Public relations or profile raising – what is PR?

For businesses choosing to ignore PR, they risk miscommunicating important key messages and building relationships with their audiences, which could threaten their long-term success, says Matthew.

IN recent times, there have been a lot of questions surrounding public relations (PR), with many asking what it is, especially with the introduction of various new innovations over the past decade.
In a nutshell, PR is the discipline used to manage an organisation’s reputation, with many different methods used to successfully enhance brand awareness.

However, for some smaller businesses, understanding these methods can prove difficult, which is why so many choose to shy away from PR altogether, as this fear of the unknown deters SMEs from taking the plunge.  

For those businesses choosing to ignore PR, they risk miscommunicating important key messages and building relationships with their audiences, which could threaten their long-term success.

Deciding your key messages
Understandably, most SMEs prioritise their day-to-day work, fulfilling orders and handling client requests at the expense of any wider PR or marketing functions. While the opinions of your customers are important, perceptions held by the wider public are crucial to facilitating growth and development.

The only way to capitalise on success and control how your business is viewed by others is to develop your key messages. These messages should align with your values and expertise, helping potential customers get to the heart of your business.

Once these have been established, you can go about increasing the understanding and awareness of your business, setting you apart from your competitors, while engaging potential customers.

Influencing as an investment
Take the time to consider the experiences of your customers and the solutions your business provides. No matter how complex the problem may be, there will undoubtedly be other customers who seek similar answers.

Research how your customers go about finding their information, whether it be through online searches, social media or in the printed press. Once you discover audience habits, you will have a better understanding of how to reach people effectively.

Now you have an idea of what you want to say and where you want to communicate it, you should think about the best way to present it. Some options include;

  • Blogs – writing regular blogs for your website can help attract leads and engage your target audiences, while developing an online presence by demonstrating your industry knowledge and expertise. Once these blogs have been posted over a sustained period, it will help you drive traffic to the website and establish authority within your field.
  • Articles – becoming a thought leader is another effective way to strengthen your position as an industry leader. Regular feature articles will allow you to engage key audiences directly, allowing you to build credibility with important insights.
  • Press Releases – by distributing press releases to the media, you can help spread the word about new products, services or appointments, helping you build brand awareness and share success stories. Promoting newsworthy stories can also help boost your exposure significantly, especially if they’re published in the press.
    Though these should be your first tools to utilise, you could also turn your hand to sharing knowledge in whitepapers, pitches, speeches and webinars which can be used on your website or social media channels, and even at networking or other events.

Are you credible?
Potential customers are reluctant to buy from businesses they don’t know or trust so building credibility is essential for growing your business. Communicating clearly with your target audience and demonstrating your integrity using a PR approach will help you achieve this but remember it will not happen instantly; credibility is earned over time.

Repeating the process…
Although it may be difficult to find the time for PR and marketing activities, devoting just a few hours each month would be a significant investment in your business, as it allows you to outline a strategy that can help build your reputation.

If you’re finding it too overwhelming to handle in-house, consider outsourcing functions to a local PR agency, who can assist with as much or as little as you need. Whether it’s on a retainer or an-hoc campaign basis, agencies will cater to your needs.

Once you have decided what you want to say and who you want to hear it, you’ll need to know how to reach them. Research the habits of your audiences, decide where you want to publish information or articles, then repeat the process to build awareness of your business over time.