PR (Public Relations) is a long-term promotional strategy aimed at building authority and influence over time. It’s a form of marketing that can be used to generate positive awareness of a company or brand and its products or services.
“Public Relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.”
– Chartered Institute of Public Relations
I like to think of public relation as a form of ‘attraction’ marketing. You can attract people to you, and your brand through PR.
Rather than pushing out a promotional message saying how great you are, in the form of an advert for example, PR is focused on helping others come to that conclusion themselves through what they have seen and heard from others.
Those ‘others’ might be the media, it might be celebrities/influencers/industry leaders, or it might be through other people – friends and family etc.
I particularly like this quote because I feel it states the difference between advertising and PR really well:
“Advertising is saying you’re good. PR is getting someone else to say you’re good.” – Jean Louis Gasse
While advertising messages are biased to highlight the positives of a particular product or service, in contrast, people speaking highly of you or perceiving you as an expert based on something they’ve read, heard or seen, is more persuasive and therefore more powerful.
What PR is not
PR is NOT…
You earn it, rather than pay for it. PR is about reputation and this has to be earnt and is developed over a period of time.
- …a quick fix
My suggestion would be that if you need to sell a certain amount of product or service quickly, advertise rather than rely on PR. Positive goodwill and media publicity shouldn’t be relied upon to generate sales, especially not within a short time frame.
- …a guarantee of business success
You can generate a ton of positive press coverage about you and your business, and be highly regarded by potential customers, peers and other third parties, but still not have a successful, profitable business.
Rather than rely solely on PR, I believe businesses should use it alongside other forms of marketing. PR should be part of an integrated marketing strategy, where all aspects of marketing work simultaneously alongside each other.
Why should businesses use PR?
PR can be used by business owners to promote who they are and what they do, to establish and protect their image and reputation, and to build credibility and influence. In my mind, the potential benefits far outweigh the costs!
For example, being featured in the media is attractive to business owners, and rightly so! There is a vast number of newspapers, magazines, radio and TV programmes, websites, online publications, blogs, podcasts and video channels out there, all hungry for fresh and relevant content. The opportunities are there for the taking!
By using PR tactics such as press releases, networking with journalists, and pitching story ideas to the media, you can put yourself on the radar of journalists who are seeking content and potentially gain valuable exposure for your brand and your products and services.
Leveraging the power of the media, which has large, established audiences, is a great way to increase your visibility, build your reputation, grow your audience, attract new email subscribers, and sell more of your products and services.
Of course, this can be great for your business!
What are some of the benefits of PR?
There are loads! These are just some further ways that you could benefit:
1. PR is more credible than advertising.
If a newspaper, magazine or online publisher has chosen to include you within a piece of content they produce, then they are effectively endorsing you and your brand.
Although you don’t have complete control over how your company is presented in the media, a positive editorial mention, for sure, packs a far greater punch than an advert in the credibility stakes.
2. Potential reach
My local paper has a circulation of around 19,000 and is read by over 50,000 people every day. National and online publications reach hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people. So, being featured in the media helps you and your business to get exposure to a potentially huge audience.
3. PR exposure is free but worth a lot of money
Advertising is expensive. Ads in magazines and newspapers costing anything from hundreds to tens of thousands of pounds to take out. The Daily Mail charges between £20k-£60k for a full-page advert!
In contrast, publicity in the media is free. Yes, there is the cost of your time and effort to secure the publicity (or the cost of a PR expert if you choose to outsource), but this can pale in comparison to the equivalent cost of an advert within that same publication.
4. Boosts your SEO
Getting a mention and having your website linked to from a high domain authority site, such as that of a newspaper or media outlet, can help you rank on Google.
Not only that, but the fact that online press coverage remains published forever (unless it’s taken down at some point) is working for you all year round and helping you and your brand name to get discovered in organic search.
Is PR suitable for every business?
Yes, in my opinion, PR can and should be used by businesses of all sizes.
If you have a service-based business or have expertise in a particular area, journalists writing on that topic could be interested in hearing what you know. If you have a product-based business, it could potentially be the perfect fit for a product round-up type feature or gift guide.
There is likely to be a journalist out there right now looking for exactly the kind of content that you can provide!
Isn’t PR expensive though?
An independent PR consultant or freelancer, like myself, would be the most flexible and more affordable option for most small businesses. PR agencies, working on retainers, can cost multiple thousands if not tens of thousands of pounds per month, and you’ll typically need to commit to a six-month retainer at a minimum.
To minimise the cost of PR, many small business owners do their own, as they might also do their own email marketing, social media marketing or accounting. But if PR isn’t something that you understand how to do or don’t enjoy, then outsourcing can often be the more cost-effective option and help you can achieve results more quickly.
What are your three top PR tips for small business owners?
1. Recognise that you are an expert
Many business owners doubt their own expertise and don’t consider themselves worthy of being featured in the media. I would say, aim to fight the inner critic that is telling you that you aren’t an expert in your niche. Adopt a positive mindset and recognise the value that you can offer journalists.
2. Prep before you pitch
Before pitching yourself to the media, read the publications that you are trying to target and become familiar with their regular features and which journalists work on which sections of the publication. Develop a deep understanding of the publication, its target audience and the kind of content that they typically run so that you can align your PR pitch accordingly.
3. Recognise that PR is about serving journalists
The media doesn’t exist to promote your business. They don’t give away their valuable media space lightly. Journalists want genuine news, credible experts and, usually, timely responses. Aim to serve journalists and that effort could reward you with a positive piece of money-can’t-buy coverage for your small business!
PR takes time and effort to implement. It is a long-term, rather than a short-term, promotional strategy. Yet, it can potentially reap great rewards. I hope I’ve excited you about the possibilities!
Any professional photographers reading are welcome to join Zoe’s free Facebook community, ‘PR-Savvy Photographers’ for PR and content marketing tips, support and accountability.
Zoe Hiljemark is a PR and content consultant with 16 years of marketing communications experience. She works exclusively with professional photographers, helping them to attract, connect with and convert dream clients via impactful publicity and content.