Understanding PR; a very brief overview and some tips to get going with
Martha McNaughton is founder of May Communications, a London-based PR firm that specialises in the world of design and architecture.
As someone who has worked in the world of public relations since 2010, I am the first to admit that I still struggle to summarise what I do in a few words when asked. Having said that, I’d also argue that public relations is one of the most important functions for a business to consider, whatever the size or sector, and so I’ll attempt to provide a brief overview of it here and share a few suggestions to help any interested parties get ahead.
In layman’s terms, a public relations (or PR) expert is a storyteller who helps a company or individual to communicate their values and their news by crafting stories that engage their target audiences. When the news is good a PR will want to shout about it from the rooftops and when the news is bad they will want to carefully manage it so as to protect a brand’s reputation and avoid possible fallout.
A big part of the role is liaising with the press to secure positive media coverage. Articles in the media are still considered to be one of the most important forms of endorsement a brand can achieve and have been shown to secure new leads and generate sales. Since the rise of social media, many PRs now also work with influencers (bloggers) to promote a brand’s products and news but often this comes with a fee attached which media coverage, in theory, doesn’t.
In tandem, a PR will also seek to build a brand’s reputation by organising events, entering awards, securing speaking opportunities and facilitating partnerships with like-minded brands and individuals all of which can raise a company’s profile in the public domain.
All in all, the role is quite multifaceted but what it essentially comes down to is the management of a company or individual’s reputation that a PR will work hard to protect and enhance.
For an emerging brand or small company, it’s not always justifiable to invest in this service, especially in the early days, and so I’ve listed below three suggestions that any business can do to help grow their profile and boost their reputation themselves.
If you are a maker / designer then it’s worth investing in good lifestyle photography that you can use for PR and your social media channels. Good images are the difference between getting featured in the press or not. Spend some time reading the types of magazines you’d like to be featured in to see the stories and images that get published. This also doubles-up as a great exercise in competitor research also.
Put pen to paper
When you have news to share, draft a press release that covers the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, why). You can find a range of templates online and remember to make it catchy and appealing so that it will capture a journalist’s interest. Also make sure you include supporting images where relevant, referencing the previous point for what a journalist will be looking for.
Any PR worth their weight will have a black book of press contacts that means they know how, when and who to pitch a story to. For anyone giving this a go themselves, research the journalists who are most relevant to you and introduce yourself and your brand. Some journalist’s details can be found online, others you can track down on social media and request their email address. You might not always hear back and there is no guarantee that your story will pique someone’s interest but establishing a dialogue is the best way to get your name out there and it will normally pay off down the line.
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