What is a PR campaign? We reflect on the real value of public relations and bust five common misconceptions about public relations and PR campaigns.
The million-dollar question: ‘what is a PR campaign?’
One of the best things about PR is that it allows us to get out and about, and meet lots of new and exciting people. However, we often find that these new and exciting people aren’t quite sure what a PR campaign actually is.
That’s not a criticism: public relations can be tricky to pin down. Especially when you consider how much the media has changed in recent years.
PR (as we’re sure you know) is short for public relations. It’s all about managing your relationship with the public, and influencing other people’s opinions. You don’t need to influence everyone’s opinion – just stakeholders in your business. This could be customers, prospects, partners, fans, suppliers, investors, journalists, rivals, and employees.
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations provides a thorough definition of PR . It says:
“Public Relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”
PR helps businesses achieve a variety of goals, including improving and managing reputation, increasing sales, or attracting investment. So, a PR campaign is the structured deliverance of this activity.
Five common misconceptions about public relations and PR campaigns
ONE: PR campaigns are all about newspapers and press releases
Traditional PR campaigns involved sending out a press release when a business had a piece of news. Now, there’s a lot more to it than that.
While a well-crafted press release is important, it’s not the only thing that matters. That’s because the notion of ‘media coverage’ has changed too. In 2016, digital media coverage is arguably more important than print.
Contrary to popular belief, being a ‘people person’ is not the only skill PRs need. A press release is a readymade news story, so PRs need impeccable writing skills and a solid understanding of journalism to ensure that you have the best shot of getting taken seriously by the media. They also need to be well versed in digital essentials like SEO, social media, and web analytics. A good knowledge of public affairs and popular culture are essential, as well as an eye for detail. Which leads us on nicely to our next point…
TWO: PR is easy – anyone can do it
We see a lot of organisations attempting to manage their own PR campaigns. They believe that when they have some news, they’ll send out a press release and receive global media attention.
Sadly, unless you’re Apple, that’s not the case for the majority.
PR is an ongoing process of carefully crafted activity. A good PR will always look for ways to positively manage perception of a brand in the public eye – this doesn’t alway mean having to have ‘news’. They’ll check social media and current news for opportunities for their clients to comment. They’ll also be maintaining conversations with journalists, so they know what’s stories are coming up, and how their clients can fit in.
Taking that into consideration, you can see why a DIY approach isn’t always the best solution unless you can be confident that you have an ‘in-house’ PR team that’s invested a lot of time maintaining established relationships, has a knowledge of how to hustle against competition for editorial space, and constantly has their finger on the pulse of what’s coming up on a publication’s agenda. Trust us when we say that getting your PR campaign wrong can be a very serious business indeed.
THREE: PR is basically the same as advertising
We’ll admit that there is overlap. Both PR and advertising maximise exposure, with the ultimate goal of placing your brand under the noses of potential new business. But, both the process and results differ between the two.
As a general rule, anyone can pay for advertising space either online or in print if you have the budgets. Anyone who’s ever received a sales call trying to flog ad space will know this is true. That’s not to say it isn’t effective, but the impact of that kind of brand placement has a separate set of metrics qualifying the return on investment.
In contrast, a journalist won’t include a brand in an article unless it adds value to the story – no matter how much you’re willing to pay. While sponsored content does exist, it’s a legal requirement that it’s labelled as such. So if you are able to get mentioned by an influential and respected publication in a high profile article, there is no doubt that it makes a positive impact on how you and your brand is perceived in the market.
Advertising is often much more expensive than PR, too. A one-page, colour advert in a national newspaper can set you back, anywhere to £100k+. You could get a dedicated team working for months on intensive and structured PR activity for that. And if you have some decent news, you needn’t spend very much money at all.
FOUR: PR is basically the same as marketing
While both PR and marketing strengthen the reputation of a brand, that’s where the similarity ends.
Marketing activities are, for the most part, about increasing sales. While PR can be beneficial for driving new business, the link is just not as concrete. Diligent marketers are always looking for the ‘return on investment’. This is a measurement of how much money the business makes for each pound spent on marketing.
Many elements of PR can be measurable, but you need a full overview of how it’s impacting on marketing channels, social engagement, brand awareness, increase in web traffic, in-bound leads, and outgoing sales if you’re going to get a good picture of a campaign’s success. You can calculate how many people view a piece of coverage, and web traffic due to blogging or social media.
However, the fluid nature of the media means that correlating it to an increase in sales is very hard to predict. That’s why we help brands to move beyond this limited and singular way to measure the success of PR. We show how a single piece of PR can impact across the business as a whole, when it’s used in combination with marketing, content and social media strategies that all help it achieve multiple benefits for a business… beyond just initial coverage views
Unlike marketing, a PR articles can be a bit unpredictable and can be ditched by publications at the last minute, if something else comes in that’s more valuable to readers. Likewise, an editor will waste no time scrapping quotes from an article that’s too long. So the key here is to make sure you have a regular stream of PR activity happening, across multiple publications and sectors to ensure that the constant flow of coverage continues to further the reach and perception of a brand’s messaging
PR’s ability to drive new business should be assisted by helping marketing teams understand how they can use the coverage to its full potential. It should at least be included on your company blog, shared on social media, and referenced when pitching to potential clients.
FIVE: PR isn’t as valuable without a link
There’s no doubt that a mention and a link in a high-profile online article is valuable. Especially if you have invested in a robust SEO strategy.
However, as we mentioned above, PR can be unpredictable. Many major publications make it a rule to never give a link to a brand’s website. Despite having your brand mentioned to an audience of millions, you will have to accept that a link may not always be a wish you get granted. Many smaller – but still reputable – blogs and sites will offer a link when running a story featuring a brand. With that in mind, your PR campaign shouldn’t discount smaller publications because you’re too busy chasing the big boys!
Not all coverage is created equal. All types – from print to online, links and no links – have differing benefits. A site that receives a lot of visitors and shares will have good domain authority. Receive a link from a site that has good domain authority, and it can help your own site’s SEO performance.
Even if you don’t get a link, PR still has a massive benefit to your SEO efforts. SEO performance also reflects the quality and quantity of outbound links from your site. A good piece of media coverage gives you valuable content to link to, as well as inspiration for your company blog and social media channels. All of which are important when it comes to improving your site’s SEO.
Our tip is to integrate your PR teams with your SEO team so that the two can work together to help raise brand awareness in a cohesive way.
BONUS: The value of PR is increasing
That one’s true. Obviously.
Research from the PRCA shows that over the last three years the PR industry has grown considerably. We believe this £3 bn increase in the value of the PR industry is due, in part, to an increase in awareness and largely to do with the changing face of the media. Brands must have a plan to help them navigate their voice across more channels, moving on from just print and broadcast, into digital publications and massively influential blogs. It’s a big job to manage and, as we said above, it’s easy to get wrong.
As PRs, we have had to adapt to this expansion of the media. Many of the principals are the same across these new channels, but the need to craft business news into a narrative that will be of interest to a specific market, across multiple channels, is one of the reasons a PR’s role is becoming an integral part of getting a brand heard.
Here’s hoping this trend continues!