What is PR and what does PR mean? Well, it stands for public relations, and if you’ve asked these questions, you might be new to the ball game. Perhaps you’re a small business owner looking to make a positive splash with local community members. Maybe you want to find the lines that separate public relations from marketing and understand how the two can work together. Wherever you find yourself in your business journey, keep reading below to discover the answers to common PR questions

What Is Public Relations?

Public relations is how you manage your relationship with the public. People working in public relations focus on how to change or maintain people’s perception of the brand or person. The PR practitioner’s goal is to make people aware of the brand and keep them talking about it, ideally in a positive light. 

What’s The Difference Between Public Relations And Marketing?

Marketing consists of the tools and processes used to reach, establish and maintain a customer base. This includes everything from social media management and email marketing to advertising in all its forms and even your website.. Public relations and advertising can be thought of as the legs of the marketing body.  

Public relations works to boost the reputation of your company. A PR team’s efforts aren’t designed to create more customers, but rather more people who know about your brand. A public relations campaign could result in 10,000 more people who know about and admire your company, but none of them make a purchase. Good PR campaign, bad sales conversions. 

For example, social media influencers, bloggers, reporters and those who carry weight in the eyes of the public might simply appreciate your company’s values, then bless your company with their approval. This increase in brand awareness boosts your credibility and increases your chances of generating more sales, votes or funding.

While the end goal may be more sales, partnerships, donations or votes, PR seeks to win over hearts and minds.

What’s The Difference Between PR And Advertising?

Advertising is like the annoying little brother you pay because he has no shame in walking up to every stranger in sight, handing them a flyer and delivering the promotional line. Public relations is the majestic older sister posing in the town plaza as a live art installation, making onlookers say “Oooh … Aaah.” 

Both generate brand awareness, but PR’s efforts tend to be more indirect, subtle and pleasant for the audience. Advertising in the real world is a bit more punchy, fleeting in memory and certainly not as cute as a younger brother handing out flyers. 

If a car salesman embodied a company, his PR efforts would consist of a nice outfit, a firm handshake, asking you about your day, saying hello at the grocery store and volunteering at the food bank on the weekends. When chatting with a friend later, you might say, “That car salesman is quite a nice fellow. I’ll probably check out his cars when I start shopping for a new one.”

That same car salesman’s advertising efforts would look as such: unexpectedly pulling out his business card at the grocery store, listing the prices and discounts offered at his car lot and assuring you that purchasing one of his cars is the best decision you’ll ever make. When a friend asks you about him, you might say, “He’s fine. He sells cars. I like the car I have right now.”

Advertising is a more direct approach to communicating your brand’s products and services. Public relations is the gradual development of a relationship with an audience.

There's more to PR than just talking to the media

Media relations is only one facet of public relations

What Are The Different Types Of PR?

There are several areas in which a PR professional might apply their skills to support its relationship with their audience. PRSuperstar mentions seven different types of PR

    1. Media relations

Instead of talking to the public directly via press conference, your organization could ask reporters, journalists, bloggers and influencers to do the talking for you. These media contacts look to deliver the most engaging content to their audiences, so it’s the PR practitioner’s role to develop a solid relationship with, and deliver compelling information to, the press.

    2. Community relations

For small businesses, it’s essential that you interact with the local community to form that positive bond. It might be harder to accomplish for franchised and enterprise companies, but each location can choose to make PR a priority in every city they serve. 

    3. Crisis communications

When disaster strikes a company, whether it be a leaked email, corporate scandal or environmental destruction, a public relations team needs to come to the rescue. This may look like admitting wrongdoing, apologizing and communicating action steps to correct the situation. It’s the crisis management team’s responsibility to have a plan in place, decide when to deliver these messages, in what format and who to tell. 

    4. Public affairs PR

Public affairs PR involves lobbying government officials, politicians and other policy makers to impact any form of legislation. In addition to forming relationships with these people and groups, a public affairs professional can also work with the media to get their messaging out and sway public opinion.

    5. Social media

PR practitioners have amazing opportunities to connect with millions of new audience members, media contacts and influencers through the use of social media communications. Any piece of news has a chance to go viral, whether it’s positive or negative. Company announcements, upcoming events, industry news and public apologies are all posted lightning fast and can go viral with the right components. 

    6. Employee or investor relations

Public relations doesn’t only have to interface with audiences outside of the company. It’s also very important to maintain adequate lines of communication with your staff and investors. An internal communications team can create newsletters, onboarding programs, surveys, events and more to support the overall well-being of company employees and investors to ensure they feel valued. See “examples of PR campaigns” below for insight into employee relations on LinkedIn new hire posts. 

    7. Strategic communications

A PR professional starts to focus on specific company objectives when they enter the realm of strategic communications. These professionals work hand-in-hand with marketing, advertising and sales teams toward “a strategic, business-driven purpose in mind,” according to Maryville University

What Are The Major PR Tools Used In Public Relations?

Publicists have an array of options at their disposal when it comes to reaching an audience and building their brand. 

  • Media Lists:

Instead of promoting their business themselves, they can ask media outlets, reporters and social media influencers to do the talking for them. PR practitioners should do their research and compile a list of subject-related contacts in a media list. 

There are also tools such as Cision and Meltwater you can subscribe to that give you access to every media outlet in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world and allow you to compile custom lists of journalists who write about the subject you want to get PR about. 

  • Media Pitches and Press Releases

Once they have a media list, public relations specialists can begin sending out succinct messages in the form of media pitches and press releases. Media pitches and press releases are both essential PR tools to connecting with appropriate media contacts who can speak on your behalf. 

For more examples of public relations documents that can help build your brand’s credibility, check out our full blog article

Research ways to become a skilled PR professional

There are plenty of resources online for PR skill building

How Do I Start Working In PR

If you want to find a public relations job, it would behoove you to get a degree in communications, marketing, writing or related area of study. If you already earned a degree in a different field or a four-year college is out of the question, community college or online classes are much more affordable and can provide an excellent foundation for your public relations career goals. 

Coursera and Udemy offer free or affordable classes on multiple aspects of the PR industry and necessary skills required to become a PR practitioner. These short courses are great for people who want to dip their toes in the public relations water and see if the field could be of interest to them. 

Although it will be more difficult, you can attempt to jump straight into a public relations internship or job without much prior experience. In this case, you’ll need to show  potential employers that you have a passion for writing, telling compelling stories and promoting an organization’s mission to a wider audience. If you haven’t already, start a writing practice in your spare time and be ready to provide a portfolio of samples to a recruiter or employer during your application. 

What Are Common Public Relations Job Titles?

If you’re asking this question, you’re either new to the field or you’re looking to hire your first PR practitioner. For the former scenario, you’ll want to look for positions that end in “entry-level,” “specialist,” “intern” or sometimes even “coordinator.” Since marketing and public relations tend to work in tandem toward a common goal, you might find marketing roles which include PR duties in the job description. Lastly, look for titles that include “communications,” “public affairs,” “fundraising,” and “social media,” as these roles are most always associated with public relations practitioners. For a more detailed list of common PR job titles, take a look at Indeed’s article

A young girl creates a social media video for a contest

Create social media contests to meet your PR campaign goals

What Is A PR Campaign?

According to Meltwater, a public relations campaign consists of “a series of planned activities designed to give a company or brand publicity.” Your campaign is built around a set of goals to be accomplished in a given timeframe. A brand’s PR campaign could be established to drive more engagement on social media, expand awareness of an upcoming holiday event or build admiration toward your brand’s values.

What Are Some Examples Of PR Campaigns?

When you see someone you don’t really know on LinkedIn posting how happy they are to join a new company, that might be part of that business’s PR efforts. And when you see multiple people posting about their new role with the same brand front and center (Looking at you, Google hires), that’s most definitely part of the company’s PR campaign. The campaign’s goal might be to appear like an enterprise that values each employee’s personal story, celebrates their accomplishments and isn’t just a bland tech giant made of robot-like software developers.

Other common examples of PR campaigns include:

  • Sending free products to social media influencers who hopefully post a thorough review of them
  • Alerting local reporters to your upcoming events
  • Photo contests on social media
  • Donating money, posts or time to charities for fundraising support (e.g. ALS Ice Bucket Challenge)

Check out wizikey’s list of the top 10 PR campaigns from last year for more examples.

Why Should I Create A PR Campaign For My Business?

As explained by Meltwater, “a PR campaign gives the audience a chance to learn more about the brand without marketing or sales pressure.” If you’re planning to use social media as part of your PR campaign, you can turn your marketing/promotional-oriented posts into more “infotainment” posts. Social media is already flooding a person’s phones with notifications and unwanted ads mid-scroll. A social media user will be relieved to learn about your brand or industry without the added pressure of a call to action. Ads can be useful at the right times, but surprise them with an entertaining PR campaign for a larger portion of your content. 

What Is A PR agency?

A public relations agency is an outside team you hire to complete PR-related projects for your company. Their services range from maintaining a blog, social media management, crisis management, election campaigns and more. While a large PR agency might be a decent match for an enterprise, small PR firms are generally better suited for small- to medium-sized businesses. Determine your organization’s public relations needs, then choose the best fitting PR agency. Check out our blog article about the top qualities of a stellar PR agency before you hire one. 

Do some research before choosing a PR agency

Learn about the pros and cons to hiring a PR agency or keeping it in-house

Should I Keep My PR In-House Or Hire A PR Agency

That depends on a few factors. Are you looking to hire a PR agency that can develop a deep understanding of your brand’s industry, focus entirely on your business and respond quickly to daily changes? If yes, you’ll probably want to keep a publicist or PR team in-house. If you’re seeking for a multi-dimensional team with unique skill sets, professionals that handle their own staffing changes and have established strong network connections in your industry, then outsourcing to a PR agency might be your best option. For a more detailed discussion of the pros and cons to hiring a PR agency, check out Three Girls Media’s full article here.

How Do I Find A Quality PR Agency? Set Up A Time To Chat With Three Girls Media

It’s important to find a team that can understand your brand’s voice and public relations goals. If you are looking to hire an agency, or are still unsure if it would be best for your organization, we offer a complimentary 30-minute, no-obligation consultation with our CEO, Erika Taylor Montgomery, to discuss your needs and chat about how we can help market your company. Contact us today to find out how we can accomplish your marketing and PR goals.

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