“What is it that do you do exactly?”
It’s the question that has plagued every public relations professional since the dawn of time. I’ve worked in PR for nearly 25 years now and my job is still met with confusion from friends, relatives, and sometimes even prospective clients. And, as the lines between paid, owned and earned media continue to blur, it’s a question that is increasingly more difficult to answer.
So, in light of the upcoming holidays and the usual confusion to come around the dinner table, I thought I’d provide a brief answer, beginning with what PR is not.
PR is NOT just creating brand awareness for products and companies. If that’s all our clients needed, we’d slap their names on some billboards and call it day. Brand awareness is part of the end-result of what we do, but it’s far more than just “getting a name out there.”
PR is about story-telling. We help brands establish a narrative around their company, their products and their people. It’s about creating meaning that sets brands apart from the competition. That meaning can be developed through thought leadership – a company whose people and products are disrupting or redefining an industry. Or, that meaning can be about the benefits of particular products – perhaps they’re ergonomically designed and therefore easier to use. Or, maybe that meaning centers around what the company stands for – something increasingly important as more people want to work for and with companies that support the causes they care about.
PR is AND isn’t just about publicity. Despite the fact that the media landscape has and continues to change, most of what we do is still centered around media relations. In that sense, we develop story ideas for our clients and pitch those stories to targeted media, then help ensure those clients and reporters have every asset, product spec, executive bio and quote needed to tell the story we – and the client – want told. Included in media relations are things like media tours to launch a new product via one-on-one media briefings and byline articles, which are non-sales-driven articles that discuss a trend or category insights that inform and educate target customers and the industry. In the case of a byline article, we would generally interview your subject matter expert and draft the article and place it in a targeted media outlet.
Sometimes the story is related to a specific crisis or negative situation the company is facing and that’s when PR becomes crisis communications. Here, the focus becomes effectively resolving the issue with all stakeholders while protecting the brand’s integrity. Crises today range from product recalls to sexual harassment charges, bad employee behavior caught on camera or online via social media, data breaches and hacks of customer information and more. Every company should have a crisis plan in place so teams know who is in charge and what to do in the likely event of a negative situation arising.
But, PR is also about content creation and amplification through social media. The goal is the same – drive the brand’s narrative. But, with the advent of social media more than a decade ago, how people consume that narrative has changed. So, PR is about finding new ways to tell the story. That can be through video content, infographics, blog posts, podcasts and other sharable content. Sometimes, the amplification of that content involved paid promotion, (i.e. promoting and hyper-targeting content on YouTube or Facebook.)
Of course, it isn’t enough to just share content online. You also want to promote it to your target community. This can be done organically through community management where your agency actively shares creative, branded content that drives organic engagement. In other words, we help our clients lead the conversation online.
Sometimes in order to reach a hyper-targeted audience, we will launch a paid promoted post online. This is where we identify all the targeted demographics and interests of your targeted customer and design sponsored content that will be placed directly in front of them when they are online.
Finally, Influencer engagement is a common ask in PR today. However, the definition of a good influencer has changed. Around ten ago, the goal was to drive as many views and clicks as possible for targeted content. This usually meant celebrities with millions of followers on Twitter, YouTube or Instagram. But, as customers have grown more savvy and resistant to celebrity posts and the noise and clutter has filled people’s newsfeeds, it’s become increasingly important to find hyper-targeted influencers. At Brandware, we prefer to find an influencer with a smaller but more relevant following to someone with hundreds of thousands of bots or people who would never be interested in our clients.
Ultimately, PR is about creating meaning through a clear narrative around your brand through trusted media, bloggers and influencers. The end-game is to drive your business, attract valuable hires and achieve your goals. Contact me if we can help you do just that!