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April 14, 2020 (Updated: February 9, 2023)
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The goal of any public company is to project a favorable public image while generating interest in the product or service they offer, engaging new audiences and connecting with consumers. Awareness can be generated through positive and negative influences. The messaging of a company must remain consistently positive in order to build trust and credibility. Positive PR also helps the company to grow, and succeed. Whether the messaging is delivered via social media, press conferences, interviews, or community outreach, companies must employ professionals to get this messaging out to the public. These professionals are known as public relations personnel and they have many roles within several specializations.
Public relations, or PR, is the strategic range of activities and communication efforts related to managing public perception of an individual, organization, or topic. Public relations activities may include statements, articles, and other forms of marketing communications that provide information without asking for payment of any kind. Instead of seeking payment, the focus of PR activities is controlling the narrative about an organization or individual to project their image in the best possible way.
PR differentiates itself from advertising by generating free publicity for clients in lieu of paid marketing efforts, but advertising and marketing do fall under the overarching public relations collective. For example, a PR action can involve creating a feature article about a client for a trusted publication instead of paying money for an advertisement in the same publication.
Success as a public relations professional demands a profound understanding of a company’s or client’s best interests and concerns and the ability to build relationships with the public. The PR professional must deftly and effectively address these concerns by making publicity work in the company’s favor. The tools that they use to do so can include the following:
Public relations aims to project the best possible image of an organization or individual in the eyes of the public, including potential investors, future or current customers, market partners, employees, and stakeholders. This is different from marketing and advertising in that PR is not aiming to sell a product or service and is instead creating relationships, building trust, and using existing information to give the company as a whole a better public image. A good public relations team is essential not only in times of controversy but also on a daily basis to protect and enhance the company’s public image.
Some of the key functions of public relations include:
Public relations professionals are essential in times of crisis. In the wake of a public blunder, natural disaster, or nasty rumor, even the most loyal customer could begin to feel doubtful about their favorite brand if the unfolding events are not controlled. To combat misinformation, mitigate damage, and manage public awareness, the PR professional closely monitors and controls the narrative surrounding their client. The actions the PR team takes to accomplish this can vary depending on the level of severity of potential damage.
Competition in today’s market is heavily reliant on both publicity and quality. Part of effective branding is creating packaging and images that consumers identify with and recognize. Offering quality products and services to the customer is a huge part of a brand, but socially engaging with them is more likely to ensure that the brand is the first that comes to mind when considering future similar needs. PR professionals construct campaigns to ensure that brands are widely recognizable and synonymous with the quality, authority, and reliability that consumers seek.
Since engagement is one of the most important parts of branding, PR teams work with marketing teams to create engaging social media accounts. Social networking allows public relations professionals to reach and engage with customers using contests, videos, interactive posts on social media, such as polls, downloadable content such as infographics or whitepapers, and more. These interactive elements can substantially increase the brand’s online reach, especially when combined with other marketing efforts.
While there are clear distinctions between marketing and public relations, social media has blurred the lines between the two. In fact, the smaller a company is, the more overlap there tends to be.
Traditionally, public relations is about maintaining the public image of a company or person, whereas marketing is about promoting and selling products and services. Though people in both marketing and PR may employ many of the same tactics, such as running advertising campaigns and managing a company’s messaging, their goals are different. The goal of PR is to boost a brand’s reputation, while marketing’s goal is to drive sales.
For best results though, marketing and public relations should work in tandem. After all, people are more likely to buy from brands they know, like, and trust. Someone who connects with your brand is far more likely to become a customer.
Public relations can be organized into three main types: earned, owned, and paid media. While each approach to public relations works toward the goal of building a positive brand reputation, they use different strategies to accomplish that. That said, because each of the three types uses different methods for engaging and building trust with your audience, you should include all three within your PR campaign:
Earned media is the hardest type of media to obtain, which is why it’s called “earned.” This type of media is essentially word-of-mouth. It often involves encouraging people to talk about your business online and includes things like:
Earned media is extremely effective at boosting conversions around your brand, as potential customers will generally listen to the word of others over any marketing messages. However, it does take consistency and hard work to earn.
Owned media refers to any content that your business creates and, because you have total control over it, it’s the first type of media that any PR campaign should focus on. On many occasions, when people are talking about your brand online—earned media—they will reference your owned media. Some examples of owned media include:
Paid media is exactly what it sounds like: when you pay to promote your content—your owned media—in order to help people find it more easily. Promoting owned media is a standard practice in PR and includes activities like:
Here is a look at some public relations strategies you may want to consider employing for your own organization:
Research is essential for any PR campaign. First, you must research to fully understand your audience. Chances are that your products or services appeal to more than one audience and by segmenting them and learning all you can about them, you can create content they are more likely to enjoy and you can more effectively target them with ads.
Secondly, you should research PR campaigns. Look at the strategies your competitors are using as well as other companies you would like to take inspiration from.
Ultimately, public relations is about sharing the right kind of information in the right places and with the right people. Doing this can help to build your brand and your company’s reputation. Great content should have elements of curiosity, relevancy, urgency, value, and emotion. Understand your audience and the things that resonate with them, the language they use, and the things they like and don’t like. By taking the time to understand your audience and using that information to create compelling content, you will increase the impact it has and the likelihood that your readers will share it with others.
The best way to earn credibility among your target audience is to collaborate with influencers who can share with others why they appreciate your product or service. Thanks to platforms like Facebook and Instagram, brands can collaborate with influencers more easily than ever before. You may also want to consider collaborating with a popular blogger. There are many self-publishers who carry enormous clout with niche audiences and online publishers who have a large email list and far reach.
Consumers scrutinize brands. Use this to your advantage, though, by embedding your core values into your company culture. As you’re creating content for your public relations campaign, take the time to establish your “why.” If your company has a purpose beyond just being profitable, you can strongly appeal to the public.
While a mass press release can create some buzz, depending on the announcement, in most cases it isn’t going to land you a national headline. Instead of spending your resources for a third-party press release website, try to find a newsworthy angle for how you can tell your brand story. Once you’ve identified what that is, offer a local media outlet exclusive access to your story.
Companies realize that they need to be clever if they want to capture the attention of their audiences, as consumers choose what content they engage with. It’s important that brands understand what drives engagement among their target audience. When you are deciding on the type of ad you want to create for your campaign, consider how you can create a better experience for consumers and relate to them by telling a relevant story.
Few things have more impact on your company and its reputation than a customer who is singing your praises. Collect customer testimonials and case studies and feature them on your website, blog, and social media networks. You can include snippets of testimonials in your marketing materials as well.
A strategy is a plan or a series of maneuvers you use to reach the ultimate goal of your PR campaign. For example, if your goal is to increase public awareness for the social responsibility efforts that your company is taking, your strategy is the path you’re taking to reach that goal. Tactics, on the other hand, are the actions you take within that strategy.
While you can measure both strategy and tactics, one primary difference between the two is that tactics can change while your PR strategy might not.
As an example, you may decide that you want to use storytelling to humanize your brand and tell your company’s story. While you may initially start by sharing behind-the-scenes photos of your staff on Facebook and Instagram, you may decide that a drip-email campaign that gives value while telling your story is a more effective strategy to get your audience to take the action you want.
Here are different PR tactics to try for your next campaign:
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth far more. Instead of a traditional press release, consider grabbing a journalist’s attention by including compelling videos along with your press release. This will help the recipient better understand the contents of your press release without having to read the full story.
A drip marketing campaign is where you send marketing information to people on your email list repeatedly over a longer period of time to move them through a marketing funnel or encourage them to take action.
For this type of campaign, use an attention-grabbing headline and keep the emails themselves short and to the point. Make sure that each email includes a call to action.
Consider writing short articles for publications you know your audience frequently reads. Many publications appreciate contributors who can offer value to their readers. Reach out to publications and find out whether they’re open to contributed content. Most publications post this information on their sites, although you may able to find the editor’s contact information online and ask or pitch them directly. Pay particular attention to any guidelines for content. For example, the publication may allow outbound links but only in the byline at the end.
Many press releases fall short because they simply aren’t newsworthy. If you want to get the media to write about something your company is doing, you need to have a news hook. For example, you could honor someone in your community with a special award or hold a special event in honor of a milestone for your business. Have a brainstorming session with your team to find something that will make a good hook for the business.
Networking is a highly effective and often under-utilized PR tactic. Who is better to tell your story than you or others in your company? Set a basic rule that you will connect with someone new once a week, whether it’s face-to-face at a networking event, on LinkedIn, or somewhere else.
If you’re meeting someone in person, exchange cards so you can follow up with them and possibly refer business their way. If you’re meeting online, join in on conversations and contribute value as much as possible. Ultimately, this tactic is one that doesn’t have to cost you more than your time.
Look for national news stories where you can add valuable insight. Use a website like Help a Reporter Out to get in contact with journalists who may be looking for interesting angles on popular topics.
Even if you don’t want to send a video with your press release, you should always take great, high-resolution photos to send along with your press release. This will help give the story context and emotion, and it demonstrates your angle.
Every industry has its own publications. Start by subscribing to the top publications in your industry and staying up-to-date on the news and innovations for your industry. Another strategy is just to monitor industry sites online in order to learn about any innovations in the industry. By monitoring publications and industry websites you’ll know who writes about your industry and the topics they primarily focus on. This information will be invaluable when you are launching a PR campaign and want to reach out with a journalist with an exclusive story.
Podcasting is a fast-growing and popular medium for reaching targeted audiences. Identify the podcasts your target market is listening to and when you’re ready to launch your PR campaign, reach out to some of those podcasters with your story and angle. Once you are a guest on one popular podcast, you will be able to reach a large, possibly new, audience all at one time and for little or no cost to your organization.
Ultimately, the point of public relations is to create a connection between your brand and your target audience, building trust. Creating how-to content that helps them solve a problem or improve something in their lives can help them build trust in what you have to say and create loyalty towards your brand.
Consider creating an article on your website that explains how to do something. Answer all of the potential questions that you think someone might have about that topic. These guides are often referred to as 10X posts.
Here are some examples of great strategies that companies have successfully used and why they’re successful:
In order to capitalize on the excitement of the soon-to-be-released Jurassic World 2 movie and celebrate the 25th anniversary of Jurassic Park, NowTV created a giant statute of Jeff Goldblum directly in front of the Tower Bridge in London. The exhibit attracted a lot of visitors during the time it was up and NowTV ensured maximum interest and buzz by only leaving it up for a short period of time. By doing something so visible and bold, they introduced a lot of new people to the brand.
Image via Ad Week
Deliveroo capitalized on the popularity of the Friends franchise by creating Rachel’s “meat trifle” and making it available through its pop-up shop for a limited time. The concoction combined ladyfingers, jam, custard, raspberries, beef sauteed with peas and onion, bananas, and whipped cream. The buzz generated by the popularity of the show and that episode, in particular, earned Deliveroo plenty of online mentions and drove business to the pop-up shop.
In 2016 Cadbury launched its Creme Egg Cafe, giving customers a sensory experience as well as creating buzz around the brand. The cafe consisted of three floors of chocolate experiences, including a ball pit, cake, and menu of creme egg soldiers. Only available from January to March, the pop-up created so much buzz and was so popular that the company repeated the PR stunt in 2017 and 2018.
A PR strategy can help you organize all of your public relations activities and decide the best way to communicate with your target audience. Here are the basic steps you should take to develop a strong public relations strategy:
Outline the goals and objectives for what you want to accomplish with your PR campaign. For example, are you launching a new product or service and using a PR campaign to bring awareness to it? Or are you trying to position your product as a leader in its category?
Whatever goals you set for your business, make sure that they’re SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.
Your target audience refers to the people, groups, and communities you’re trying to attract and sell to. In order to accomplish this, you need to identify exactly who they are and who the decision-makers are. Research their behaviors, including the social media platforms they spend time on and publications they read. Identify the products that they like to use. By identifying exactly who your target is and learning all you can about them, you can tailor your communication style to their behaviors and increase your ability to reach and connect to them.
Key messages are the core messages you want to communicate to your target audience. This is an important component of your total PR strategy because it will shape the content that you create. To be most effective, your messages should be believable, credible, distinctive, and succinct. Your key messages should also support your primary objective.
Tactics are the specific public relations activities you’re going to use to achieve your goals. For example, writing and distributing a press release is a tactic. Reaching out to journalists and getting media mentions is another tactic. Other tactics include:
When evaluating what tactics you should focus on, it’s best to start with where you know that your target audience spends their time online.
Create a timeline for your campaign, including deadlines for when each of your tactics should be completed. A detailed time frame will help you organize your workload and keep your entire campaign moving forward in a timely manner.
Measurable objectives are essential for a PR campaign. With good objectives, you know what strategies and tactics that can help you achieve your goals. Without a specific destination, there is no way to know where you will end up.
Here are some basic steps you can take to write good PR objectives:
The first thing you should determine is what your ultimate goal is for the campaign. For example, do you want to create more brand awareness? Do you want to improve your brand’s reputation in the community? The three broad goals for PR are the management of reputation, relationships, and tasks. For example, your brand could be aimed at enhancing your brand image, creating or improving relationships, or accomplishing a specific task like increasing public support.
Your objective should be measurable and focused on specific numerical tactics. By adding specific metrics you want to achieve, you will know if your campaign was successful. For example, you may be able to measure the number of online mentions or evaluate the percentage by which your website traffic spiked or increased.
There should be a time frame for your objective. By setting an end date for your campaign, you will be able to stop and assess whether the campaign was successful. If your campaign is open-ended, your campaign can technically go on indefinitely. This can get in the way of achieving your goals and create budgeting problems long-term.
There are a number of key performance indicators (KPIs) that you should track to monitor the effectiveness of your company’s public relations efforts, including:
A backlink is the link that is created when one website links to another. These links are also referred to as inbound links and are something Google looks at when deciding how to rank your website. Backlinks are also important as a public relations KPI.
By monitoring your backlinks, you can find out where your brand has been mentioned and in what context. When other sites mention your brand online and link to your company, it’s easy for readers to follow the link through to your website. You can track these links and reach out to the website owner to thank them for the mention.
Not all mentions will involve a backlink, which is why it’s important to monitor the internet for mentions of your brand online. Monitoring for brand mentions on social media, in reviews, and blogs can help you assess whether a PR campaign is working effectively and generating additional buzz.
Measuring conversions from PR can be challenging, although not impossible. Some methods for accomplishing this include surveying your customers after they make a purchase to find out how they heard about you or by using Google Analytics to find out what first brought them to your website.
Domain authority is a measure of how well a website performs in the search engine results pages (SERPs). This score, which goes from one to 100, was developed by Moz and is an easy way to compare your own website to that of your competitors. The higher your domain authority is, the better your site will rank in the SERPs.
Domain authority is calculated based on backlinks, links from your site to other websites, and the age of your site. You can use your domain authority as a KPI to evaluate the effectiveness of your PR campaign and links that you are accumulating as a result of your efforts.
If you see a spike in traffic, it’s a good indicator that people are learning about your brand through paid and earned media. Use Google Analytics to track website traffic before and after you release a new press release to see if you see a sudden increase in traffic and determine which media channels are most effective for driving traffic to your site. By identifying the most effective referral sources, you can better replicate—and improve upon—your results in the future.
Social media engagement refers to activities such as likes, views, shares (of your social media content), impressions, and comments. You can monitor your social media engagement in the analytics section of the social media platform you’re monitoring. Tracking these metrics will tell you when your audience is most active, which in turn will tell you when you should be posting. It will also help you better understand the type of content that your audience likes engaging with on social media.
Social shares aren’t the same thing as social media mentions and engagement. Social shares specifically refer to when content from your website or blog (if the two are housed in separate locations) others share to social media networks. Social shares are a critical metric, as you can see which of your owned media types is most effective and best resonates with your audience. This makes it easier for you to create more of what your audience wants. It’s also a clear measure of your brand’s reputation.
There are a number of tools that you can use for your PR campaigns in order to improve your performance and help you measure the impact that you’re having:
This tool is designed to help you monitor any mentions of your brand online. This can help you evaluate whether there is an increase in mentions after you launch your campaign. It can also help you monitor the overall response that your campaign is having among your target audience.
This paid tool allows you to collect any coverage related to your PR content. It’s particularly useful for agencies who are creating reports for clients.
HARO stands for help a reporter out. The service is designed to connect journalists and bloggers with sources to help them meet deadlines. It gives brands a chance to get into the media by connecting with journalists who are writing on topics related to their industry.
Mention is another social media monitoring tool. It allows you to track any brand mentions on social media and public from the tool to your social media sites.
This is a free tool that you can use to monitor who has linked to your site. It’s valuable not only for monitoring purposes but also for disavowing bad backlinks that could impact your domain authority.
If you want to monitor Twitter for brand mentions, TweetDeck is a good option. The tool is free and allows you to create different streams to track keywords, trends, or specific accounts.
Here is a template for a PR plan you can use within your own business:
|PR Strategy Template|
|Date||Story||Brand Element||Target Audience||Key Messages||Channel||Media Outlet||Frequency||Story Type||Contact|
Here is a more in-depth example of what a PR strategy could look like using the template above:
Date: March 3, 2020
ABC Media is turning 25 and plans to hold a celebration recognizing the leadership and the impact the company has had on the community over the last 25 years. The company will also be taking a look back at how the community has changed over 25 years in its on-site presentation.
The purpose of this campaign is to maintain a positive brand image within the community. This event will focus specifically on the impact ABC has had on the community over its 25 years.
The target audience for this campaign is people between the ages of 40 and 55 in the local community, particularly those who work for or own small businesses who would use ABC Media’s marketing services.
The key message that ABC Media is delivering with this campaign is that the organization has had a significant, positive impact on the community. It has helped support and grow other local businesses, supported nonprofits, community organizations, and schools locally, and supported the local economy by providing jobs for community members. Some of the key messages are:
ABC Media will promote this event in the local newspaper and local news stations. We will also reach out to local influencers in our key demographic, including key companies who share the same audience, to let them know about the event and invite them to attend. We also will promote on our own blog, website, and social media networks.
We will reach out to the local news stations and local influencers, including:
Send a video along with a press release.
Adam Myers at Dallas Times
Public relations strategies are powerful and it’s important for companies to use them regularly to humanize their brand, gain trust with consumers, and generate more awareness among the organization’s target audience.
The best PR strategy is one that works hand-in-hand with marketing. By encouraging your PR associates and marketing team to work together, you can streamline your company’s overall outreach efforts. For example, by timing a public relations campaign at the same time as a new product launch, your marketing team can use the buzz to generate leads or increase the number of sales for the product with a special promotion.
Regardless of the strategy you choose, you can maximize on the efforts of your public relations and marketing teams by maintaining open and transparent communication among public relations, marketing, and sales. Use the steps above to create a powerful public relations campaign for your own organization.