Tag Archive for: PR success

A solid consumer PR strategy allows your business to enjoy a larger audience and increased exposure. Read on to learn more about consumer PR and its importance in the business world.

What Is Consumer PR?

Public relations refers to how a business maintains relations with its stakeholders, including investors, media, government, other businesses in the industry, and consumers. In this blog, we will specifically talk about consumer PR because every business stakeholder is ultimately a part of the consumer market, whether it’s employees, investors, or the media.

Consumer public relations defines how brands build connections with the public, or more precisely, their target audience. It is all about building positive impressions about your brands, products, and services by disseminating relevant and engaging information to the public with an emphasis on your unique selling points.

Consumer PR – Then & Now

Consumer PR is not a new concept. It has been around for a long time now, although it wasn’t something that businesses purposely considered in earlier times.

The lack of technology meant building and maintaining consumer relations wasn’t as complex or detailed back then. Most of it was just about nicely dealing with the customers face-to-face. Then came the surge of technology, opening up multiple channels for businesses to communicate with their target audience.

At first, business organizations raised brand awareness by placing ads in newspapers, television, and radio. The rapid technological advancement in recent years has further exposed consumers to more advanced and instant ways of consuming media, like social media platforms, websites, and more.

Although companies now have more opportunities to get their message out to the public, it also means the noise and competition in the business world has reached an all-time high. Every brand must have the proper consumer PR strategies to achieve mass exposure and publicity.

Characteristics of Modern Consumer PR

Here are a few prominent characteristics of modern consumer PR dynamics:

Emphasis on Omni-channel Marketing: More is needed for businesses to connect with their target audience through just one or two marketing channels. From interacting with the audience on Twitter to making videos on YouTube, brands must adopt many ways to receive more exposure and build a larger customer base.

Importance of Story-Telling: Earlier, businesses could get away with using only hard-sell strategies because the competition in most industries wasn’t that high. Since consumers now have more choices, they don’t like brands pushing their products on them. This is why brands should back their products with a compelling story and unique insights that make the audience emotionally connect to them.

More Focus on Audience Interactions: Regular interaction with current and potential customers has always been important, but it is more critical than ever. The competition has increased, and you must keep in touch with the audience to stay on their radar. The more you communicate with your audience, the more they trust your brand. But remember to keep the communication swift, transparent, and meaningful.

Consumer PR Agency

Building and sustaining positive relationships with consumers is an ongoing process. It not only takes up significant time, money, and effort but also requires strong interpersonal and communication skills. Therefore, most companies prefer hiring a consumer PR agency rather than handling consumer PR tasks themselves.

Consumer PR agencies help brands build and maintain a consistently positive public image through various activities. More precisely, they interact with a brand’s audience on different platforms, post content on the right platform at the right time, organize or sponsor events, and collect good reviews from third parties.

Another crucial function of these agencies is to filter messages to make sure nothing inappropriate or irrelevant is shared. They also track audience interactions to see how the current public strategies work and what needs improvement. 

The Difference Between Public Relations and Marketing

Consumer public relations sounds very similar to marketing. Although both approaches focus on conveying the brand message to consumers, the difference lies in their objectives.

While the outcome of consumer PR activities is to build and maintain a brand’s positive reputation amongst the public, marketing is more inclined towards increasing the revenue for a business.

Both marketing and consumer PR are equally crucial for businesses to generate a high return on investment in this modern era. Every business should use a blend of marketing and PR strategies to connect with its target audience.

An important point to remember here is that the message conveyed through both consumer PR and marketing should be consistent. Brand messages aligned across all channels strongly impact consumers, making them more inclined to try your products and services.

Why Is Consumer PR Important?

Let’s look at the benefits of consumer PR.

Increases Brand Awareness

The core function of consumer PR tactics is to inform people about a brand, ultimately widening its consumer base. It involves sharing innovative and thought-provoking brand messages over multiple channels to garner more attention.

Builds a Strong Brand Image

Consumer PR not only focuses on creating brand awareness but also helps you reinforce a positive image in the market. With a strong brand image, you can enjoy higher engagements, increased sales, and significant growth in market share.

Promotes Credibility

Consumers trust a brand better if they know how it operates. This is where consumer PR can help. Consumer PR professionals strive to create positive talk about a brand amongst the public in different ways: publishing leadership pieces, building influencer connections, and implementing networking strategies. Your credibility soars high once the positive messages about your brand become common to the public.

Helps Manage Reputation

Reputation refers to how people perceive your brand based on what they see and hear about it. It can be positive or negative and change. Reputation management is one of the main functions of consumer PR strategies.

Businesses may often find themselves in unfavorable situations, like negative reviews from a dissatisfied customer or legal problems arising from a misinterpreted advertisement. Consumer PR helps them avoid such problems and repair the damage through media connections and press releases.

Strengthens Your Online Presence

A robust online presence is key to success in today’s era. As a part of consumer PR strategy, a brand can use social media and other digital platforms to talk to its customers, resolve conflicts, and monitor their changing interests.

Consumer PR experts can build a plan to stay active on online platforms to grow relations with all groups of consumers.

Becomes a Source of Added Value 

Your consumer PR strategy can be a significant differentiating factor between you and your competitors, helping your brand shine as an industry leader. It can add value to your business in several ways: by helping you personalize your brand, increasing its visibility, and strengthening the company profile.

Generates Quality Leads

The functions of Consumer PR strategies are not just restricted to reputation management and raising brand awareness. They can also be targeted towards more advanced goals like lead generation and conversions. Posting content on the right platforms, using compelling CTAs, incorporating social proofs to your profiles (reviews and ratings) – all such efforts make more people interested and willing to try out your products and services.

How to Establish a Consumer PR Strategy?

Identify Goals

The first step is to identify the end goal of all your consumer PR activities. It will guide your efforts and help you decide on the appropriate measures for tracking progress. You can aim to achieve increased brand awareness, enhance customer loyalty, build investor confidence, etc.

Choosing a single goal isn’t necessary; you can select a mix of different goals and make separate plans to achieve them. Remember to keep referring to your objective list to ensure you are on the right track.

Focus on Target Audience

The next step is to focus on your target audience. Decide who you want to target at the moment and in the future. You can also target more than one or two groups if you have enough resources to cater to their needs. Research and list all relevant information about your audience groups, like preferences, qualities, demographics, and other activities. This will help you develop messages tailored to their specific requirements.

Analyze Competition

At this point, you should also analyze what other businesses in the industry are doing to grow and maintain their relationships with consumers. You can browse their websites as well as social media profiles and posts to see what works for them and what doesn’t.

Use the Right Consumer PR Content

List down the key messages you want to convey to the public, and later, think about which tactics you want to implement.

Remember that those tactics may not work effectively if you have nothing valuable to share. Nobody will be interested in what you say if it’s not appealing enough.

Some effective consumer PR tools and opportunities are corporate news, an upcoming event, an e-newsletter, or an in-depth article on thought-provoking topics. Don’t forget to add a unique angle to your content, explaining why the audience should care about your brand.

Learn to Pitch the Right Way

Once you have the content ready, pitch it to different platforms through appropriate communication methods. People don’t often have enough time to read or go through lengthy content, so make sure both your content and pitch are concise.

When you pitch other platforms to publish your brand story, introduce yourself briefly, give a short review of your message, and mention why it would interest their viewers.

Examples of Effective Consumer PR Strategies

  • You can support a social cause to build an emotional connection with your audience. Many people agree they are more likely to buy a brand that contributes to society in some way than one that doesn’t. It can be anything, from giving away coats to the needy in winter or donating to the education sector.

 

  • Personalize your brand by interacting with customers on different platforms. They will definitely be willing to buy from you more often if you interact positively with them. You can personalize emails, products, and services for specific audience groups to make them feel more valued.

 

  • Become a thought leader in your industry by leveling up your research and content creation game. Provide consumers with valuable insights on industry trends and events, offer informative courses and presentations on engaging topics, and publish thought-provoking articles backed by facts and figures. Becoming an expert within the industry will help you strengthen your credibility amongst the audience.

 

  • Contribution to the community matters a lot when it comes to setting a strong foothold in the industry. You can donate time, products, facilities, and money in different ways to help with the community development process. For example, you can serve on a community board, volunteer at a homeless shelter, take part in local festivals and parades, and other activities.

Methods and Performance Indicators of Consumer PR Campaigns

Consumer PR experts can use different methods to get their message out to the public, such as:

  • Videos
  • Events
  • Collaborations with Influencers
  • Seasonal News

Here are a few common factors that show the performance of your consumer PR campaigns:

  • Likes, Comments, and Shares on Social Media
  • The Number of Leads and Conversions on the Website
  • Mentions on Social Media

Final Words

To make your consumer PR strategy work best for you, you can combine different approaches and produce a PR calendar that includes all PR activities you plan to incorporate in the coming weeks or months.

Don’t want to go through the hassle? Hire a consumer PR agency specializing in multiple consumer PR tactics like event planning, social media management, content creation, and more.

Feel free to get in touch with us if you want to know more about consumer PR. 

The unfair and highly politicized stigma that once surrounded the use of cannabis is quickly dissipating as more states embrace legalized cannabis and cannabis-related products. The earliest cannabis brands hired PR firms to reduce stigmatization. With a budding industry on the rise, more companies are jumping on the cannabis bandwagon. While this hyper-growth is great for consumers, it has created competition in the cannabis marketplace. How can cannabis companies set themselves apart to capture a chunk of the profit? No doubt, hyper-growth cannabis companies absolutely have distinct PR needs.

To keep up with industry growth, the time may be right to consider hiring a cannabis PR agency. PR isn’t just for high-profile celebrities. Public relations firms can help you market yourself, your unique products, and let the public know how you stand out from the crowd. However, before you hire a PR firm to represent your business, consider how a cannabis PR firm may benefit your company and how to choose the right firm for your needs.

What is a PR Agency?

Public relations agencies are multifaceted firms that specialize in promoting and growing other businesses through editorial coverage. Editorial coverage is sometimes known as “earned” or free” media because it isn’t a paid placement in an outlet. A PR agency generally doesn’t buy or place ads on social media or through billboards or podcasts. A PR agency knows how to leverage the media for the benefit of a company. Media can include local news, national news, newspapers, magazines, and websites.

The ultimate goal of a PR agency is to promote the best interests of its client by generating favorable media coverage. When potential customers view this coverage, it builds brand recognition and trust in the company. The positive public opinion can then help translate into sales for the business.

What Does a Cannabis PR Firm Do?

A top cannabis PR firm specializes in drumming up positive media coverage for growing cannabis businesses. They generally will use their resources to pitch story ideas to various media outlets. They will then follow up with these media outlets to convince them that the story will interest their viewers or readers. In the end, the media outlet gets a piece that entices its audience. The cannabis company then gets recognition. A good agency understands how to take a company message or campaign and translate that into a positive media piece.

On the flip side, a cannabis PR agency can also help a business mitigate the fallout from a less than ideal or unfortunate situation. A good firm is always strategically thinking about how to protect a client from potentially hurtful coverage. An agency can also help formulate a response that is both appropriate and has the potential to turn a situation around.

Overall, you want a cannabis PR agency to be well-versed in the following:

  • Writing and distributing press releases
  • Following up with appropriate media outlets after the release of a press statement
  • Crafting pitches
  • Product placement
  • Writing speeches
  • Crisis management
  • Copywriting
  • Blog writing
  • Market research
  • Event planning
  • Community engagement
  • Non-profit relationship management

Some of the most successful PR firms have former journalists and news people on their staff. These individuals generally have inside knowledge of the media industry and can leverage their former contacts and skills for the benefit of cannabis clients. These professionals know what stories media outlets generally select and can help convince them that coverage of your materials is beneficial to the outlets and the community.

Picking a Cannabis PR Firm

In many areas, cannabis is a relatively new business. When looking for a PR firm to manage the image and media coverage of a cannabis business, there is an important initial question. A company should ask if the agency has previous experience working with the cannabis industry. Why is this the most important question? There are limitations on the types of material and information that can be distributed about cannabis in some jurisdictions. A business will want to make sure that the PR firm they are working with understands the intricacies of working with the media and cannabis-related businesses. Knowledge of the industry helps ensure that your coverage is positive and accurate. It will also ensure that media outlets distribute coverage with the best chance of being picked up and not tossed in the press-release trash bin.

Beyond looking for an agency that understands the unique challenges of working with cannabis-related businesses, you will want to sit down and outline your marketing goals. What are you hoping to achieve? What is your budget? What are you expecting a firm to deliver? Establishing your objectives and goals early will help in selecting the best firm for your company. Once you determine these objectives, find a PR firm that aligns with your goals. Consider the following:

  • What is your budget?
  • Do they specialize in a specific industry?
  • How do they measure success?
  • What is their communication style?
  • How often will they be in contact?
  • Does their team have experience in PR and marketing?
  • How do they generate coverage?
  • Do they have experience handling crisis situations?

Hold meetings before you settle on a PR firm. In these meetings, you can ask plenty of predetermined questions pertaining to your concerns and goals. Consider these meetings an interview process. You want the best candidate for the job. Effective coverage doesn’t happen passively. It is a process that needs to be actively pursued and nurtured. The PR team you choose should be aggressive, responsive, and communicate with you throughout the PR process.

PR as an Investment

Making investments in your business is essential to growth. You know how to cultivate relationships with growers, suppliers, paraphernalia manufacturers, consumers, and sometimes even local artisans and craftsmen. Securing the help of a PR firm is another form of investment in your business. A solid relationship with a cannabis PR firm can help increase recognition, brand loyalty, and visibility in the community.

Eventually, these attributes can start translating into new customers, repeat business, and profit growth. The relationship between the cannabis industry and the media is always evolving. If you’re ready to experience growth and visibility for your business, hiring an experienced cannabis PR agency is the next step to developing your product’s brand.

Marketing and PR during a recession? Who does that? Well, the answer may surprise you: brands that grow the fastest. Why? Studies who brands that market during recessions gain additional advantages because it’s less noisy and easier to be seen and heard. Make your marketing and PR budget go further by tapping into these consumer trends.

Consumer Brands: Remember the Lipstick Effect

Coined by Leonard Lauder in 2001, the term “lipstick effect” when he observed that lipstick sales are inversely correlated to economic health. Why? Because consumers still want to treat themselves and small indulgences fit the bill, even during economic downturns. Luxury lifestyle brands do this with their perfume and makeup offerings. Yes, $69 for Hermes lipstick is a lot for lipstick, but for the Hermes customer or aspirational customer, $69 is an easy purchase compared to a $6,000 purse. Consumer PR and marketing during a recession can help you gain market share and grow when you offer your customers a way to sport your brand without making a gigantic purchase.

What’s your brand’s “lipstick”? What is the product that makes customers feel like they’re treating themselves without large expenditure? 

Find the Fun with Your Customers

What did the post-pandemic consumer teach us? They want fun and frivolity in the pandemic’s wake – and they STILL want that, perhaps even more, with all the gloomy news about a recession. While you, as a CEO, or CMO, might feel doubly beat up, it’s really up to you to bring the fun. From marketing to PR, if you give consumers something fun to talk about or a sense of escapism, consumers will find a way to your party, because they really want to have fun. So while you may be cutting your marketing or PR budget, make sure the things you keep are fun-filled. Not only will this improve your bottom line, it will attach fun to your consumer’s experience of your brand, which means they’ll associate you with fun after the recession too.

What’s your customer’s ideal way to escape? Find them and play with them there. 

Make Lasting Memories with Nostalgia

When uncertainty strikes, consumers love to “remember when.” Whether it’s nostalgia-based packaging or scents to connections to movies and songs, yesterday always brings comfort to consumers. If you’re a legacy brand with long-time customers, then you should absolutely take this opportunity to remind your customers of the good ole days you had together. If you’re a new brand and you don’t have that depth, you can trigger fond memories through partnerships and advertising.

What era makes your customers nostalgic?

Avoid Deep Discounts that Train Customers

If you train your customers to wait until the next sale, they will never buy if there isn’t one, whether or not there is a recession. Resist the urge to devalue your own brand right now. Not only do price discounts squeeze your margins during a time when you can least afford them, constant discounting feels desperate. Desperation is never a great look, especially for luxury brands. To maintain brand and positioning, the beloved cupcake brand Sprinkles resisted the urge to discount during the pandemic:

“Customers had been taught by other bakeries to expect that the product at the end of the day was worth less than at the beginning. But with our just-in-time baking system, these cupcakes were as fresh as their morning relatives. Even then, as tempting as it was to sell off those last few cupcakes at a discount right before closing, I knew we had to stand firmly behind the price. I preferred to donate those cupcakes than to eat into the value of our brand.” -Candace Nelson, founder.

The better option is to carve out a single day (or two) that your brand will offer value pricing, and when you do, look for ways to add value to your current price rather than discounting the product itself. You could offer a gift with purchase or a VIP experience.

Budget planning for marketing and PR during a recession feels less fun than when budgets are flush, but the reality is, you can make major headway during a recession AND you can enjoy the process and the output just as much if not more.

What Should You Really Be Look For In A PR Firm?

Whenever I talk to someone hiring a PR firm, I really have empathy. We know, hiring a PR firm can be daunting. With increasing frequency, we’re hearing stories from clients who have experienced “bad PR.”  We hate to hear that, because we know it’s important for our entire professional to provide exceptional services. More importantly, we know it’s important to you when making a PR investment. What should you ask before hiring a modern PR firm?

We truly believe many of these stories are due to client and agency being a mismatch, rather than a “bad PR firm.” Taking a deeper look at PR before hiring them can save you money, but time.  We can attribute much of this to the vast distinctions between how PR agencies operate and handle their clients. The intention of this piece is to provide you with questions we would be asking OUR PR firm before we hired them, and why those questions are important. Also, consider these “6 great questions you can ask us before hiring Avvans PR”

6 Questions to Ask Before Hiring Your Next PR Firm

Do You Understand Our Product?

Ask yourself how important a baseline understanding of your product or industry is to your overall communications. We’ve heard story after story of people unhappy with their PR firm because their PR firm doesn’t understand an emerging industry’s regulations or a technology. Understanding the industry isn’t just important from a regulatory and technical perspective, it’s also the ability to monitor relevant news, understand what’s relevant (and what isn’t) and move quickly. Now, that’s not to say that a beauty PR can’t handle B2B PR for the industry, but expect to educate your firm.

What tradeshows and conferences has your team attended?
Does your PR firm understand what makes your product distinct within your industry?
What publications are writing about your vertical?

Before Hiring a PR Firm, Establish Clearly Defined Ways of Measuring Success for PR

Most companies today want consistent placement, strategic oversight, and outstanding communication. But what else? In a mature, less regulated industry, a PR firm typically works with multiple other firms from branding to experiential to an ad agency.

PR is THE leading brand trust and awareness tool.

In addition to earned media, companies should be looking at additional metrics for PR such as SEO value. Website traffic, brand mentions, brand name reach, and even share of voice are all KPIs that are relevant, depending on the overall strategy. Your PR firm should be ready and able to provide those kinds of metrics to you on a monthly basis. Changes in public perception or decreased sales cycle are also metrics with which PR can support. If you’re measuring your PR firm against KPIs like this, work with your PR firm to set a baseline and a reasonable timeframe.

Is the Fee Structure Fair & Does It Make Sense?

Most PR firms work on a retainer, so make sure you have an understanding of what’s included in your retainer?

Does the firm charge for wire releases?
Is branded content included, and if so, does that extend to graphic design?
Is there a markup on expenses incurred by the PR agency and if so, what is it?
Are off-site activations included?
How are hours tracked?

There’s no single way to manage a retainer, so asking questions like this upfront will give you a deeper understanding. Be fearless about asking these questions, after all, you’re the client. You should expect a rationale that isn’t arbitrary. While you may view this as a negotiation opportunity, be wary of cutting the budget to the point where your brand isn’t on the radar daily. You want your PR firm engaged with your brand on a daily basis – make sure you’re getting that because the alternative often provides unsatisfactory results. A great PR firm will be transparent about their billing methods.  Financial terms form the foundation of your relationship with your PR firm. Get that right and find a balance that works for you and your PR firm.

Look for Good Personal Chemistry in Your PR Firm

While this one is tough to put on a spreadsheet, asking some tough questions will often reveal the quality of the chemistry. As an engaged client, you should be working with your cannabis PR experts regularly and you REALLY want that process to be enjoyable. Make sure your company culture meshes well with your cannabis PR firm’s value system.  Teams who like one another, work better together. If you’re not gelling with someone in the first call, chances are, that’s not going to change.

Compatability breeds productivity and results.

Before Hiring Your Next PR Firm, Consider: Location, Location, Location

Before you start narrowing down your PR firms, decide how important location is to you. We think having account presence in major journalism markets, like Los Angeles and New York is a priority, but if you’re the person who needs to meet face-to-face once a week, acknowledge that and find a firm close to your base of operations and hire a PR firm that’s near by.

Flexibility AND Systems

Pay close attention to the systems your PR firm uses and also take notice of their flexibility.

For starters, there should also be a clearly defined exit clause in the contract.

Who owns content?
How will the PR firm handle future press inquires when/if the engagement ends?
What is the cancelation agreement?

Your PR should have systems and processes in place, but those systems and processes should also be nimble enough to manage the PR world. For example, getting a press release right is exceptionally important, but it shouldn’t take your PR firm a week to write it. You should be able to review the first draft within hours on an emergency or breaking news circumstance. On the other hand, there should be a consistent drum beat and strategy behind media relations.  Which bring us to:

A Strategic Approach That Makes Sense

Before hiring, your  PR firm should be able to articulate an approach and strategy that makes sense to you. While credible PR firms won’t reveal details about clients, they should be able to articulate some case studies of  PR strategies and why they worked. For example, provide an experience that required a decision to respond to industry news. When, where, and how you respond to breaking industry news is determined by your brand strategy, BUT your PR should be able to articulate a strategy and when/why it worked. Your PR firm should have some strategic storylines and outlines in mind for your brand, which proves they’ve done a little research. Even if they aren’t perfectly on-brand, at least you’re starting with a strategy that is better than starting from zero. Avaans takes a slightly different approach by providing strategic research and competitive analysis before you even work with us.

The cost to hire a PR firm should align with the impact you expect your PR firm to have on your business goals. If you’re hiring a PR firm to grow sales, then the expense of your PR firm should reflect the importance of that on your brand. Don’t expect to grow your sales 100% by investing an additional 5% in PR. For example, if you’re in maintenance mode and need a responsive rather than a proactive PR agency, that cost should be less than a proactive media relations and media placement campaign, which can reach billions of people.

In general, solopreneur firms, or less experienced PR firms might charge around $3,000 per month, depending on the client and the market. Larger firms, premium agencies, and boutique firms can charge upwards of $18,000 to $25,000 per month for their services. Businesses in fast-growing or emerging industries can also affect PR pricing. How do you know what’s fair and what rate to pay? Consider some of these factors when looking into whether a PR firm is right for your business.

If you are contemplating the cost of hiring a PR firm, chances are you already know the importance of establishing your business’s image. Positive PR can help increase brand recognition, loyalty, and community goodwill. However, you might be wondering, how much does it cost to hire a PR firm?

 

Why Experience Matters in PR

Understand that while experience is important, it can also be costly. Established PR firms with track records of success tend to charge more for their services. Hiring experienced PR professionals can be costly. Most often, a firm’s reputation is established through the skill and experience level of its employees.

Like in any industry, with PR, experience matters. Many top PR firms will employ former journalists and experienced PR professionals and for a good reason. Former journalists have a wealth of contacts in the media industry. These people also have contacts at non-profit organizations and with community leaders, among others.

These contacts are extremely valuable for pitching stories for their clients. Former journalists also understand what media companies are looking for when it comes to story ideas. They can craft attention-getting press releases that stand a better chance of being seen and picked up instead of being tossed in the trash heap of yesterday’s news. Former journalists also tend to know the best people to follow up with after issuing a press release or event notice.

The same skills and connections can be true for experienced PR professionals. Those with experience in the industry understand the intricacies of the business. They are masters of communication who know how to get a message across and which avenues offer their clients the best chance at positive exposure in the media. Understanding the nuances of marketing and portraying a positive image are honed skills needed for your business’s PR firm.

 

Why Pay-to-Play PR is So Dangerous

Careers in PR and journalism have a natural connection. It’s why so many former journalists tend to expand their careers into the PR realm. However, businesses need to be on the lookout for a potentially dangerous practice called pay-to-play. Pay-to-play is a phrase that refers to professionals making undisclosed or under-the-table payments to journalists or media companies in exchange for publishing a client’s story.

This behavior is generally considered unethical. Local media outlets should be viewed as a public service. A newsroom assesses the merit of stories and gauges how interested their audience will be in the information that they provide. Paying for coverage is both unethical and potentially deprives an audience of newsworthy content.

It is also dangerous because media outlets have a duty to report to their audience when a spot or story includes paid content. Paid content includes commercials and ads. A potential consumer knows that the information provided has been paid for by an advertiser when they view a commercial. Pay-for-play is essentially duping an audience into thinking that the content is unbiased. However, if a PR firm purchases airtime under the table, it misrepresents the impartiality of the content.

Setting Goals and Expectations with Your PR Firm

Do your homework ahead of time before committing to a PR agency. Sit down with your team and outline your goals and expectations. What are you hoping to gain out of your relationship with a PR firm? How much of your budget are you willing to dedicate monthly to a PR firm? You need to be honest when answering these questions and establishing your objectives. When you have your goals firmly set, schedule meetings with a variety of PR agencies.

When consulting with a PR firm, consider asking these questions to assess whether the firm will be a good fit:

  • Do they have experience in your particular industry?
  • What is their communication style?
  • How do they measure success?
  • How will they go about generating leads and coverage?
  • Do they know how to manage crisis situations?
  • How will they help you reach your goals?

Don’t be afraid to also ask questions about their fee structure. Budget is a big factor in deciding whether to hire an agency or keep your PR work in-house. A PR firm should be transparent when discussing what they charge and how their fee structure works. You may also want to ask how long it takes their team to craft a press release or set up for an event. Understanding how many hours a typical project can take may help you evaluate whether a PR agency is cost-effective for your business.

To help foster a successful relationship with a PR firm, you need to communicate your goals upfront and set your expectations early. Doing so means that you and the firm start on the same page and can track results throughout the relationship. Meeting with a company before you hire them allows you to gauge how comfortable you are with the firm and how they will manage the reputation of your business.

At the end of the day, hiring a PR firm is an investment, but only if you find an agency whose goals align with yours. When deciding if a firm’s prices coincide with your company’s budget and needs, consider your goals, specific industry challenges, and the expertise of a firm’s staff. Do not be afraid to ask tough questions because the reputation of your business may depend on how your PR agency responds. The right PR agency can be an excellent investment in your business.

What is the difference between public relations and communication? PR and communications are so intertwined that distinguishing between the two may seem like splitting a hair. Public relations always involve communications, but communications does not always involve public relations. For example, advertising is communication, but it is not a form of public relations. The term communications encompass a variety of positions, skill sets, and ways to promote a company’s message both internally and externally. More than ever, there are many similarities between public relations and strategic communications. Both require skill in delivering the desired message to customers, media, and stakeholders using the best communications techniques for their audiences and their organization’s goals, such as written word, video, graphics, and photography. The communication tools you use, including PR, depends on what you are trying to accomplish.

We Always Communicate, Intentionally or Not

People who go into a communications career often have a knack for conveying ideas through writing, speaking, or graphic design. Both verbal and non-verbal communications provide the foundation for specific communications professions, such as journalism, advertising, marketing, public speaking, graphic design, public affairs, advocacy, videography, website design, social media specialist, and public relations. Professional communicators are able to articulate the implications of a particular message – will they will perceive it as trustworthy? Will it be memorable?

When is Communications “Strategic?”

“Strategic communications” is knowing when to use a specific communications vehicle, method, or discipline – such as advertising or social media – in order to accomplish the goals of an organization, campaign, or movement. In other words, strategic communications is considered the intermingling of public relations with marketing, and at times, adding advertising as well. Used strategically and holistically, there may be very little difference between public relations and communication.

For example, if you are running for public office, your goal is to get elected. Your strategic communications planning may include a lot of grassroots advocacy work, which puts you into neighborhoods, knocking on doors, speaking at public school events, or holding neighborhood rallies. You may also use paid advertising to ensure your specific message gets out to the potential voters at specific times of the day or in specific places, like the billboards of key neighborhoods or on certain social media platforms. And you almost certainly have a media relations component.

A business that is launching new product,  may also use advertising to promote the benefits of its product or draw comparisons between its product and the competition. Some marketing tactics include holding special events with the public, inviting them to try your product for free, or offering discounts.

Both examples may want to try to get unpaid or “earned” media attention through a journalist that covers voting activities or your company’s product. This is called media relations and goes hand-in-hand with public relations.

PR: The Definition is in the Name

A public relations professional works to develop, foster, and maintain positive relationships with the public or other identified stakeholders which can include the shareholders, policy creators, customers, and even employees.

A PR professional uses several communications tools in their relationship building, particularly writing. Most PR professionals will write press releases for news media, give presentations or press briefings, or write for company executives. They exercise persuasion and work to present their organization in the best possible light—and they do it by “earning” publicity and public goodwill versus paying for it, as advertising professionals do. They also try to limit or mitigate any negative information or crises.

While public relations may be persuasive, the best PR professionals understand that being truthful is the cornerstone of PR. In the early 1900s, a man named Ivy Lee considered the founder of modern public relations, argued that the public deserved honest and accurate information versus simply persuading an audience.

The profession took another turn when Edward Bernays, a member of President Woodrow Wilson’s Committee on Public Information, advocated that PR professionals use psychological precepts that target emotions to elicit the desired responses from an audience. (This makes sense when you realize that Bernays was Sigmund Freud’s nephew.)

A glaring example of Bernays’ philosophy in action—and genius in tying it to a current event—was his success in tapping into women’s emotions amid the suffrage movement by declaring that cigarettes were the enlightened woman’s “torches of freedom.” By smoking in public, women were declaring themselves equal to men.

The shift toward true relationship building as a tenet of public relations occurred during the 1950s and 60s, as the public began to protest corporate power in America. Organizations began to see the importance of building relationships with their audiences and promoting two-way communications, which is still the touchstone of today’s PR profession.

PR’s Evolution

Some people still consider PR as “propaganda.” Bernays himself wrote a book simply titled “Propaganda.” His long-tenured influence on public relations undoubtedly had a great deal to do with other derogatory adjectives commonly associated with PR, like “slick” or “hype.”

PR’s early inroads into America created a catalyst for change. In 1948, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) was formed. Soon after, the organization developed an ethics code and voluntary accreditation for PR practitioners. Professional PR professionals take professional ethics seriously because PR is a powerful tool that is an investment in your company.

The Bottom Line

History teaches us that as society changes, public relations—and all communications – also change. The difference between public relations and communications waxes and wanes depending on the public’s trust of particular message delivery mechanisms. The rise of social media demanded that PR professionals build their communications proficiencies. Print newspapers and magazines declined significantly, highlighting the need for digital communications. These changes, along with other media and audience consumption, have blurred the lines between PR and multiple communications competencies. Americans’ trust in the news media continues to decline, making earned media less of a PR weapon than it once was.