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Guest Blog: What the heck is Public Relations (PR)?

By Helen Dugdale.
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“There Is Only One Thing In The World Worse Than Being Talked About, And That Is Not Being Talked About." said Oscar Wilde

Sidle up to almost anyone in the street and pose the question “What is Public Relations (PR)?” and you’ll probably get an amalgamation of it’s “The rubbish that fills up the papers”. “The lies that politicians tell us”, or a dismissive wave of a hand and a “isn’t’ it something to do with advertising?” Even though it’s a crucial business tool for telling the world (or rather your target audience|) about your business or service, Public Relations can still be a bit of a Bermuda Triangle. But it doesn’t need to be.

Let’s start from the very first day at PR school.

Public Relations is the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.

It’s about building awareness and credibility for your company, product, brand or service and it’s a vital for entrepreneurs, businesses and brands.

I’ve broken the different sections down into three very simple (and rememberable) chunks:

The Awareness part is created by sharing company news or information through press releases, blogs and social media to the main influencers in your sector, (e.g., journalists, reporters and bloggers). These news stories will then reach customers, potential employees or investors, and anyone else who needs to know about you.

Credibility is built when the reporter or blogger writes about you in the magazine, newspaper, or online. Because they are an objective third party reviewing and commenting on your product or service. Unlike an advertisement you’ve placed. An article written about you is seen as endorsement from someone else, and so less self-promotional and self-congratulatory. Imagine or think back to the excitement of having an interview? Preparing your interview techniques, honing your key messages and practicing over and over. Then on publication day you rush to pick up the publication and hurriedly flicking through the pages until you find your name. Or you scan the website until your face appears and you can read what’s been said about you. It’s a real buzz.

The result is that after reading the stories and articles, people take action by going to your website where they make an informed decision about you themselves and then go on to order your product, use your service or even apply for a job!

Getting any clearer?

PR is one of the most fundamental and arguably most effective marketing tools with which to raise awareness of who you are and what you do,

The key benefits of PR are:

It can be precisely targeted to niche market segments.

It is flexible, pragmatic, cost effective and a proven method of building awareness and sales volume.

It works to build quality relationships with the target customers over a period of time.

Let’s get back to the basic PR Tools you can use:

There are different methods at hand to help you get your story out there:

Press releases

Short (approx. 400-600 words) purely factual pieces, distributed across several targeted publications. Wherever possible they are accompanied by an illustrative photograph. Suitable subjects for press releases include contract wins, new appointments, new product or service launches. The press release should be typed using double-lined spacing and have the date and your contact details clearly displayed. Two pages max, one page is even better.

Features

These tend to be longer than press releases (typically 500-1,000 words) and generally cover issues or offer advice. Features are normally created bespoke for opportunities with specific media outlets. Many publications publish intended feature lists (or forward features list) in advance, inviting contributions on certain issues or subjects. Check the magazines websites or media packs (which are usually available on the websites) for feature lists.

Press launch events

If you’re launching a new product or service then it might be worth putting together a press launch event. This is where you basically invite journalists, bloggers and key influencers to an event and you show/demonstrate your product or service so they can get a clearer understanding of what you exactly do. Bear in mind, that journalists are usually very busy with pressure from deadlines and other stories. If you’re considering holding a launch event be clear on exactly what you want to tell the media and be well prepared in advance. Press launches are usually best saved for BIG juicy stories.

Media database

Is what it says, a list of people who you want to contact, you want to send your stories and news to and you want to attract their attention. It can be a database or just a simple spreadsheet/word document with names, job title, email and contact number. Media contacts are the crux of any public relations strategy, love them and they’ll love you back.

So, what will you say next time someone asks you “What is PR?”…

Next time on the blog how to write a killer media pitch to get your stories in the places you really want them and why building relationship with industry journalists is more important than your morning coffee.

Helen Dugdale is MD of Scribble, a friendly PR and writing agency that loves to work with creative entrepreneurs, family orientated businesses and food and drink brands. www.scribbleaway.com (fancy new website coming soon!)

Advertising is what we pay for, PR is what we pray for