I often meet people who ask me what public relations is, especially in the digital age, and why their business needs to conduct it. While PR is part of the marketing spectrum and should be part of any integrated marketing communications program, it is often viewed as an outlier or separate activity. That’s because PR has its own set of goals, messages, strategies and tactics. While marketing in general is focused on selling a business’s products or services and generating sales and revenue, PR is specifically focused on driving awareness and creating and maintaining a positive public perception and reputation — all things that help generate and maintain sales.
But PR accomplishes so much more. It’s more than an activity an individual or company engages in to work on their image, respond to or defend a crisis or distribute a press release. PR is also the process of building mutually beneficial relationships, not only with customers but also with partners, employees and shareholders. During this crazy time of the pandemic, when most of us are working from home and isolating, the need for companies to make connections and nurture relationships is greater than ever.
Below are the top ten reasons why businesses need to conduct public relations.
1. Get the Word Out
Companies have news and information that they should get out to the public, which should include the core messages developed to convey their value proposition and what differentiates them from the competition. PR communicates a company’s news and messages in press releases and other materials that are distributed via the media channels that are used by and will reach the company’s target audience (mainly, its current and prospective customers). These media channels include the traditional media (newspapers, magazines, TV and radio) and the online media (websites, email and social media), but events, signage, word-of-mouth and creative campaigns can also be used to get the word out.
2. Increase Awareness Among the Target Audience
A company’s target audience isn’t going to understand what it does, what it offers or who it helps if the company isn’t getting its news and information out there. To avoid having target audiences develop assumptions about who they are, a company needs to not only communicate to them, it also needs to communicate to them on a regular basis. Consistent communications help a company get on their target audience’s radar and remain top-of-mind.
3. Increase Visibility in the Marketplace
No one is going to know a company exists if it isn’t doing something to draw attention to itself, such as staging an event or campaign as well as distributing news or information. You may have a storefront or a prominent brick and mortar presence, but people won’t walk in your door or contact you if they don’t know you are open for business or they haven’t heard of you.
4. Create a Desired Public Perception
If a company wants to be known as a great place to work, a business that puts customers first, or a provider of exceptional service, it needs to communicate that to its target audience, and through their actions as well as words. The desired perception can be proven and generated through what it does and how it behaves in the public eye, but also through customer and employee testimonials on the company website and other areas of the web such as Google My Business.
5. Improve Public Image
Open, direct and consistent communications with the target audiences can help a business turnaround a negative public image, especially if those communications convey accountability and a sincere desire to remedy any wrongdoing. Companies can also use PR to create a particular image, such as being socially responsible or environmentally conscious. Again, their communications will need to include actions as well as words.
6. Obtain Third-Party Validation (via the Media)
Whenever a company gets a write-up or a feature article in a news outlet, that is free media as opposed to advertising space the company pays for. The public usually gets this and perceives the media’s coverage of the company as validation of the company’s product or service.
7. Position the Company in its Market
One of the goals of a company’s core messages and communications is to position itself in its target market and the public eye. Typically, companies want to be viewed as a market leader, but they may additionally or alternatively want to be recognized as an innovator, a disruptor, etc. Whatever market positioning a company desires, they can perpetuate it through what they communicate about itself as well as their products or services.
8. Establish Thought Leadership
Companies want to not only be top-of-mind with their target audience but also viewed as an (or THE) expert in their field. To achieve this, they need to establish their credibility as well as their expertise and there’s no better way to do that than writing an article published in a magazine, maintaining a blog on the company website or hosting workshops or speaking engagements.
9. Capture a Following
In the digital age, companies need to have an online presence through which they employ viral dissemination of their news and information. To be successful with this, they need a following, and to build a following, they need to do something that will capture and hold the attention of the following. By publishing an educational blog and actively providing relevant content on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, a company can establish and grow that following of individuals, many of whom could potentially become customers and/or referral sources.
10. Manage the Business’s Reputation
With media coverage, social media activity and online reviews happening in real-time, a company needs a public relations expert to help stay on top of its reputation and take any necessary steps to protect and enhance it. That typically means monitoring viewer or user comments and responding to them in a positive, appropriate and effective way.
Each business has its own set of goals and needs to identify the necessary tactics for achieving them. If your business is trying to accomplish any of the goals listed above, public relations is a proven activity that, if executed effectively, can produce surprising results.