The changing landscape of the business world has drastically changed the way a PR firm has to approach their job. At it’s core, PR is essentially the effective management of communication strategies designed to foster positive relationships between business and consumers. In the past, this has typically been approached by presenting a client in unique ways to various media connection with the goal of getting ‘earned media.’ This is not the same thing as advertising. A PR campaign isn’t usually going to involve paid TV ads, billboards, or jingles and slogans. While techniques have been expanding beyond traditional methods, PR still hasn’t crossed the boundary with advertising.
The thing that has changed the field of public relations so greatly is the same that has affected every other industry, the internet. PR companies are finding tools like social media invaluable to their campaigns. Getting features in various media sources is wonderful, but it really only provides one-way communication. Social media allows members of a target audience to actively participate, giving comments and feedback easily and efficiently. The best PR firms will use this feedback to adjust their campaigns as necessary.
Before we take a closer look at valuable services provided by public relations and social media marketing agencies, we feel it’s important to know that PR isn’t necessarily what you see on TV. Often times PR professionals will only be depicted managing various crises. It’s true that this is part of public relations, but it’s a very small part. Firms work diligently to ensure these disasters are avoided in the first place. It’s a 24/7 job that requires significant attention. Certain situations are unavoidable, so firms must be prepared, but if they’re doing their properly the risk is minimal.
Advertising agencies and public relations companies do share some commonalities. They are both working to establish your company as a reliable and trusted force in your industry. Good campaigns are going to present your company in a positive light, demonstrating the value of a customer choosing you over the competition. The difference is the way these two different types of firms go about this task. Advertising companies will purchase spots on radio and TV, print ads in magazines and newspapers, and perhaps even outdoor campaigns like billboards. Direct advertising like this works, to an extent. As we mentioned earlier, public relations companies use ‘earned media,’ that is exposure based on merit. This is especially true for things like newspaper articles and TV spots, but also applies to social media, as shares between peers are certainly ‘earned.’ Since this type of exposure isn’t paid for, it commands more respect. It my opinion this makes PR even more valuable than advertising.
Choosing a PR firm doesn’t have to be difficult. In order to make the process easier, we’ve created a list of a few things the best firms should provide for your company. During your proposal meetings, take notes and make sure they’re addressing all of these areas.
- Identifying and Targeting Your Audience – Fantastic content is meaningless if it’s not reaching the correct audience. PR firms have the necessary tools and experience to research and analyze markets, identifying your company’s primary target audience. Additionally, they’ll be able to tailor a campaign to engage and interest that audience. This can be a difficult task, and is essential to any public relations campaign. That’s why it’s often a wise choice to bring in the pros.
- Heavy Emphasis on Content – Your company’s public relations and social media accounts will nowhere fast without content that your audience actually wants to see. Your social media accounts can’t be a boring, repetitive stream. You’ll need to find a company that excels in providing exciting, often updated content. Adding content to your various accounts can be a full-time job, and knowing what to post isn’t always easy.
- Managing Product Releases – When it comes time to launch a new product or service, your PR or social media marketing company will be there to support you along the way. They’ll focus on drumming up attention and creating a buzz about the new offering in the weeks leading up to its release. The product will often be introduced through some type of press conference or gathering. Product launches are one area in which top PR firms excel.
- Writing Speeches, Providing Copy, and Training Company Representatives on Communication – As we stated earlier, PR companies want to ensure all company-client/customer communications are effective and positive. They’ll provide written speeches for company executives to cover whatever issues may arise. Other copywriting will also usually be included. Perhaps most important, PR firms will train company employs about how their actions and words affect the company image and relationships.
- Social Media – Last but certainly not least, PR firms must be skilled in providing social media marketing strategies. It’s a great tool for communication, and by this point most Americans are on some type of social media platform. If your company isn’t there reaching out you’re certainly missing out.
If you’re considering hiring a PR firm to represent your company, you aren’t alone. Many businesses are taking step to manage and improve their image with their publics. The time we live in provides a unique opportunity for specific and narrow audience targeting. Reaching them effectively can have dramatic results for your business.