Public relations is an often misunderstood corner of marketing, but getting it right can offer a huge boost to your public image as a business. Here, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at public relations in business. 

Specifically we’ll be answering these questions:

  • What are public relations?
  • How is public relations different from advertising?
  • How can I use public relations for my business?

What are public relations?

Public relations is all about managing how your business is viewed by the general public. It’s important for attracting new customers and improving the loyalty of your existing customers. 

It’s less about getting your brand seen, and more about what customers think when they see you. Public relations manage a business’ image through messages and behaviour relating to public issues and stories. 

What’s the difference between public relations and advertising?

Generally speaking, advertising can be bought. Think of things like paid sponsorships, T.V. ads, radio ads,  and billboards. You pay an amount to have a pre-approved message convincing the public to buy your products. 

By contrast, public relations is about getting your brand in the spotlight through more organic methods. PR works through unpaid channels like social media, news outlets, and personal networks. 

For example, if your business decides to pioneer a huge charity event, then you’ll want people to know about it. A good PR team will generate a buzz about the upcoming event, convincing journalists and bloggers to talk about it. The important difference here is that nobody was paid to promote your business. It’s being promoted on its own merit. 

In short, public relations cares more about how your brand is perceived, rather than how often they are seen.

Advertising is shoving your products in the face of the public in the hope that they’ll be influenced by its presence. Good PR will have the public genuinely interested in your business and seek you out instead. 

­­Compared to advertising, successful PR tends to attract more positive brand awareness because it’s from an organic source. For example, if there is a news story about your business doing something positive, the public knows that you’re in the news because you’re newsworthy, not because you paid to be there.

How can I use public relations for my business?

Public relations is about persuading audiences. You’re trying to build a narrative about your brand that will convince audiences to either promote your ideas, buy your products, or recognise your business as a positive organisation. 

It’s useful for a number of different scenarios, but generally, PR is either used to promote or protect your brand. In terms of promotion, it aligns much more with traditional marketing in that your goal is to get more customers. 

In terms of protection, PR can be used to help your business recover if, for some reason, your business falls out of favour with the public. 

Either way, a good PR team will analyse your business top to bottom. They’ll find the positives and highlight them, doing what they can to weave those positives into your public identity, while mitigating any negative image you might have. 

The main ways a PR team help is by:

  • Writing and distributing press releases
  • Writing public speeches
  • Writing pitches about companies for journalists
  • Creating special events for public outreach and media relations
  • Conducting market research 
  • Expanding business contacts through networking
  • Writing and blogging 
  • Creating crisis public relations strategies
  • Handling social media promotions and 
  • Responding to negative opinions online

There are a lot of ways PR teams can use these tools. But, generally speaking, it all comes down to making news. And there are only 2 real ways to make news – create a story, or follow an existing story.

Remember, for a PR campaign to be successful, there has to be something in it for the general public in the first place. Before you set out to generate a buzz about your business, think of yourself as the general audience and ask yourself:

  • Is there a story here?
  • Why should I care?
  • Is this anything new or unusual?
  • Does this affect or interest me as a normal person?

Creating a story

Creating a story is the best way to promote something new that’s happening in your business. You might want to promote a new product or service, a new hire or partnership, winning an award, or some kind of charity event that you’re hosting. 

The other option is to produce some kind of research or study related to the industry. Larger businesses could work in tandem with universities to create large scale studies. 

But for small businesses, it might be easier (and cheaper) to try surveys with phone calls, emails, and social media polls. As long as it’s relevant to the industry, and conducted ;legitimately, it could still be newsworthy. 

Following a story

Alternatively, you might consider contributing to a story that already exists. This requires one eye on the news at all times, and the initiative to jump on a story when it arises. 

The story could be a political scandal, a sudden change to the stock market, or an international crisis that affects your industry. 

The important thing is to make sure your commentary adds value to the story. So talk to experts and think hard about the stance you’re going to take as a brand. 

Stay on top of your finances with Countingup

A good PR campaign will inevitably bring in more income, and more income means more complicated bookkeeping. 

Financial management can be stressful and time-consuming when you’re self-employed. That’s why thousands of business owners use the Countingup app to make their financial admin easier. 

Countingup is the business current account with built-in accounting software that allows you to manage all your financial data in one place. With features like automatic expense categorisation, invoicing on the go, receipt capture tools, tax estimates, and cash flow insights, you can confidently keep on top of your business finances wherever you are. 

You can also share your bookkeeping with your accountant instantly without worrying about duplication errors, data lags or inaccuracies. Seamless, simple, and straightforward! 

Find out more here.