reputation in your industry or community – these are key contributors to creating results in business.
In order to do business with you, people need to know, trust and respect your brand or, in the case of a small business, you personally. If people are talking positively about your business in the marketplace, even better!
Relationships are key to reputation, and reputation is critical in helping you reach your business goals, whether that be more leads and sales, shortening of customers’ path to purchase, developing partnership opportunities, generating investor interest, or attracting and retaining talent.
We’re talking cornerstone activity here. But it’s not set and forget!
For sustained results, REACH out to new audiences
QUESTION: How can we continue to forge relationships as well as build our reputation with growing numbers of people?
ANSWER: By continuing to reach and engage with new audiences in a respectful and sustainable way, with a focus on attracting attention for all the right reasons, by …
- delivering value through multimedia content
- telling interesting stories,
- provoking thought,
- sparking conversation,
- engaging in public discussions on relevant hot topic issues
- facilitating debates and educational forums
- shining the spotlight on others in your network or community
.. with a view to exposing your stories, ideas and product/service offering (your brand) to new prospective clients and influencers, thus growing your audience, and then deepening the level of connection you have with that audience.
Over time, if you can bring people to your website and/or owned media properties and encourage them to opt in to your email list so you can continue to communicate with them, then you’re building an asset that will pay dividends for your business over the long term.
AT THE VERY LEAST, THE KEY IS TO ENSURE THAT YOUR PERSONAL OR BUSINESS BRAND CONTINUES TO BECOME WELL-KNOWN, LIKED AND RESPECTED IN THE MARKETPLACE, AS WELL AS TOP-OF-MIND WITH YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE, AND TALKED ABOUT BY PEOPLE IN A POSITIVE WAY.
This is what you should be striving for as a business owner and leader – and it’s public relations – implemented intentionally with enthusiasm and authenticity – that’s going to get you there!