What is Public Relations? What is the role of Public Relations? How is Public Relations different than advertising? What PR means? These all are search phrases people use to get an understanding of what Public Relations is. Some are looking for jobs in Public Relations. Others are looking to hire a firm. I am starting a PR firm and was researching how blogs, companies, and organizations describe and explain what a PR firm does. Most of what I’ve read is full of jargon and industry words where unless you have prior experience dealing with a PR firm sounds like a different language. So, I’m taking the opportunity to explain what Public Relations is in a publicly relatable way.
First things first, let’s outline the difference between Public Relations and Advertisement. There are two ways to relay information to someone:
Public Relations is unpaid while Advertisement is paid. Don’t get me wrong, if you are the client hiring either, you are going to have to pay for something but the delivery method of information to your desired audience is the difference.
Public Relations is like having a friend. When the two of you go out you pick up the tab. Since the two of you are such good buddies, if PR sees someone you would be interested in but they are surrounded by a bunch of friends, Public Relations will walk over to introduce themselves to one of the friends then tell them wonderful things about you, in hopes the friend will find you so interesting they will tell your desired audience great things about you. The friend PR was talking to goes back and does just that. They give the desired audience your contact information and maybe even make a suggestion they reach out to you. Public Relations is “The Charismatic Wingman.”
Advertising is like having a friend. When the two of you go out you pick up the tab. Since the two of you are such good buddies, if Advertising sees someone you would be interested in but they are surrounded by a bunch of friends, Ads will devise a plan to get your desired audience’s attention with an advanced game of Charades or Pictionary, in hopes they will pay attention. If your desired audience sees it and understands the cryptic message, maybe they will they will reach out to you. The friends’ role is only introducing Advertising to the desired audience. They won’t advocate on your behalf and are going to want some drinks or maybe a meal even if the plan didn’t work. Advertising is “The Creative Wingman.”
Public Relations relies more on the relationship between the friend and the desired audience while Advertising relies on its creativity and the friend’s willingness to introduce you to their audience.
Let me be frank, I’m not saying the individuals or companies that provide these services are not charismatic or creative. Both qualities are needed in both fields. The nature of the service’s method is either charismatic or creative. It‘s just the fundamental difference. Both can get results. One just cost a little bit more because of the process.
As an example, if I post something on Facebook and someone shares that post, that is Public Relations but once I “boost” that post, it is now advertising.
Redefining Public Relations
The PRSA defines Public Relations as, “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
Although I can agree with the PRSA’s definition I feel something is missing.
Individuals. Do actors, musicians or businessmen (not meaning to be gender specific) not use Public Relations? Are organizations the only entities that need to be represented? Do individuals not need crisis management? I believe they do.
Wikipedia has a better definition, “Public relations is the practice of managing the spread of information between an individual or an organization and the public. Public relations may include an organization or individual gaining exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment.”
I like that they included the individual.
Memoirs of a Milestone
99% of people explaining what Public Relations is will say that it’s storytelling. My concern with defining it as such means it can be interpreted as fact or fiction. In order to ensure the public feels the information being spread is accurate, I think PR campaigns should be organized their message like a memoir. By presenting a series of events in the life of the individual or organization as collections that add up to an end, followers will see a birth, progression and eventual conclusion of milestones. The observer will feel as thou they are a part of the events and therefore able to sympathize with individuals or organizations experiences.
Mom, they’re talking about me
Obviously, you want to be talked about but in a good way. Internet, Tv, Radio, News Papers, Magazines and the nosey neighbor down the block. They all have something to say. The question, is it going to help your reputation or hurt it. Public Relations is about making sure that your public has heard so many good things about you if they were to ever hear something bad they won’t believe it. Then reintroduce a new perspective where it won’t be believed if something bad was ever heard since there have been so many good things to hear about you in the public. Either way, it’s news. The question is why should they talk about you? Bad or Good. Positive or Negative. What have you done for anyone to talk about?
There are 7 reasons that make someone want to talk about you, not all of them are good.
- They like you
- They want to be like you
- They feel good about themselves when they do
- They fear you
- They want something from you
- They are disappointed with you
- They are proud of you
If you understand the desires of your desired audience then you can tailor your message and they will listen. But first, you have to know what type of individual or organization are you?
Here, use my mirror
You have to establish an image. Develop websites and social media where people can look to gain information about you and your business. You need something verifiable an influencer can relay to their audience. Testimonials and recommendations will help. Images and videos are even better. If you can satisfy all of the 7 reasons in some way that would be perfect. The only reason that you want to be careful with is “disappointment”. That is the hardest one to come back from. Even fear is an easier emotion to combat as long as it is associated with nonviolence. There’s just something about a violent act that causes people not to trust you so much. If you can piggyback off news where your competition faltered and some action or opinion you have will allow you to gain validation then capitalize on the opportunity. Public Relations is all about what you show the public and how they feel and think about what you have shown them. Who are you and what do they know about you? You need to understand how your image is perceived. Public Relations will listen to you and tell you the hard truths that you need to hear. Public Relations will help you change processes and action. Working with a Public Relations firm is like working with a Life Coach and Image Consultant to develop a Personal Brand and share it with the world. Sometimes the only way things can change on the outside is if the inside develops first. Change doesn’t come easy but it is Public Relations’ job to help you through the challenge.
Pass me the hammer, I need to screw this in
Many people talk about the different “skills” needed to do the job of relating to the public or working with influencers. I rather call them Competencies.
The following competencies are the most important.
- Asking Questions
The PRSA said, “At its core, public relations is about influencing, engaging and building a relationship with key stakeholders across a myriad of platforms in order to shape and frame the public perception of an organization.” With these 8 competencies, you can accomplish this. The better you are at each one, the better you will be at getting the public and influencers to perceive you or your clients’ image in the way you want them too. There aren’t any reasons to have a complex list of tasks or skills when all of them boil down into the simplest competencies to master.
Now tools, on the other hand, we have to be a little more specific with. There are so many tools used by Public Relations and it continues to grow and change.
- Live Broadcast
Ummm…..Well, I guess there aren’t that many. But what about the medium that we use to get the information to our information reporters. Surely that’s a huge list.
- Social Media
- Face to Face
- Word of Mouth
Ok….Maybe there’s a bunch of ways our desire audience will get it.
- Social Media
- Press Releases
- Speech Writing
- Special Events
- Personal Networking
I guess…..If you add them all together and assume there may be others that aren’t on these lists, it can be quite a few tools that Public Relations uses to get information to the desired audience. But ain’t nobody got time for time for that.
Oh Wow…Look at what time it is.
Whether you are in Public Relations, want to be in Public Relations or want to hire a Public Relations Company you have one thing you must understand. It takes time. It takes time to write to a journalist, write blogs, manage events, create content or network with people who are willing to share their audience. This all takes time. Results can happen but it probably won’t happen overnight. Developing and reading reports take time. The planning, implementing and collecting data take time. So, if you are a business owner, CEO or individual that wants to connect with your desired audience unless you have quite a bit of extra time on your hand you might want to look into hiring a PR professional to manage your image. Even though you may have to pick up the bill, at least when you go out you’ll have a wingman that is personally involved and invested in connecting you with your desired audience. The best part, you can save a little money for your first date.