The notions of PR expressed in the likes of the Bridget Jones film are about as outdated as the fashion of the 90s when the movie first aired. These days, PR is about much more than issuing press announcements and hoping for widespread publicity.
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations define it like this: ‘Public Relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.’ If, like many businesses, your reputation is a critical part of your competitive advantage, how do you go about effectively managing what is being said about you?
Simply put, it’s all about building and nurturing good relationships with your stakeholders – practically, it requires a dedicated and integrative approach to your communications, but the rewards are worth it.
Social media has completely transformed the way news is communicated and consumed; a recent survey found that social media now outstrips TV as the news choice for young people. To build good relationships, you need to listen as well as talk, and channels like Twitter and LinkedIn offer great potential to do just that.
Successfully engaging your audience in conversation via social media will also lead to a much better understanding of them, helping you to meet their needs more effectively – better yet, it can lead to online referrals and reviews.
But a word of warning: If you only post once or twice a day on Twitter, for example, your opportunities to be seen are minimal. It is estimated that the average Tweet has a life space of c.10 mins, so the more you post the greater the chances to be seen by more of the people you want to speak to. We advise posting at least 6-8 times each day – yes it’s time consuming, but the rewards are there!
Social media has changed the face of media relations, enabling you to build relationships with journalists so you can hit them up with a good, timely story when the opportunity arises. The days of relying on traditional celebrity PR endorsements have also been surpassed with a more cost effective solution: social media influencers.
Unless you have something ground breaking to say, your press release won’t make the cut down the traditional PR route. But there are plenty of opportunities to raise your profile and get your message out there by sharing your knowledge and expertise in other ways.
Volunteering yourself to journalists as a guest commentator or offering to by-line an opinion piece will help position you as one of the ‘go to’ leaders in your industry. You can also offer your services to talk to a small business forum or look for opportunities to mentor others at the start of their business journey.
Instigating your own research, for example, by surveying your existing clients, and sharing the results to help inform and others working in your field is another great way to improve your visibility.
Creating and sharing materials such as blogs, video, comments and articles online enables you to stimulate interest in your brand without being overly promotional. Many content pieces can act as powerful contributions to a thought leadership PR strategy, positioning you and your colleagues as experts in your field and leading to other opportunities such as guest blogging, interviews and so on.
It’s important to note that with such a vast wealth of content ‘out there’, it’s the engaging stuff, the bits that start conversations, that will have the edge – cue the phenomenal increase in the use of video, assessments and surveys.
The potential to engage and build connections through content is huge. If you’re not creating content, you’re missing a PR opportunity.
While the digital revolution has opened up great potential to build a good reputation, it also has the power to bring it crashing down more quickly, causing quite a mess along the way. To minimise damage and maintain your reputation, you need to be able to respond positively in the face of serious allegations or complaints. Good PR will help you navigate your way through tricky situations and make the best of even the worst incidents.
Of course, the best defence is having a robust Crisis Communications plan in place to begin with, and part of that is ensuring you nurture your existing client relationships and address issues promptly and efficiently.
Experiential PR or ‘event marketing’ is another great tool for improving your reputation and increasing your reach. By inviting prospective customers to come and interact with your products and services, you enable them to form a more meaningful connection with your brand, one that they feel part of.
The live, one-to-one interaction this type of PR elicits is particularly useful when building relationships, garnering feedback and delivering experiences that your audience will hopefully go on to share online. All of which is great PR.
There’s a lot more to PR than you think and the definition of what constitutes PR is constantly shifting – the question is are you keeping up?