Currently, PRSA defines public relations as, “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” This was an evolution of the 1982 definition which stated, “public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”
Just as the definition has evolved, so has the practice of PR. PR is more public and relational than ever before largely due to new platforms and technologies. Digital marketing has risen in popularity as an important fold in PR strategy. Holistically, a strong PR campaign ultimately drives consumers to buy your products.
A Lot More Public
We’re in the age of citizen journalists. Everyone has a phone, and everyone has a platform thanks to social media. A comment overheard from a casual conversation can go viral in seconds. If you turn on the television to watch an evening news program you’re bound to see shaky cell phone footage and a Twitter handle as the source. Quite a change from the “old days” of professional production (or even tripod mounts), huh?
A Lot More Relational
Today, public relations professionals outnumber journalists six to one. An article by Muck Rack sheds even more light on the disparity between professions, specifically outlining the decline in the newsroom, where industry employment in the U.S. has dropped a staggering 23% between 2008 and 2017. Muck Rack went on to say, “looking specifically at news reporters, photographers, videographers and editors, jobs across print, broadcast and digital media fell from 114,000 to just around 88,000. Nearly a quarter of jobs in the industry gone in less than 10 years. Let that sink in.”
We have attended many conferences and heard first-hand from journalists who are overwhelmed with emails that they admittedly only give an email 20 seconds of attention until he or she moves on to the next — and that’s if you’re lucky. To cut through the clutter, brands need to have a strong and relevant story. Brands also need to build relationships with an audience broader than just media to succeed. Media coverage, although important, is no longer enough.
Public Relations is Not Just Media Relations
Public relations should go well beyond media relations. Unfortunately, marketers are constantly using those two words interchangeably. At Empower, traditional PR work and tactics are found in our Word of Mouth Marketing practice, with earned media just being one of the components of a strong PR plan.
We don’t just get brands “covered.” We believe in meaningfully engaging influencers via experiences that bring the brand’s stories to life. This mindset and integrated approach ultimately allows us to leverage influential third-party authorities to endorse and advocate for our brand. By eneabling brand advocacy and loyalty through the power of word of mouth, we go above and beyond transactional “coverage” for our brands.
Word-Of-Mouth Marketing Works
There are endless stats out there to support word of mouth marketing (WOMM.) One in particular, according to Nielsen, says an impressive 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising. When consumers do turn to Google, Kissmetrics says 25% of the results link out to user-generated-content (UGC), which is why influencer marketing is vitally important to help control a brand’s message.
Another eye-popping stat: McKinsey research shows WOMM generates twice as many sales as paid advertising! Hiring a marketing team that creates a comprehensive marketing strategy will be beneficial to your business or company. It’s not to say there isn’t a place for paid advertising, but while advertising builds awareness, public relations builds trust.
All public relations is marketing, but not all marketing is public relations. Your public relations tactics are a valuable part of the overall marketing mix. According to PRSA, below are some disciplines within PR:
- Brand Journalism/Content Creation
- Corporate Communications
- Crisis Communications
- Executive Communications
- Internal Communications
- Marketing Communications
- Media Relations
- Reputation Management
- Social Media
That being said, marketing goes far beyond public relations. From a definition standpoint, Dictionary.com says marketing is “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.” The American Marketing Association Board of Directors approved the following definition in 2013, “marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”
That definition is a lot to take in, which is why marketing is oftentimes a function that is somewhat all-encompassing. Marketing includes disciplines like:
- Brand Position
- Content Marketing
- Data and Analytics
- Public Relations
- Search Engine Marketing
- Search Engine Optimization
- Social Media
- Targeting and Segmentation
Four P’s Make it Five
For decades, those who study marketing learn about the 4 P’s: product, price, place and promotion. There’s a very important “p” missing and it relates to public relations: people! People are the ones with money. People are the ones who will purchase your product or service. And people are often the ones influencing other people to purchase your product or service.
PR Planning Principles
When implementing public relations strategies and tactics into a marketing plan, it’s important to develop principles to reference. These principles serve as filters for decision making during the planning process.
- Identify the audience. It is important to know the audience you’re trying to reach with your efforts so you can build an idea from the ground up that connects the brand story directly to the target audience.
- Draft a story. Once the audience is determined, craft a story that is relevant to them. In the case of the media, craft the story with the outlet’s readers in mind. Leverage key messages as a launching point that can be tailored to the audience. Be a storyteller, use statistics where they are relevant and incorporate imagery or video to help paint a vivid and intriguing picture.
- Map influencers and channels. Consider which influencers (media, bloggers, social influencers, etc.) and channels will be most effective and engaging when sharing your story. Evaluate influencers based on their relevance to the story, influence on the given topic, reach and audience engagement. Also consider their presence on the social media channel that resonates most with your audience. Look into which channel or channels help you best tell the specific brand story, whether it’s through traditional media, social media or both.
- Craft shareable content. Encourage influencers to talk about the brand in an authentic and engaging way. From news releases and pitch letters to media kits featuring photo and video content, every piece that is developed for an influencer should be designed as shareable, quality content. Each of these pieces should strategically include key messages reinforcing the story, which influencers can then share with their communities.
- Customize outreach. Once you have an understanding of who you are talking to and how you will communicate with them, it is time to begin customized outreach. Aim to never send a form-fill-email or blast a news release. Each and every piece of outreach should be highly customized to the influencer, their channels, and their audience. By taking the time to customize the outreach, you’ll have a better chance of successfully gaining their attention, showing relevance and obtaining quality coverage.
- Cultivate relationships. One of the most rewarding aspects of public relations is the long-term benefit of building mutually-beneficial relationships with influencers. If you’ve done the hard work to convince them to become enrolled in the brand, then it’s critical to continue nurturing the relationship to cement them as loyal brand advocates.
Measurement used to be a place where marketing and public relations split. While public relations efforts are typically awareness drivers with a focus on relationship building, there are some instances where the tactics can run further down the funnel. Setting KPIs and a measurement plan at the beginning of every campaign is vital for both PR and marketing. Marketing plans need to be integrated, and so should measurement plans.
From planning through measurement, public relations plans are stronger as a part of a holistic marketing approach. Campaigns and plans are stronger when they include public relations. If you have colleagues down the hall who specialize in data, web development, sales… use them! Start by asking your SEO colleagues what keyword and search opportunities are out there to incorporate in your press materials. Tap members of the social team to understand which platforms and KPIs they’re optimizing against to better understand how a paid media strategy can amplify your PR program. Check with brand managers or the sales team to learn about the sales goals and how they are tracked. Collaborating with other marketing departments is critical as PR becomes more results-driven. These conversations need to happen in every stage of a campaign to ensure success.
As PR continues to evolve, like any other form of communication, it’s important to remember the key differences between PR and marketing and what makes each valuable. Whether it’s leading a program with a people-first mentality or developing a plan based on data-driven insights, PR is a word of mouth strategy that has a place in every campaign.