What is PR?

Reviewed by Peter Ibbetson of Journolink

Contributor - Peter Ibbetson

Women in a stripy cardigan at a press release with microphones in front of her

PR (public relations) encourages people to think and speak positively about your business. It improves the reputation of your business and its products, and gives you exposure that you do not need to pay for - at least, not directly

Business image, reputation and 'what people say' are very important. Your prospective customers believe what other people say far more readily than they believe what businesses themselves say.

Think about your own behaviour when buying a product online. As well as reading the product description, you probably also check customer reviews, because the opinions of others are 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.

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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 your website, your brand image and your marketing campaigns.

Advertising, promotions, and email marketing 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 more cost-effective marketing than simple advertising. If you like, see PR as 'personal recommendations' as much as 'public relations'.

How PR works

There are three key components to PR:

  • distributing effective, newsworthy press releases, to entice journalists, bloggers and broadcasters to give you coverage;
  • responding to journalists' requests for spokespeople, comments and case studies, providing real-life examples to make their copy interesting;
  • engaging with chatter on social media, whether through Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram, or simply by posting a blog.

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...

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