Whilst PR is one of the tools a marketer will use when developing a marketing strategy, public relations is very different to the practice of marketing. Where marketing focuses on selling goods and services and deals with your target customers, public relations focuses more on building and managing relationships and goodwill and focuses on the wider public and other stakeholders.
PR has had a bad press over the years, in the main because of some PR practitioners creating false realities to trigger favourable perceptions of their clients. However, when practised in its purest form, PR is the most genuine form of publicity a business can utilise and within this section of the website we have some Masterclass videos and a fact sheet that will show you how you can make PR work for your business, without deceiving anyone. Furthermore, we’ve included access to Lincolnshire County Council’s PR specialist who is always on the lookout for interesting news stories that help promote Greater Lincolnshire and the businesses within the county.
What are the options available for your business and how can these be personally beneficial? In these sessions we will uncover the power of PR. Making sure your business is visible has never been more important.
In simple terms PR, or public relations, is your relationship with your stakeholders. It’s the image your business portrays, it’s how people see you and think of you. It’s how you communicate verbally, in writing and in appearance and it applies to everyone you communicate with. That’s the public, your staff, your suppliers, and any other stakeholders that encounter your business – think bank manager, accountant, neighbouring properties, local authorities.
Unlike marketing it moves away from what you are saying about your business and instead focuses on what others are saying about you. And the reason it’s so important is that people trust what others say about businesses more than they trust business marketing messages.
This means that if your product or service is getting bad reviews or a bad name in the press, your customers will stay away. If your employees or former employees are always complaining about working for you, you will find it difficult to hire staff. If you have a reputation amongst your supply chain about being difficult to deal with or late payers, you will find it difficult to find good suppliers.
Managing bad PR
In truth, PR can be very difficult to manage because we have little influence over what most people say about us. Even with the best will in the world most businesses will have missed a supplier payment at some point or will have a disgruntled staff member who just wasn’t a fit for the business or will have dropped the ball in terms of customer service.
- The first trick is in being aware of what is said about you, and this is where social media is a godsend – because this is where people tend to go first with their complaints.
- Make a habit of regularly scanning Twitter for mentions of your company. Check your Facebook and Instagram posts for any signs of discontent. Keep an eye on TripAdvisor, Trust Pilot, Google reviews, Glassdoor, and any third-party booking sites you may market your product on. Deal swiftly and professionally with any negative comments or complaints.
- Keep a record of all negative comments and complaints and, whether you agree with them or not, see if there is a pattern forming. If there is, then you urgently need to look at your operations and make changes. This might be in process, product quality, leadership, and management style. Uncomfortable though this might be, it will be the quickest and cheapest way of avoiding disaster further down the line.
Generating good PR
Aside from encouraging people to write reviews about your business when they’ve had great service, or they love working for and with you, you can also generate good PR by working with third parties who are recognised as being independent from your business and who are therefore trustworthy. This includes the media, reviewers, bloggers, and influencers. What you will need to bear in mind is that these groups will be bombarded by businesses all looking for good, free PR and so you will need to build a strategy to help your story get in front of them.
- And of course, it will start with you knowing your customers. Where do they hang out? What publications do they read? What groups do they belong to on-line?
- Once you’ve made a list of these, read the publications yourself, review their web and social media sites, join their groups, and get to know their style. Is there a common length of each article? Is there a certain style or approach in how the articles are written? Which of these mirrors your own values and culture?
- Identify any specific journalists, bloggers, influencers that you feel is a ‘fit’ with your business and, without stalking them, see if you can connect on LinkedIn. Perhaps comment on one of their articles or ask their opinion on something they’ve written about.
- You’ll then need to determine what news story your journalist, blogger, influencer will be interested in, but as a guiding principle, you will need to ensure that any story you submit is timely, accurate, balanced, authentic, relevant and there should be a clear distinction between news and comment.
- News stories could feature on a new opening or new product, or a special event or an award or business expansion where lots of new jobs have been created for the area. But remember not to make it a sales pitch. It needs to be a genuine interest article that has a human element to it.
When writing your piece remember the following key principles: –
- Base your structure on an inverted pyramid – i.e., put the key information at the top
- Stick to facts and go easy on adjectives
- Use short sentences and short paragraphs
- Create an attention grabbing (but not sensational!) headline
- Keep it topical and newsworthy
- Create and send in a simple Word document
- Include your contact details and any website links
- Include any relevant accompanying pictures or collateral as attachments
What does a good press release look like?
- It will say Press Release at the top of the sheet
- It will have a release date directly underneath
- It will have a bold title
- It will have an introductory paragraph which will tell the story
- It will have a couple of short paragraphs that provide the detail and context to the story
- It will include a quote / comment from someone senior from the business or related to the story
- It will include a brief Bio about the business/person/product
- It will include contact details
Getting help with your PR
There are several reputable PR agencies in Lincolnshire that can help you raise awareness of your brand, manage your reputation, even change perception of your business.
But did you know that support is also available to you via Lincolnshire County Council and the specialist PR agency they use to target regional, national, and international travel media to help boost the profile of Lincolnshire as a destination. If you have a strong or unique story, or news that you would like shared then Mark Hibbert Media Services will be delighted to hear from you.
In this first of three masterclasses on the power of PR, Rachel demystifies public relations, explaining what it is, what it isn’t and why it’s important for your business. By the end of this video on the power of PR you will be able to assess how you communicate verbally and nonverbally to all your stakeholders. You’ll be able to assess whether this is benefitting or harming your business and from there create a strategy to further improve perception of your business.