Read all about it - the definition of good PR

  • Angela Ward, Head of PR Services at The Marketing Eye, describes how PR adds value to businesses.

    I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what PR actually is.

    Having been a journalist for 20 years, I’ve been in contact with PR people and their messages for a long time but now, on the other side of the fence and as a PR myself, I have to explain public relations to new and potential customers and it is useful to be able to explain exactly what it is.

    During my time as a journalist I came across a wide variety of PRs from those working in the beauty industry, who supplied me with almost hysterical press releases telling me how their latest perfume would change my life, to City PRs representing private equity firms on their investments and buyouts. Both very different types of approach but still equally important PR to the firms involved.

    The New Oxford Dictionary says that PR is: ‘The professional maintenance of a favourable public image by a company, organisation or individual’ and the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, which should know what it is talking about, says PR is ‘the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics’.

    To put it simply, PR is about building and guarding reputations. Every organisation has a variety of ‘publics’ and this is not just ‘the public’ at large. As a company, your publics can include clients/customers, distributors, suppliers, influencers, investors, the local community and, importantly, your own employees.

    If the message that your employees are hearing, seeing and feeling every day in the workplace is a positive one, then they will be going home each day and spreading that around for you whether that’s in the local pub or just between family and friends.

    What PR isn’t is advertising. Advertising allows you to say whatever you want, within the constraints of law: it obviously has a cost implication, but it brings guarantees. Your copy will be included as you wrote it. But will people read your advert? That obviously depends on a number of factors such as where you advertise and how attractive your advertisement is.

    With PR, there are no such guarantees and you can’t control what a journalist will take from your press release, but if your copy gets used or your business is mentioned on an editorial page, then you get that all-important third party endorsement.

    You can shout about how good your business is until the cows come home, but people may not believe you and the more you shout, the less likely they will listen or give credence to what you are saying. If somebody else says that you are a good company with good products or services, whether they are a journalist, a happy customer or a member of your own staff, then that’s good PR.

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