The Power of Public Relations

“Publicity is absolutely essential. A good PR story is infinitely better than a full page advert, and a damn sight cheaper.” – Sir Richard Branson.

For most people, public relations will conjure up thoughts of ‘spin’ and often derive negative connotations; something purely interested in commercial gain while exploiting customers’ views merely to drive sales. PR is often assumed to have the same definition and purpose as marketing, and while there are certainly areas where the two fields cross over or support each other, PR is a unique practice with its own benefits.

The precise definition of public relations can be hard to pinpoint, but PR is essentially about communication. The ability to communicate effectively with all targeted publics, both external and internal, is an essential aspect of public relations; two-way communication allows potential customers to feel their own opinions and views are valued by an organisation therefore allowing a relationship to flourish. PR can be very subtle and usually focuses on securing third party endorsement for organisations, normally through the media or other reputable organisations, thereby developing a positive image and a solid reputation.

Within PR there are different aspects of the practice that contribute to developing a great business image; proactive PR and crisis management. The proactive aspect of PR would include ongoing activities that work towards creating media coverage, building the brand image or managing social media platforms, actions that will ensure constant communication from an organisation. Crisis management is an extremely important facet of public relations; when something goes wrong within an organisation, or with a specific product, there needs to be PR support in order to minimise the damage to the organisations reputation. This can involve everything from issuing a press release or statement, recalling products, even training senior employees to talk to the media and most importantly, reacting as quickly as possible to prevent consumer backlash.

The media is a continuously growing industry and now holds more influence over the general public than ever before, setting an agenda that can often greatly harm or greatly benefit certain organisations. Media relations is an important part of PR; creating an exciting newsworthy story surrounding an organisation will often result in free media coverage, the ultimate third party endorsement that has the potential to reach thousands of people.

Public relations has always been considered a powerful tool for all different kinds of organisations, provided it is done correctly and with respect to potential customers, however, with new technology evolving all the time, PR can now influence many other aspects of everyday life and more specifically target their chosen publics. With the growth of social media and blogging, public relations is now able to target more niche markets where their most loyal customers might exist and more easily communicate with them. The meaning of what is newsworthy has also changed over the years, allowing PR practitioners to emphasise or create certain stories that may now make headlines where they once would not. Public relations must always remain ahead of the curve.

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