THAT ENIGMATIC PR STUFF THING
My beautiful wife is the smartest person I know. I know it may seem like I’m more than a bit biased in saying that, but it’s true. Really. And, while I know that one’s education and job don’t fully measure intelligence, it seems the fact that she owns a degree in business, graduated with honours and holds a senior level position managing hundred million dollar budgets, are facts that underscore the point I’m yet to make. She also lives with me, talks with me about my work, debates strategic ideas and proof-reads these blogs. Despite all of this, when I recently asked my smart and beautiful wife what public relations is, she didn’t rightly know. Her answer: “It’s marketing for free!”
Now, I don’t have any data to back up my next statement, so I beg your forgiveness if it’s not. But based on experience and observation, I suspect that my wife’s misunderstanding isn’t unique. It’s ubiquitous and (many of) the marketers and brand managers who hold the potential purse strings to brand-building PR budgets know little more about what it is we do or deliver.
That’s a big problem. If what the world thinks it knows about PR is that “it’s marketing for free,” why would they ever pay for it? If they don’t understand what we do or what we provide, why would a brand manager think of PR before other mar-comm options to grow their brand?
We must do better. If we want to grow investment by brands in PR outside of a moment of crisis (btw, how odd is it that we’re trusted most when times are most dire – and, it often seems least of all otherwise?), we have to make it clear what PR is, what we do, and the unique value that our approach to communicating delivers. We can no longer allow anyone to think of PR as “free.”
Feeling acutely this urgency to define and illuminate the practice of PR in the eyes of business leaders and marketers alike, I’m going to give it a shot. And, if you are working in PR and agree with what I write, I’m calling on you to share this post with your connections on and offline.
So what is Public Relations?
Public Relations is how a brand articulates its values and provides valuable information to those that matter most – customers, journalists and influencers of all kinds. It’s a brand’s narrative. Good PR is authentic, truthful, transparent and collaborative; simultaneously built on and enhancing a foundation of the foundational elements of trust and credibility that inform purchase decisions. PR is press release writing and media relations – but it’s not just that. PR is events and press conferences – but it’s not all glamorous. PR is crisis and issues management – and so much more. It’s social content marketing, brand journalism, influencer relations and activation, B2B outreach, copywriting, speech writing, key message articulation, spokesperson training, contesting, celebrating, brand protection, reputation management and communicating directly with targeted audiences. PR is a multi-channel (A)ESOP practice led by creative, enterprising, client service and success-obsessed strategic thinkers. In a nutshell, public relations is how a brand, organization or individual leverages influence to engage target audiences and achieve tangible objectives.
That’s right, professional public relations achieves tangible business objectives. That’s why business luminaries like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet – who know a thing or two about branding – unabashedly champion PR. Through public relations, brands measurable reach broad and targeted audiences, quantifiably engage customers in conversations and co-creating, convert readers and listeners to website visits or subscribers or customers, drive increases in positive social media conversation and user generated content and grow recognition of values and affinity for products. Investing in PR is about impressions, yes, but it’s more-so about opening hearts, minds and ultimately wallets. PR is a powerful, incisive and efficient brand building tool. PR is a good, solid investment that delivers substantial, positive ROI.
That’s PR. Tell your friends in marketing. Share with the brand managers you know. Don’t be shy. If more people, including my smart and beautiful wife, know what PR is, more brands will invest more money in what we do and love.
P.S. I am aware of the definition created by PRSA. I like it, but I’m not sure it says enough. Sometimes, good words are required to say what we really mean!