Five Things Everyone Should Know About Public Relations

Five Things Everyone Should Know About Public Relations

  1.  What is public relations?

PR is the Persuasion Business.  You are trying to convince an audience, inside your building or town, and outside your usual sphere of influence, to promote your idea, purchase your product, support your position, or recognize your accomplishments. Here’s what the Public Relations Society of America PRSA agreed upon after a few thousand submissions:  “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

2. How is public relations different than advertising?

It’s Unpaid vs. Paid. Earned vs. Purchased. Credible vs. skeptical.  Public relations tastes great, advertising is less filling.

There’s an old saying: “Advertising is what you pay for, publicity is what you pray for.”

3.What is news?

Before hiring a PR firm or starting your own campaign, it’s important to understand the nature of news. There are only two ways to make news:  1) Create a story or 2) Follow a story.

This is of vital importance to anyone who wants to understand, execute and exploit the power of public relations. Before answering your client or boss who orders you to “Get me on the front page of the New York Times!”  Getting a story in a publication because you want it there, or your boss demands it, doesn’t matter. Remember, journalists, speakers, bloggers and other influencers are not stenographers.  They will ask “What’s in it for Me and my audience?”  In other words, pretend you are on the receiving end. Answer this: What’s the story? Why should I care? Why should I care NOW?

Here is more criteria to consider:  Is it new?  Is it unusual? Is there a human interest angle?  Here are the two ways to make news.

4.  Can social media replace traditional media? 

No.

There’s a growing perception that blog posts or Tweets, if enough people see them, are just as good as quotes in the New York Times.  Don’t be fooled by the hype. Social media can augment PR efforts and serve as an amplifier. Greg Galant, the CEO of the website Muckrack that connects PR practitioners to journalists, offers advice on for digital outreach.

5. Can you measure PR?

Probably.

But it’s not an exact science. There are many people and firms who have created many models, spreadsheets, and estimates. And let’s be clear. They are all estimates. Some are much better than others. This is easily the most emotionally charged subject in the PR industry.

Many professionals swear by the Barcelona Principles.  These are seven voluntary guidelines established by professionals in the industry to measure the value of PR campaigns. The first principles were established in 2010 when practitioners from 33 countries met in Lisbon, Portugal. Just kidding, it was Barcelona. We will be examining this in more detail, including an interview with the author, in a future column. Measuring and judging and calculating the seven principles can be complicated, time consuming and costly, and this may involve hiring an outside firm, but it’s a noble effort and it’s worth further study.  The principles were recently updated in 2015.

I don’t agree with their rejection of advertising equivalency for three reasons: user experience, buyer experience and the free market. User experience: Ads and editorial are seen at the same time, you cannot divorce one from the other. Buyer experience: businesses make the decision every day to spend their marketing funds on PR or advertising. It’s a choice grounded in reality. Free market: tens of billions of dollars are spent on TV, internet and print advertising every year. It’s a huge business that tries to communicate many of the same messages of PR, albeit in a different way.

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