Public Relations agencies promote companies or individuals primarily by seeking to have them feature in positive editorial coverage; what is known as “earned” or “free” media — stories appearing on websites, newspapers, magazines and TV programs — as opposed to “paid media” or advertisements. They also carry out a range of other tasks including writing speeches, organising events and creating video, audio and print content on behalf of clients.
PR agencies and advertising agencies share the same goals: promoting clients and making them seem as successful, honest, important, exciting or relevant as possible. But the paths to creating awareness are vastly different. Most people understand advertising is paid for by the client and should be viewed with skepticism. Articlesin respected publications or radio or TV appearances on major networks have the advantage of third-party validation and are generally viewed more favorably.
The Public Relations Society of America defines the management of public relations as:
“Anticipating, analyzing and interpreting public opinion, attitudes and issues that might impact, for good or ill, the operations and plans of the organization.
Counseling management at all levels in the organization with regard to policy decisions, courses of action and communication, taking into account their public ramifications and the organization’s social or citizenship responsibilities.
Researching, conducting and evaluating, on a continuing basis, programs of action and communication to achieve the informed public understanding necessary to the success of an organization’s aims. These may include marketing; financial; fund raising; employee, community or government relations; and other programs.
Planning and implementing the organization’s efforts to influence or change public policy. Setting objectives, planning, budgeting, recruiting and training staff, developing facilities — in short, managing the resources needed to perform all of the above.”
The tactics we use to achieve that might include some or all of the following:
Writing and distributing press releases
Write pitches (less formal than press releases) about a person, firm, cause, campaign or NGO and send them directly to journalists
Create and execute special events designed for public outreach and media relations
Conduct market research on the client or the client’s messaging
Expansion of business contacts via personal networking or attendance and sponsoring at events
Copywriting and blogging for the web (internal or external sites)
Social media promotions and responses to negative opinions online
Firms and individuals should hire a public relations agency when they want to protect, enhance or build their reputations through the media. A good agency or PR practitioner can analyse the organization, find the positive messages and translate those messages into positive media stories. When the news is bad, an agency can formulate the best response and mitigate the damage.
Effective publicists have great relationships with many different journalists in many different industries. Many PR pros are former journalists, so they know the best ways to pitch a story and to reach editors and reporters. Since they are not employees of the firm that hires them, they can give an honest, outsider view of the firm and the potential for what story ideas will work.
The relationship between client and agency should not be passive. Clients should inform the agency what messages they would like to promote and make suggestions on where they would like to appear. Very few stories make the front page of the New York Times, but with a media atmosphere that includes blogs, websites, TV shows, magazines and other media that evolves every day, a good PR agency will help clients increase their visibility via increased recognition on as many respected editorial platforms as possible. Long term, public relations can be an investment in the brand and the visibility of a firm or individual that results in increased recognition and reputation.