Public Relations 101

What is Public Relations?

Public relations is the art of engaging the public through the media and influencing opinion. For many companies it is an essential part of their marketing strategy. For others, it can supplement a strong marketing/advertising push to create a comprehensive external communications efforts. Examples of public relations include press releases, social media, answering customer inquiries and most importantly, engaging the media (newspapers, magazines, television etc.).

Is public relations right for you and your business?

Public relations is the most affordable form of marketing. Unlike advertising, which can require the hiring of designers, content writers and creative directors, public relations is a much more focused effort that revolves around engaging the media. Public relations typically requires a smaller staff and thus is far more inexpensive. Smaller companies tend to look at public relations first, and then once they get larger, will begin to advertise.

Public relations versus advertising

Public relations is also more widely used than advertising. Many types of businesses are not traditional users of advertising for a variety of reasons. A law firm, some smaller financial institutions, and other industries that have an explicit or implicit ban on advertising will see public relations as the only means they are allowed to use market themselves to a wider audience. Other industries traditionally avoid advertising simply because it is seen as too expensive and rely on public relations as their primary means of marketing.

Potential negatives of PR

While PR is generally affordable, it isn’t always the best way to market your business. Some products and services are really best left to advertising. If you have a window cleaning service, for example, an article in the local paper might be helpful, but a campaign of flyers around the neighborhood would probably be better.
Public relations can also cause damage your business if done improperly. Since it is conducted through a neutral third party, the media, you may be confronted by uncomfortable questions about your business. Be prepared before you engage the media to answer any and all confrontational queries.

Start out with public relations, and then move on to other mediums

If you’re a small business that is just entering the realm of marketing and publicity, it might be wise to start out with a public relations campaign as your initial foray into the world of marketing. Public relations would mean contacting local media and alerting them to the existence of your business. You may want to hold events that also showcase your business. These events can bring in media attention and make the public aware of your existence more directly. Whatever you do, do it with the same careful consideration you’ve put behind every other aspect of your business, and you’ll be far more likely to succeed!