Bill Gates once said: "If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations."
But why would he say this?
PR is an activity often misdescribed and misunderstood by businesses small and large. So we asked small business PR expert, Antonia Taylor, to collaborate on this guide for Farillio, in the hope of demystifying PR and convincing us whether it's something we should all be doing more of… and if so, how?
"Let's get one thing absolutely clear: public relations isn't a dark art, associated with spin doctors and over-zealous publicists", says Antonia rather sternly in response to our question about what PR really is.
"It's a business discipline. Quite simply, it's how you - as a brand, business or person - raise awareness of who you are and what you do through media relations, social channels and communications."
As the UK's Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) defines it: PR is all about the way organisations communicate with the public, promote themselves and build a positive reputation and public image.
"The beauty is that PR, done well, means you can manage your reputation openly, honestly and effectively", Antonia states confidently.
In fact, it seems, it's almost easier to start by looking at what it's not.
What PR isn't
"Here's the bad news. PR isn't a quick fix", Antonia warns. "If you're looking to turbo-boost sales, or you're on an aggressive client customer acquisition drive, direct your resources into marketing and advertising, not PR."
"Bluntly put, when you use advertising, you're saying you're good and you rely on your advertising message and approach to convince your audience that this is true. By contrast, PR is getting someone else to say it. This is a lot more powerful (and it has strong parallels with influencer marketing), as the journalist is endorsing your service or product because they believe in it. But building these relationships, with the right people, takes time."
So, PR is about building credibility, authority, awareness and telling your brand story through consistent coverage - in newspapers, magazines, online and broadcast. It's about gaining relevant coverage in the relevant media so that you become that go-to point of expertise and an industry influencer.
According to Antonia, press coverage (earned media) holds more weight than advertising (bought media) because press coverage means a journalist is endorsing you, "they're covering you because they think your opinions, product or service is of interest to their audience. It's way more credible", Antonia confirms.
What PR can do for you
PR must tie back to your business objectives. Being really honest about what you want PR to achieve for your brand keeps you focused and on track.
If you're getting it right, it can:
1. Build your brand profile
2. Attract the right clients
3. Sell more of your products/services
4. Elevate your credibility and influence by showcasing expertise
5. Grow your business' bottom line
But PR does more than this, Antonia emphasises.
It tells your story - it's the heart and soul of your communications, your brand and your message. It creates a narrative to build connection and affinity across your audiences and within your communities. And that builds 'stickiness', i.e. customer (and maybe even, investor) loyalty.
"We tend to think of PR as just what gets written in the press, but it's a lot more than that. PR is how you empower every possible influencer to say persuasive things about your brand using powerful messaging that spreads the word.
And those messengers include your employees, your clients, industry commentators, suppliers, investors, regulators, current and future collaborators…oh yes, and of course, journalists too", she grins.
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