What is PR?

Contributor - Peter Ibbetson

What is PR?What is PR? Put simply, PR (public relations) is positive publicity

It is publicity that encourages people to think and speak positively about your business and its products.

Image, reputation and 'what people say' are very important, because people (ie your customers) believe what other people say far more readily than they believe what businesses themselves say. Think 'TripAdvisor', and 'customer reviews'. Think 'trusted expert', and 'consumer champion'.

Think about your own behaviour when buying a product online. One of the first things you probably do is look at the reviews, because the opinions of others are more trustworthy in your eyes.

PR seizes on that behaviour. It constantly tries to get trusted independent commentators and customers to promote your business, your product and your brand.

How can PR help my business?

PR is part of your overall marketing strategy. It covers all aspects that might influence the opinion others have of your business, and sits alongside how well your website works, your brand image and your marketing campaigns.

Advertising, promotions, and email updates to clients are all important, but third party endorsements - in other words, what trusted third parties say about you - is just as valuable as all of these. Which is where your PR comes in.

Experts would tell you that positive third-party comments are three times more effective than advertising in winning customers.

Just as a side benefit too, managed shrewdly PR is materially cheaper to achieve than simple advertising. If you like, see PR as 'personal recommendations' as much as 'public relations'.

What does PR involve?

There are three key components to PR:

  • proactively distributing your brand news through press releases, trying to entice journalists, bloggers and broadcasters to include your brand in their articles;
  • responding to journalists' requests for spokespeople, comments and case studies as they compile their stories and need to include real life examples to make their copy interesting;
  • engaging with social chatter, whether through the recognised channels of Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram, or simply by posting a blog, to become part of a real time conversation.

But it's not just what you say that's important. It's what you do too, and how you act.

Two additional elements that come under PR are therefore:

  1. your community engagement - how you support your community and recognise the value that your customers bring to you;
  2. your customer engagement, responding to customer enquiries, testimonials and complaints in a consistent and fair way.
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Peter Ibbetson

A banker by training; an entrepreneur by heart; a visionary by head. His first career was in banking, rising through a range of roles to Head of Business Banking at NatWest, before trying his hand at a portfolio career. Being enticed back into the RBS Group to represent the SME side of the ban...